International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) > Competitions

2010 IDRF Program


Faiz Ahmed
University of California, Berkeley, History
Muslim Modernities and Rule of Law Projects in Afghanistan: The Nizamnama Codes of Shah Amanullah and the Indo-Turkish Juridical Nexus, 1919-1929
[ project summary ]
The limited historiography on Afghanistan conventionally tributes Shah Amanullah (1919-1929) for laying the foundations of a modern Afghan state though his promulgation of the 1923 Constitution and subsequent Nizamnama law codes. A cursory glance at these reforms has led many observers to describe Amanullah with such labels as “progressive,” “secular”, “ahead of his time”, or even “pro-Western modernizer.” What these readings elide, however, was the reformist king’s resolve that Afghanistan’s constitution and the totality of his reforms fully comply with sacred Islamic law, the Sharia. The premium Amanullah placed on promoting a simultaneously modern and Islamic identity for the Afghan state is evident in the composition of the Nizamnama drafting commission—an eclectic group of Muslim jurists and politicians that included liberal bureaucrats from the palace administration, conservative ulama linked to Deobandi madrasas in India, Pashtun tribal notables, and Turkish legal advisors. The latter included Badri Bey, a former Istanbul police chief who served as the Nizamnama commission’s director. Through archival research in Turkey and India, including declassified government papers on Afghan affairs, private writings of commission members, student records, and newspapers from the popular presses of both countries, this project examines the contours of Young Turk and Indian Muslim influence in the Nizamnama drafting process, and how Turkish officials such as Badri Bey negotiated reforms with traditional ulama and the burgeoning intelligentsia of Kabul. Focusing on emerging legal debates and transformations rather than Amanullah’s “failure” to build a strong state in Afghanistan, a social-intellectual history of the Nizamnama commission presents a rare, non-colonial glimpse into the shared struggles of Turks, Afghans, and Indian Muslims from diverse social and ideological backgrounds to build home-grown (and heterogeneous) visions of the rule of law on their own terms.
Saleem Al-Bahloly
University of California, Berkeley, Anthropology
Forms for Our Time: Modern Art and the Problem of the Human in Baghdad, 1940s-1960s
[ project summary ]
This project is a study of the emergence of modern art in Baghdad, in between World War II and the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Rather than focus on the specific difference between Iraqi modern art and European modern art, I ask how modern art might have contributed to the formation of the socialist-secular modernity of Ba'thist Iraq by producing a concrete image of "the human" [al-insaan] as a suffering being – one both quite different from the abstract ideal of "the human" constituted by the European discourse of rights and yet descendant from the same genealogy, coming to Iraq by way of communist cells established in the late Ottoman Empire. I inquiry into how modern art constituted such an image of the human, and how the problem of the human constituted a particular practice of modern art in Iraq. Specifically I argue that modern art's search for forms that would be "of the time" [mu'asira] converged with a contemporaneous search for forms that could think "the human" as an epistemology for suffering; by giving concrete forms to the abstract "human", modern art then gave intelligible form to life in Baghdad. This research will demonstrate that modernity involved not only political and economic transformations but also the elaboration of entire creative projects to generate new means of expression capable of articulating the vicissitudes of life, and death.
Adam Michael Auerbach
University of Wisconsin, Madison, Political Science
Cooperation in Uncertainty: Migration, Ethnicity, and Community Governance in India's Urban Slums
[ project summary ]
In the face of common threats, why do some vulnerable communities develop institutions that advance their collective interests and security while others fail? Through a comparative analysis of slum communities in urban India, my dissertation will explain how community governance institutions take shape in contexts of ethnic diversity and patronage politics—conditions that describe many cities in the developing world. Two related puzzles motivate my research. First, the level of basic public goods and services—access to drinking water, sanitation and waste removal, public safety, and schools—varies widely across and within slums in India. What causes these developmental disparities? Second, urban slums are among the most densely populated and ethnically diverse areas in India. Slums diverge, though, in their levels of inter-ethnic cooperation and political organization. This complicates a growing and interdisciplinary literature that posits a negative relationship between ethnic diversity and cooperation. Drawing on variation in inter-ethnic organization across India’s slums, my research will illuminate the mechanisms that impede or facilitate collective action in socially heterogeneous groups. It will also provide insight into the origins and formation of informal political institutions. I propose a research design that combines the strengths of sustained qualitative fieldwork, formal theory, and a larger quantitative analysis.
Michael Shane Boyle
University of California, Berkeley, Drama/Theater
Playing with Authority: Provocation and Performance in the German New Left
[ project summary ]
My project examines the role of performance in the 1960s West German student movement. By drawing on archival sources and interviews with former participants, I will study how performative forms of protest constituted a central part of 1960s West German countercultural politics and re-imagined the role performance could play in society. My research focuses on a prominent form of activism that emerged in the student movement of the late 1960s, often referred to as Spassguerilla. Through various types of irreverent actions such as throwing pies at government officials or orchestrating humorous theatrical disruptions in courtrooms and lecture halls, Spassguerilla activists looked to effect political change using performative means that challenged conventional understandings of what it meant to act politically in West Germany’s liberal democracy. While much theater and performance scholarship on the tumultuous events of 1960s West Germany has focused on how the student movement impacted the theater of the time, my research critically examines the consequences and varied forms of performance (happenings, guerilla theater, etc.) and performative modes of protest (sit-ins, mass demonstrations, blockades, etc.) used by the student movement. What was the relationship between politics and performance in the West German student movement and how did international movements in art and performance like Situationism and Fluxus influence this conjuncture? What does studying the performative dynamics of the student movement add to our understanding of West German politics and the global events associated with 1968? How will attending to political performance of 1960s West Germany beyond the paradigm of political theater enrich our knowledge of German performance history? What can Spassguerilla reveal about the possibilities and limitations of playful and performative modes of protest in contemporary social movements?
Noelle Kateri Brigden
Cornell University, Government
Clandestine Routes and Coyote Contracts: Central American Migrants' Journey North
[ project summary ]
My dissertation will examine how the informal institutions that sustain undocumented migration adapt to changes in border policing, tracing developments from villages in El Salvador into Guatemala and Mexico and up to the United States border. In particular, I focus on the smuggler-migrant bargain, and I probe the role of information and imagination in migrant decisions and human smuggling markets. This examination of migrant decisions and their informal institutional context provides insights into transnational economic processes that challenge state capacity to control territory. As cargo with a voice, the stories of migrants provide a window into the causal mechanisms that underlie the global illegal economy and the failure of border policing. Working at the interstices of political science and anthropology, I have developed an innovative research strategy to investigate how these potential migrants learn about and respond to changes in the policing environment, and in particular how the market for paid guides (called coyotes) functions. Following a year of ethnography in villages in El Salvador, I will follow the paths taken by migrants through Catholic missions in Guatemala and Mexico as part of an eclectic research design combining a rational decision making framework with rich ethnographic fieldwork.
Elizabeth J Brummel
University of Chicago, Anthropology
Siyo Lugha Yetu (It's not our language): Language and the Production of Identity in Kisumu, Kenya
[ project summary ]
Young people in Kenya are reconfiguring the historically and politically complicated relationships between national, local and ethnic identities in new ways. Luo youth, who are part of an ethnic group that has been politically and socially marginalized since Kenya’s independence, fluidly mix Kenya’s national languages, Swahili and English, with the Luo language, Dholuo. Mixing languages that, for older generations are indicators of ethnicity, education and status, highlights the subtle ways young people are contesting essentializing categories of ‘ethnicity’ and ‘nationhood;’ categories youths find increasingly problematic and insufficient. While there has been significant research into the macro-social implications of ‘identity’ and ‘ethnicity’ in postcolonial Africa, this research makes a crucial shift in scale toward the micro-processes that produce identities. This project investigates how identities are instantiated and inhabited through communicative practice; it will investigate the subtle daily practices that constantly coalesce into matrices of difference and forms of belonging. At a time when identitarian entanglements are used as motive and motifs for large-scale violence, an investigation into the processes that produce these identities is of fundamental importance, particularly in Kenya.
Rosie Bsheer
Columbia University, History
Making History: Petro-Capitalism and Spatial Transformations in Saudi Arabia
[ project summary ]
This project is both a historical study of how requirements of oil development shaped the production of the Saudi state form and its physical geography, and an anthropological account of how the Saudi modern has been imagined and reproduced through material practices: from acts of political commemoration and spatial reconstruction, to the production of mobile history exhibits and the national archive. Explaining the contradictions that animate these everyday practices elucidates the conjuncture of forces that produced a distinctive Saudi petro-modernity, one that brings together religious lineage with Al Saud’s dynastic rule. It also allows us to gauge how this petro-modernity has effected broad-ranging transformations of self, sociality, and of the material infrastructure of everyday life that followed. My research takes up the peculiar convergence of oil and theocracy that stands at the origin of the Saudi state in two ways: First, through a study of the institutionalization of the “official” Saudi historical narrative and popular reactions to it. The belated commemoration of the nation has produced competing theological and political interpretations of the Saudi past. It also speaks to a greater increase of political competition, and opposition to a hegemonic “Saudi” identity, expressed through new communication technology and global media. Second, I study spatial transformations characteristic of Saudi Arabia’s petro-modernity by looking at development plans of three cities: Riyadh, Ha’il, and Mecca. Studying these transformations at a time of increased challenges to state authority reveals the centrality of space more particularly, and of transformations of popular political culture, more broadly, to the project of Saudi modernity.
Hannah Callaway
Harvard University, History
The Rights of Man and Paris Real Estate in the French Revolution
[ project summary ]
I will study the seizure of private property in Paris during the French Revolution and its impact on the political ideals of the ruling Jacobin authority that had called for it. As building after building was confiscated, social issues came to bear on ideology, raising questions about the limits of the the Rights of Man. However, this episode has never been the subject of sustained scholarly work, even though it has far-reaching implications for modern political theory. I will base my study on a series of dossiers detailing confiscations in the city of Paris that I have found in the Archives de Paris, combining this source with political writings and speeches. By putting social and intellectual sources in parallel, I will examine the impact of the social and legal fallout from property confiscations on Jacobin political thought. It is my hypothesis, based on what I have found so far, that this episode led to a change in the ideals at the heart of the Revolution and shaped the way citizens and government would interact in the long term. What was the impact of property confiscations on Jacobin ideals and how did the circumstances of confiscation contribute to this impact?
Mario Alejandro Ceron Valdes
University of Washington, Anthropology
Epidemiology and the Everyday Life of the Right to Health in Post-War Guatemala
[ project summary ]
This research explores how public health practice contributes to the social construction of the right to health in Guatemala. It aims to produce a historically informed ethnography that provides a sociocultural analysis of the practice of epidemiology and the social life of the right to health, taking into account the subjectivity of the involved actors. I will examine the practices of the Guatemalan National Epidemiology Center (CNE), created in 2004 with the specific goal of contributing to the achievement of the right to health. Data collection will include archival research, semi-structured interviews, participant observation, life history, and visual techniques such as video recording of public events. The analysis will be centered on the interplay of epidemiology as a discipline, the CNE as an institution, and the epidemiologists as social agents to tease out the ways in which the right to health gets influenced by the practices and products of epidemiology. It will reconstruct the recent history of epidemiological practice and the social life of the right to health in Guatemala, and analyze it as a social process. This investigation adds to the growing interest in human rights practices. It also expands the application of science and technology studies to the understanding of the culture of biomedicine and related disciplines.
Ananya Chakravarti
University of Chicago, History
The Empire of Apostles in the Old World and the New: Jesuits in Brazil and India, 1542-1697
[ project summary ]
The age of discoveries, which conventionally inaugurates the early modern era, begins with the seminal voyages of Christopher Columbus to America in 1492 and Vasco da Gama to India in 1498. The “Indies,” as these newly discovered parts of the world were called, symbolized any place which presented a challenge to Christian missionary activity. Under its framework, India, Brazil, southern Italy and other European regions occupied the same plane. Nonetheless, by the seventeenth century, this dispersive geography of the "Indies" was transformed into a hierarchical framework of global European, Christian empire. This project will trace this historical process through the lives of six Jesuit missionaries: Francis Xavier, Thomas Stephens and Baltasar da Costa in India and Manuel da Nóbrega, José de Anchieta and António Vieira in Brazil. The careers of these Jesuits, spanning the mid-sixteenth to the late seventeenth centuries, frame two key moments of crisis in the Catholic notion of universal Christian empire: the dissolution of the unity of the Church, and the end of Iberian hence Catholic domination of the enterprise of European empire, in the face of Dutch and English imperial ambition. Their lives thus parallel and reflect the arc of the first phase of European imperial enterprise in which the Roman notion of imperium was adapted to include the profession of Christianity as a mark of civility, a project in which the Jesuits played a crucial role. By examining how these three generations of Jesuit missionaries adapted to and were changed by their colonial context, I hope to trace both the development of the role of the “colonial” European and the concomitant evolution of the imaginary of global empire. On the level of methodology, the project also represents an attempt to bridge world history with biography, a resurgent field in the historical profession.
Sayaka Chatani
Columbia University, History
Nation of Youth: The Mobilization of Rural Youth in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea 1915-1950
[ project summary ]
My dissertation investigates the mobilization of rural male youth by the Japanese imperial government through the “Seinendan” (youth associations) in Japan and its two longest-standing colonies, Taiwan and Korea, during and after the period of colonial rule. The Seinendan, as state-sponsored institutions spread both in the home islands and its colonies, were designed to inculcate a national consciousness and to provide pre-military training for the masses. The goals of my research on the processes and aftermaths of this institutional mobilization in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea are the following. First is to explore the nature of the Japanese empire as a national empire, or a “nation-empire,” which is characterized by a strong drive to homogenize the populations within the empire. Second is to examine the notion of “rural modernity” that functioned as the backbone of the Pan-Asian ideal. Third is to shed light on the legacies of Japanese militarism that remained in post-liberation authoritarian regimes in Taiwan and North and South Korea in the form of militaristic youth mobilization. By using both the macro perspective that situates East Asia within global trends of imperial youth mobilization and the micro-focus on youth's everyday experiences seen through close case studies, my research will explain the mechanisms of – and responses to – the imperial government's efforts to mobilize and militarize colonial societies at the grassroots level as well as describe their impact on postwar societies in East Asia.
Daniel J.M. Cheely
University of Pennsylvania, History
Opening Marwood's Book: Catholics and their Bibles in Early Modern Europe
[ project summary ]
If historians had to identify the most influential and widely read text in Early Modern Europe, the Bible undoubtedly would be it. How Protestants employed the book to contest institutional authority, transform culture, and reconstitute their personal and collective identities has been examined. How Catholics dealt with the book, beyond formal restrictions, has not. This lacuna is significant not only because it arbitrarily excludes from investigation a wide swath of empirical evidence (that is, all early modern readers who were not protestant), but also because it is the key for testing scholarly assumptions about the revolutionary nature of protestant bible-reading. Studying Catholic readers will render intelligible the dominant cross-confessional phenomena of socially conservative reading. My project employs sets of complementary methodologies: microhistory and social history; intellectual history and the history of reading; marginalia study and bibliography. Rather than begin and end with ecclesiastical prohibitions, my interdisciplinary project is organized by one used book – a Latin Bible marked up by a Catholic domestic servant from 17th century England. The material features of this book lead me to other catholic readers, other Bibles, other vendors, other producers, and major ecclesiastical authorities. After tracing these networks out through collections in Rome, Paris, the United Kingdom, Texas, and California, I will have completed the research for a new narrative of the early modern bible. By beginning with new historical subjects, Catholic readers, I will be able to explain why the early modern Bible almost always did *not* have a socially radical trajectory. Identifying which conditions of sacred reading were shared across the confessional divide and which were not will be a major contribution to the history of religion and the book more generally.
Ling Chen
Johns Hopkins University, Political Science
Made in China: Global Production System and Local Industrial Upgrading
[ project summary ]
The project seeks to explain the variation in industrial upgrading across China’s localities. This puzzle stems from the fact that local producers have responded differently to a common economic crisis in recent years. Some are increasingly trapped into a “race to the bottom” competition based on cheap labor and razor-thin margins of profit. Others have started to climb up the value chain with activities such as branding, design, and marketing. Why have producers in some localities displayed stronger industrial upgrading capacity than others? Based on pre-dissertation field research (summer 2008), I hypothesize that the variation in industrial upgrading result from three types of relations: government- FIE (foreign invested enterprise) relations, government-local business relations, and inter-business relations. Industrial upgrading is more likely when local governments gain the upper hand in the government-FIE bargaining process, when close rather than distant relations arise between local officials and firms, and when there are horizontal and open rather than captive and insular networks among lead firms, contract manufacturers, and local producers. To test my hypotheses, I have chosen to study China’s largest manufacturing and export industry—the electronics industry—across five cities. This allows me to control for the characteristics of the industry while exploring local variation. I plan to collect data through in-depth interviews, questionnaires, and consultation of local documents, and will utilize both qualitative and quantitative methods. In studying how the three types of relations affect upgrading capacity, I seek to go beyond the single focus on the state, foreign direct investment, or local business relations in previous studies, and draw attention to their combined influence at the macro and micro levels. The project also challenges the conventional understanding of industrial upgrading by examining how global production forces and local institutions mutually transform each other in affecting the indigenous upgrading capacity.
Deborah Cheng
University of California, Berkeley, Energy and Resources Group
New Voices in the Urban Narrative: Marginalized Communities and Small-Scale Water Providers
[ project summary ]
In many cities of the Global South, small-scale water providers (SSWPs) play a critical role in meeting the needs of growing urban populations. While the literature recognizes their practicality and short-term benefits, it fails to capture the complexity of relationships that often develop within SSWP communities and the ways in which those linkages shape visions of access and progress. How can an analysis of SSWPs as distinct but interconnected actors in the urban waterscape shift our understandings of existing inequalities in access to water, as well as of relationships between consumers and providers? To address this question, I situate my research in Manila, where the privatized water utilities have employed an “innovative” strategy to expand services – one that involves incorporating SSWPs into their networks. Building on my pre-dissertation findings – and drawing upon the literature addressing access to water, urban planning, and governance – I will conduct ethnographic research to examine a range of SSWPs that vary in their institutional setups and relationships. I hypothesize that some SSWPs actually mitigate existing inequalities – not just by improving quantity and quality, but by reshaping the terms of provision and the ways in which access is perceived. For these reasons, some communities may prefer SSWPs over conventional utilities, challenging our notion of urban water provision as the terrain of natural monopolies. Conversely, some SSWPs may perpetuate inequalities by adding to existing bureaucracies, and may even be strategically employed by the utilities to cover “unviable” areas. More marginalized communities may also face institutional and financial barriers that prevent them from accessing SSWPs. I argue that an incorporation of SSWPs into our understanding of mainstream urban water provision requires a reexamination of our assumptions, and provides us with a better framework for analyzing the needs of various urban and peri-urban communities.
Namgyal Choedup
Washington University in St. Louis, Anthropology
From Tibetan Refugees to Transmigrants: Negotiating Cultural Continuity and Economic Mobility through Migration
[ project summary ]
This research draws upon interdisciplinary approaches to transnational migration to investigate how Tibetan exiles living in India balance (a) individual and household-level desires to achieve socio-economic upward mobility through migration with (b) the community and political-level desire to maintain cultural continuity and ethnic identity. The project will investigate how a new generation of Tibetan exiles has developed a notion of “three homelands”; an imagined Tibetan nation, the refugee settlements in India where they were raised and imbued with a strong sense of Tibetan identity, and North American migration destinations where they seek to attain socioeconomic mobility but in the process risk assimilating to another society. The goal is to demonstrate how transnational practices among Tibetan exiles living in India constitute a form of local agency that operates within a matrix of historical, political, social, economic, and cultural forces. An original contribution will be to explore of how issues of identity and cultural maintenance emerge not just after migrants have moved, but in the migration decision-making process itself. To accomplish this objective, the research seeks to provide concrete empirical insights into transnational practices through a focus on household-level decision making, and thereby avoid the pitfalls of an abstract and dematerialized understanding of transationalism. By focusing on the intersection of economic mobility, migration, and ethnic identity, this research will contribute to the interdisciplinary literature on transnational migration, as well as to the anthropological literature on transnationalism and identity formation.
Ferenc P Csirkes
University of Chicago, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Chaghatay Oration, Ottoman Eloquence, Qizilbash Rhetoric: Turkish Literature in Safavid Iran
[ project summary ]
My dissertation as well as the research proposed here will investigate the socio-cultural role of Turkish language and literature in the Safavid polity and its Persian and Turkish literary context, as well as the context of the Ottoman-Safavid political, religious and cultural rivalry. I am also interested in the difference of the development of Turkish as a literary idiom in Safavid Iran and the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, and in what sense, if at all, we can speak about two separate literary traditions. I study how Turkish served the political and cultural venture of the Safavids and the Ottomans. I intend to fit my findings into my broader research interests in how Turkish emerged as complementary and heir to the Classical Persian literary tradition. The existing divides today are certainly the product of a historical process initiated by the Safavids. How was this momentous change, which took less than a century, reflected in literary culture and cultural patronage? What was the role of the two predominant languages, Persian and Turkish, in the formation of Safavid and Ottoman identities? Contrary to previous treatments of the subject, I will argue that Turkish literature in Safavid Iran had a multifunctional role in the Safavid venture, which included but was not limited to religious proselytization. Also at variance with most treatments of the subject, I will also argue that there was no change in the patronage it enjoyed: the safavid era was neither efflorescence nor decline in Turkish literary production. The reason why Turkish eventually came to represent the Ottomans and Persian the safavids and persia, was more a function of the different social background of these two literary idiioms.
Nitya Deepa Das
University of Chicago, Anthropology
Legislating Hinduism: Temple Access and Religious Reform in Contemporary Kerala
[ project summary ]
The opening of temples to Hindus of all castes constitutes one of the Indian government’s most sweeping and most widely accepted efforts at bringing Hinduism into line with the liberal, egalitarian ideals of independent India. Kerala is especially significant in this regard for having enacted the first “temple entry proclamation” (1936) permitting untouchables into hitherto prohibited sacred spaces, a fact noted by Keralites and other Indians as being in keeping with the strongly progressive social and political agendas of successive Keralite governments. And yet, Keralite Hindu temples and especially their priests are noted for their orthodoxy and attention to ritual detail. This project will use two cases pertaining to temple entry at the state’s richest and most popular temples, the Vaishnava institutions at Guruvayur and Sabarimala, as focal points in a larger discussion of state involvement with religious belief and practice. In exploring these cases and their aftermath, this research will engage with important debates about the limits of liberalism in strongly heterogenous societies, the juridification of religion, and the development of legal concepts.
Josefina de la Maza Chevesich
State University of New York at Stony Brook, Art History/Architecture
Contesting Nationalism: Analyzing Pictorial Genres in 19th Century Chilean Painting
[ project summary ]
Focusing on the art of Chile, my research proposal aims to analyze the pictorial genres of landscape, portraiture, history painting, and costumbrismo throughout the nineteenth century. The main goal of this research is to examine two different and simultaneous processes that informed the development of Chilean painting. The first relates to how certain visual practices were transformed, contested or maintained in the course of independence from Spain, and pays special attention to the hybridization of pictorial conventions and their transformation by the Chilean state and its elite into “national imaginaries.” The second explores a different kind of colonialism engendered after the fall of Spanish rule. This secondary process, exercised mainly by France, had a cultural emphasis. This “cultural colonialism” was more subtle, pervasive, and effective because it offered -through transoceanic migrations of people, objects, and imaginaries- a promise of civilization, cosmopolitanism, and the disappearance of those real and imaginary boundaries that separated the ex-colonies from the metropolis. By examining the roles given to painting, comparing techniques and thematic choices, analyzing pictorial genres in relation to prints and photographs rendering similar subjects, as well as paying attention to production processes, routes and strategies of circulation, I will confront the paradoxes of these two postcolonial processes in the midst of the state-formation period. I maintain that by interrogating the nature of Chilean nineteenth century painting it is possible to find traces of colonial discourses that have not been acknowledged in the past, discourses that permeate the “national” and “republican” readings that have traditionally been given to this art. I hope to challenge readings that even today, in the context of the celebration of the bicentennial independence of Chile from Spanish domination, have not acknowledged the colonial legacy of Chilean pictorial genres.
Jatin Dua
Duke University, Anthropology
Policing Sovereignty: Piracy and Regulation in the Western Indian Ocean
[ project summary ]
Since 2008, a number of high profile incidents of piracy off the coast of East Africa have resulted in increased global attention to this region, including the deployment of a multi-national naval patrol and attempts to prosecute suspected pirates. Policy makers have attributed this phenomenon to the lack of a strong centralized government in Somalia and called for various forms of intervention on-shore to address piracy’s root causes. However, this interpretation of the conflict obscures a longer history of regulation and transgression, and piracy’s long pedigree, in the Western Indian Ocean, and ignores a range of contemporary factors that have produced such events. My research resituates piracy within histories of the Indian Ocean and longstanding attempts to redefine sovereignty and legality within this oceanic space, and suggests that maritime piracy may be better understood as an attempt to secure protection from global poaching and from the surveillance of regulators. Piracy as a system of protection competes with a variety of state and non-state forms of protection in this area. My research will investigate the encounters between these overlapping regimes of protection and security in order to understand forms of belonging and exclusion elicited by recent attempts to police sovereignty in the Western Indian Ocean.
Angelica Duran Martinez
Brown University, Political Science
Criminals, Cops and Politicians: The Dynamics of Drug Violence in Colombia and Mexico
[ project summary ]
This project addresses the following question: what explains variations in types and levels of drug violence within countries similarly afflicted by drug trafficking? I tackle this question by comparing four cities that have experienced contrasting patterns of drug violence over the past two decades: Cali and Medellin in Colombia, and Culiacan and Nuevo Laredo in Mexico. These four cities have been home to major drug trafficking organizations throughout the entire study period (1984-2009) and highlight the variation in violence that can occur over time and across the same territory. I hypothesize that the interaction between two variables, the efficiency of law enforcement and patterns of political competition, shapes the incentives and capacities of drug traffickers to employ violence. In this project I will use controlled subnational comparisons and mixed methods research tools which I will develop through fieldwork conducted over the course of a year. I aim to advance the understanding of drug violence devising an analytical framework that bridges three different areas of scholarship: literature on drug trafficking and illicit markets; literature on violence by non state actors; and literature on state-business relations. I will also contribute to the understanding of drug violence by disentangling two dimensions, frequency and visibility, which appear crucial to comprehend how citizens and governments respond to different types of violence. Finally, I will introduce an often overlooked political logic into explanations of drug violence considering how the efficiency of law enforcement and the openness of political competition shape traffickers’ incentives and capacities to employ violence.
Erica Christine Dwyer
University of Pennsylvania, History and Sociology of Science
Dying in a World of Extremes: The Making of Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
[ project summary ]
In 2006, Yale researchers announced the presence of extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) in a remote hospital in South Africa. Fifty-two of 53 patients had died within a month of being seen; most were HIV positive. Experts warned of a new, frightening infectious disease: this "virtually untreatable," "rapidly fatal," "extreme" illness was poised to "imperil millions." On the surface, it appeared that XDR-TB was a new disease defined with great scientific clarity. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the definition of this disease was subject to intense debate grounded both in the politics of biomedical science as well as in the science itself. My dissertation will investigate two central questions. First, I will use the emergence of XDR-TB to study the process of scientific inquiry through which scientists engage in the difficult task of defining scientific categories that also have profound policy implications. Second, I will examine the impact these decisions have had on the realities of medical care on a local level. In other words, what does it mean to be suffering from an illness of global significance? In the context of this study, this will mean telling the story of how the deaths of 52 patients in Tugela Ferry received the attention of the international community and exploring the effects this international interest has had on the South African experience of TB illness. This study is situated within the broader discursive field of global health and will shed light on the international production of competitive science, the mobilization of science in making effective global health policy, and the effects of policies that impact patient care.
Megan Elizabeth Edwards
University of Chicago, Anthropology
Distilling the Irish Spirit: An Intersection of Drink Cultures and Colonialism in the Early Modern World
[ project summary ]
'Distilling the Irish Spirit' is an exploration of the history and development of the drink cultures and industry surrounding Irish whiskey in the British Isles in the early modern period (c. 1540-1800). The political economy of distilled alcohol- in its production, trade, and consumption- is the focus of this historical archaeology of whiskey. Changing patterns in the making and drinking of whiskey are tracked across social and physical landscapes to gain greater insight into processes of social change that came on the heels of colonial and modernizing projects in the Eastern Ulster counties of Down and Antrim. Archaeological, textual, cartographic, and landscape survey data are mustered in answering how and why the ostensibly indigenous consumable 'whiskey' came to be an object and potential tool, through its transformation into a global commodity, of the conquest and incorporation of the peoples and landscapes of Eastern Ulster into the civil, economic, and religious purview of a greater Britain. In addressing the pre-industrial progress of whiskey, the goal is to unsettle essentializing assumptions about the chain of economic and colonial development, and throw into question a model of colonialism in which the political and social are seen to flow from the economic.
Susan Helen Ellison
Brown University, Anthropology
Mediating Democracy in El Alto: The Politics of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Bolivia
[ project summary ]
This project examines the proliferation of foreign-funded “Alternative Dispute Resolution” (ADR) programs in the city of El Alto, Bolivia in the wake of a massive 2003 uprising. Many of the ADR programs currently offered in El Alto provide residents pro-bono legal aid while stressing mediation as a more satisfying alternative to the formal legal system. ADR programs have sought to change the ways Alteños deal with conflict in their everyday lives, as well as their engagement with social organizations such as trade unions and neighborhood associations. Anthropologists of development have analyzed the processes through which aid programs like those offered in El Alto are rendered apolitical. However since 2008, ADR and accompanying democracy assistance programs have become the flashpoint of a national debate over who sets the terms of democracy in Bolivia. My project examines the processes through which nominally apolitical ADR programs are re-invested with political meaning, and with what consequences. Over 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I will: (1) document how dispute resolution programs aspire to shape the ways that Alteños engage with conflict in their homes, and in El Alto’s many social organizations, and examine whether and how conflict resolution programs depoliticize larger social problems; (2) map how state agents, trained staff, and volunteers critique, appropriate, and transform mediation paradigms and practices, and elucidate how technocratic interventions are re-inscribed as politically salient; Finally, I will (3) examine how ordinary Alteños reject or incorporate ADR practices into their everyday lives, and consider what these practices reveal about the interplay between ADR models and other forces shaping people’s political subjectivity. In doing so, I will illuminate how participation in mediation programs influences the ways people think about themselves and behave as political actors, and produces new forms of power and political engagement.
Joanna K. Elrick
Vanderbilt University, History
Black Religions with White Faces: The Creolization of Religious Belief and Cultural Practice in Colonial Brazil and Cuba, 1600-1800
[ project summary ]
This dissertation aims to develop an understanding of the creolization of white populations in the Americas, and the African influences on white cultural and religious practices. It is my contention that creolization was a multidirectional process, with blacks strongly influencing the development of white cultures in the colonial Latin American slave societies of Brazil and Cuba. This study will examine creolization broadly, paying particular attention to the early development of the African Diasporic religions, the best known of which are Brazilian Candomblé and Cuban Santería. Portuguese and Spanish Inquisitional processes, Catholic Church records, travelers’ accounts, censuses, and civil and criminal records will provide the evidence that white populations in Brazil and Cuba were creolized as much as black populations, and that whites adopted African philosophies and cultural practices from their neighbors in colonial slave societies. Further, this study will take a multi-directional approach to the study of African Diasporic religion and cultural creolization by examining influences issuing from black to white populations and vice versa.
Mohamed Elshahed
New York University, Area and Cultural Studies
Building Egypt: City and Nation Building Between Architectural Modernity and the Politics of Transition, 1936-1967
[ project summary ]
How did the urban poor figure into official plans and discourse on the transformation of Cairo after the 1952 revolution? On a general level, my dissertation project seeks to provide a cultural history of modern Egyptian architecture, its role in the formation of a national identity during the Nasserist regime. More specifically, this dissertation project will highlight the tension between official actors’ plans for reshaping Cairo and the ways in which the city is transformed in less official means by its residents. The primary source for this study is “the archive of royal and public buildings authority of Egypt,” a recently uncovered collection that has not been studied previously. The object of this dissertation is: (1) to construct a cultural history of Egyptian architectural and urban national self-fashioning by studying and documenting state-commissioned buildings during the building boom at the dawn of the republic, (2) provide new information on this critical chapter in Cairo’s urban history which links the two extreme realities present in available scholarship on the city, a quasi-colonial centralized city of the past and the mismanaged collection of slums and informal settlements in the present, (3) to engage existing scholarship on postcolonial cities which largely deals with the ways in which postcolonial states position themselves in relation to the colonial past by reinventing their capitals. By analyzing never before studied plans and building documents with elite, nationalist and professional discourses on the role of the modern city in building a modern Egypt, this project will provide new information about a missing chapter in the history of the development of Cairo. This project will also demonstrate that the relationship between colonial and postcolonial city building programs is not as clearly defined and distinct as existing scholarship on the postcolonial city suggests.
Franziska Exeler
Princeton University, History
When the War Was Over: Soviet Belorussia 1940s-1950s
[ project summary ]
My dissertation investigates the massive social, political, and personal transformation process that WWII enacted in the Soviet Union. More specifically, its focus lies on the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belorussia from the 1940s to the 1950s. During WWII, Belorussia was at the epicenter of Nazi-Soviet total war. Occupied by the German forces in 1941-1944, it also became one of the main sites of the Holocaust. What happened in this borderland had more than regional consequences – it shaped European and Soviet history. This dissertation links three research fields that are conventionally studied separately, but are intertwined: the German occupation of the Soviet Union, the making of the post-war Soviet system, and the formation of East European societies after the Holocaust. As an investigation into the legacy of war and occupation, I will examine the consequences that the German occupation had for the formation of post-war Belorussian society. How did the question of locals’ behavior during Nazi rule bear on the ways in which individuals reconstructed their communities after the war? And did the “ghosts of war”, in particular the Belorussian Jews, haunt post-war society in this process? Moreover, I will study the impact of the war on the post-1944 reconfiguration of Soviet power. Which political lessons did the Soviet authorities draw from their evaluation of the occupation years and how did the post-war Soviet system reflect these lessons? This remaking of Soviet power went hand in hand with the creation of a new socialist Belorussia. In 1944, the republic was divided into two politically different halves. How did both the regime and society engage in the unification of Western and Eastern Belorussia under the banner of socialism? And did the war events facilitate this process – in other words: Did WWII turn Belorussia from ethnic borderland into Soviet heartland?
Aidan A. H. Forth
Stanford University, History
The Origins of the Camp: Violence and Humanity in the British Empire, 1830-1902
[ project summary ]
Usually associated with the totalitarian regimes of the mid twentieth century, concentration camps first appeared during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). My project traces the development of the concentration camp in British imperial practice. By exploring the affinities between South African camps and earlier precursors, my project will trace the evolving practices of encampment and the cultural mentalities that informed them. Metropolitan and colonial workhouses, military cantonments, reservations for native populations in Australia and Canada, and relief camps used to manage famine victims in late 19th-century South Asia provided an archive of imperial practice that informed the creation and management of camps during the Boer War and beyond. In addition to tracing an evolving set of practices and policies, I argue that as a culturally embedded phenomenon, camps were an outcome of shifting mentalities of warfare, discipline, and the spatial organization of modern masses. Camps are a ubiquitous feature of our contemporary geopolitical landscape. By locating the origins of the camp in liberal empire, I believe we can account for the continuing afterlife of the camp even after the demise of totalitarianism. My hypothesis is that British imperial agents were able to imprint the camp with a humanitarian pedigree that was mobilized to justify repressive measures throughout the twentieth century.
Razan Francis
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Art History/Architecture
Secrets of the Arts: Enlightenment Spain’s Contested Islamic Craft Heritage
[ project summary ]
This dissertation examines the changing editions of Bernardo Montón’s Secretos de artes liberales y mecánicas (Madrid, 1734, through 1814) to argue that an important yet unexplored contribution of Spain to the Enlightenment project was the transformation of its crafts tradition. As a hybrid collection of various arts and crafts, this book of “secrets,” now made public, joins in with the Enlightenment’s opposition to the cloistering of empirical knowledge. It is unprecedented in its application of the rationalizing mathematical theory of probability to the design of Islamic tiles (azulejos). Yet the book’s editions were gradually purged of any occult and Islamic elements, a process concurrent with the disappearance of azulejos from architectural practice. My study will show that Spain’s participation in the Enlightenment constantly demanded a reevaluation of its Islamic heritage of science and crafts. The new Newtonian science was at odds with Spain’s Islamic scientific tradition, which stemmed in part from Aristotelian natural philosophy while also being associated with the occult sciences (alchemy and magic). Spain’s reinvigoration of the "high arts," manifested in the founding of new fine arts academies, appeared to exclude the crafts, together with their Islamic residues. Towards the end of the century, when Economic Societies emerged and designated crafts as assets for economic progress, not only was the classification as “low” arts applied to the mechanical and crafts challenged, but from the standpoint of a primary concern for increasing industrial production, their Islamic elements had once again to be reevaluated.
Arunabh Ghosh
Columbia University, History
Making it Count: Demography and Statistical Science in the Early People’s Republic of China
[ project summary ]
This project is a study of statistics, demography, and state-society relations in the first decade of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). For China, the 1950s was characterized by an increasingly post-colonial and post-revolutionary world order, where the imperative to create accurate and scientific statistical systems as constituent parts of a technology of governance jostled with the political and ideological divides of capitalism and communism, and where relations between people and the state were being remolded, re-articulated, or fashioned entirely anew. Three sets of inter-related questions drive this project: the first set investigates the nature and extent to which the revolution re-shaped statistical sciences in the 1950s; the second set expands demography’s traditional concerns and examines how new systems and methods of statistical data collection affected the relationship between state and society; and the third set, by focusing on links between Chinese and Indian statisticians during the 1950s, explores regional networks of scientific exchange that potentially provided alternatives to Cold War choices. This project contributes to our understanding of the history of statistical science and of statecraft in 1950s China, and also expands our understanding of regional connections of the era. It examines the heretofore neglected process of the collection of demographic data, an initiative that was critical to the success of key projects of the early PRC. It demands that we look beyond the year 1949 as a key boundary-marker in the 20th century historiography of China, and appraise lines of continuity in the history of social science research in China. It allows us to read beyond a Cold War logic of China's revolutionary experiment, which pits China and the Soviet Union on one side and the West on the other, and to recognize the importance of the circulation of ideas and technologies not circumscribed by such logic. (299 words)
Annelies M. Goger
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Geography
Managing Global Guilt and Local Norms: Regulation in the Sri Lankan Clothing Industry
[ project summary ]
Since the 1980s, trade liberalization and the subsequent globalization of production networks have generated widespread concerns about a lack of regulation in the clothing industry, specifically about practices such as unsafe working conditions, child labor, low wages, and unstable employment. The universal compliance codes and monitoring systems devised to address these problems—herein called “ethical initiatives”—have not met the central objective of standardization, addressed root causes, or accounted for cultural specificities in the meaning of “ethical.” Adopting a multi-scalar, multi-sited approach, my research investigates the politics of ethical governance in global clothing supply chains with a focus on how global power dynamics, local norms, and gender relations shape notions of “ethical” in Sri Lanka. In addition to interrogating how the meaning of “ethical” is contested at multiple scales, I will compare ethical initiatives in export processing zones and villages in Sri Lanka because they have very different geographies of labor. Drawing on economic geography, political economy, and feminist geographies and ethnographies, I contend that the historical and geographical context of the factory and its labor force significantly shapes how ethical initiatives are put into practice and which kinds of spaces are considered to be within the bounds of corporate accountability. Due to its emphasis on multiple scales of governance, this study requires multi-sited fieldwork with key ethical initiative actors in Europe and the United States and extended fieldwork in Sri Lanka. Using multiple methods, I also aim for this research to inform contemporary debates about ethical initiatives with an emphasis on contextual dynamics, gendered geographies of labor, and reflexive program implementation.
Johnhenry R. Gonzalez
University of Chicago, History
Property and Political Violence: Peasant Development in Post-Emancipation Hispaniola, 1802-1844
[ project summary ]
This dissertation will examine political violence, land ownership, and class formation in early nineteenth century Hispaniola from the beginning of the Haitian War of Independence in 1802 through the end of the unification of Hispaniola under Haitian rule in 1844. This work will examine the ways in which former slaves and agricultural laborers living in independent Haiti continued to resist attempts from state officials and elite landowners to resurrect systems of plantation production and forced labor. In a historic exception to the meteoric expansion of the world capitalist market in the early modern period, the former slaves of Haiti created a comparatively inward-looking society and a relatively autarkic economy. This dissertation will focus on the political and economic activities of the rural population of early nineteenth century Haiti with regard to land ownership and labor. In this regard, the relatively unexplored history of early nineteenth century Hispaniola is particularly relevant to the growing literature on post-emancipation societies. More than in any other post-slave society in the Americas, people in early independent Haiti who had themselves lived as property successfully struggled to possess property of their own. This study will begin by tracing the emergence of Haitians’ perspectives on land ownership and agriculture amidst the violence of revolutionary slave emancipation during the Haitian Revolution and it will follow the development of both state land policy and patterns of popular land usage during Haiti’s first four decades of independence.
Guangtian Ha
Columbia University, Anthropology
Reshaping Governance in a Liberalizing China: A Study of the Ethnically Unmarked Chinese Hui Muslims
[ project summary ]
Though in the international press Chinese Muslims are often represented as Uygurs, a large percentage of Muslims in China are not ethnically marked. My project studies these ethnically unmarked Muslims who are called "Hui" in China. I focus on their history and transforming status, and the ways in which they are reshaping the emergent form of governance in contemporary China, within the context of its increasing marketization and the international discursive positing of "global Islam" as a threat. In contrast to Uygurs, Hui Muslims are thought as both economic catalysts and potential troublemakers. If Uygurs are linguistically and culturally Central Asian and if the Chinese state acts as though their unrest can be appeased by limiting the flow of people and information in a confined region, the stability-seeking Chinese government encounters a serious challege when facing those Chinese-speaking, culturally-closer-to-Han Hui Muslims who are scattered all over the country and living among the Han majority, much like a "shadow" of the Han. The suspicion and surveillance against these Hui Muslims has increased since 9/11, with the specter of "global Islam" construed as an expanding threat. It has also been intensified in relation to the ambiguous economic status of Hui. It is my hypothesis that an ethnography of the Hui can reveal much about the form of governance now emerging in China, which is neither classically neo-liberal nor socialist. My project studies how this emergent governance is reshaped by the ethnically unmarked Hui Muslims, explores the relations between globalization, capitalization and the circulation of suspicion and fear towards "global Islam" in contemporary China, and asks how Hui Muslims are managing their collective and individual lives in relation to this predicament.
Dinah Rebecca Hannaford
Emory University, Anthropology
Love in the Time of ‘Absentee Marriage’: Transnational Migration, Class and Gender in Urban Senegal
[ project summary ]
This project will use ethnographic methods to examine a trend of absentee marriages--that is, marriages between Senegalese migrant men living abroad and women residing in Senegal. In a distinctively middle class neighborhood of Dakar, where this research takes place, middle class urban women are increasingly choosing to marry international Senegalese migrants of rural origin. Through surveys, interviews, focus groups, and participant observation, I will examine how these marriages reflect or challenge modern marital values in urban Senegal, what they suggest about contemporary rural/urban dichotomies in the country, and their relation to a perceived rise in consumerism and changing gender ideologies in Dakar. Many wives of international migrants do not see their husbands for years at a time, and this project will investigate how marriages are conducted transnationally. I will seek to understand how intimacy is practiced in absentee marriages, the role of communication and money-transferring technologies in this process, and the extent to which this Senegalese case conforms to or challenges anthropological theories of a global trend towards companionate marriage. Its results will contribute to our understanding of how increased mobility and communication technology are shaping and are shaped by social practices around the world, as it investigates contemporary practices and meanings of marriage for men and women living in a highly transnational space.
Burleigh Hendrickson
Northeastern University, History
Decolonizing 1968(s): Between Imperial Fragmentation and Enduring Connectivity
[ project summary ]
My research compares and connects the political activity of syndicates from three regions of the Francophone world—Tunis, Dakar, and Lyon—beginning in the mid-1960s and carrying into the early 1970s. This project proposes two major levels of analysis: 1) it compares the simultaneous events occurring in three specific local contexts that culminated in the spring of 1968 and 2) it traces transnational communication between organizations to determine how this may have shaped political consciousness. The scope and topic of this research reflects the intersection of three major fields of study: 1968 studies, postcolonialism, and migration studies. By merging theories and methodologies from these three fields, I hope to expand the limits of each field while interrogating how transnational linkages informed resistance in the post-colonial, Francophone world. In addition, I will examine how activism was articulated throughout the former empire while exploring the dimensions of global connectivity and, conversely, imperial fragmentation, after its collapse. This research will also construct a model for placing the First and Third Worlds in the same conceptual framework, as opposed to one-sided or separate histories. I am seeking funding in order to complete this multi-country research. Since I am presently researching archives in Lyon, my research plan consists of approximately 6 months divided equally between archives located in Tunis and Dakar, and approximately 4 months spent in France at archives located primarily in and around Paris. The National Archives in both Tunisia and Dakar will enable me to examine local periodicals and daily newspapers to construct a narrative of events, while I will analyze data on national student and worker syndicates for evidence of international communication. In France I will focus on collections regarding immigrant activist groups and other radical organizations that identified with foreign causes.
Samantha Gayathri Iyer
University of California, Berkeley, History
The International Politics of Food: Egypt, India, and U.S. Development Aid
[ project summary ]
In the 1950s and 1960s, states across the decolonizing world began to rely on massive quantities of American agricultural surpluses, which the U.S. government sold at below-market prices as food aid under Public Law 480 (P.L. 480). Egypt and India, two non-aligned states recently independent from the British Empire, became the largest importers in per capita and absolute terms, respectively, of P.L. 480 aid before the 1970s. My dissertation narrates the history and pre-history of U.S. food aid to Egypt and India. It explores the links—which the existing scholarship has quietly acknowledged yet failed to explain—between the development and welfare experiments under the British Empire and U.S. development efforts after World War II. Encompassing a period from the late nineteenth century until the 1970s, it considers, in particular, how ideas about population and food supply, the politics of welfare, and changes in landed property relations in Egypt, India, and the U.S. influenced the history of P.L. 480. The dissertation suggests that, if a similar set of development ideas and institutions took shape within the same moment across various regions of the decolonizing world, this was not, as scholars often contend, because of the overbearing influence of a Western-origin development discourse. It was because of the roots of these ideas and institutions within an overlapping constellation of relationships among social scientists and political leaders across the globe. These relationships emerged out of the intellectual dilemmas and political opportunities that nationalism across the colonial world, global social and economic crises, and new sources of immigration to the U.S. inspired in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And while the dialogue between actors in the metropole and (post-) colony was crucial, so too were the intellectual and political connections between imperial Britain and the U.S. and between Egypt and India.
Aaron George Jakes
New York University, Joint Program in History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
Finance in the Fields: Egypt, Agricultural Credit, and the Age of Global Comparison
[ project summary ]
In 1882, the British military invaded Egypt to forestall the Egyptian state’s potential default on its massive debt to private banks in London and Paris. The ensuing occupation coincided with a series of major shifts in the structures and practices of imperial finance. In these decades, a massive extension of international financial networks sought to transform remote rural environments into vital frontiers for the direct investment of metropolitan capital. While the great banks of Europe had once restricted their dealings to government loans and local money-lenders had held a virtual monopoly on agricultural credit, a host of institutional and infrastructural innovations—branch banking, cooperative societies, standardized currencies—provided new means to channel sources of international finance directly into the fields. My dissertation seeks to situate the socio-economic shifts that occured during the British occupation within a trans-regional and imperial context of linked transformations that converged to turn Egypt into a key site for both agricultural and financial experimentation. Drawing on a wide array of little-used sources—agricultural journals, family papers, bank records, court registers, imperial commission reports, and state archives in Egypt, India, and the United Kingdom—my dissertation will attempt to reconstruct the tangled and shifting webs of credit and debt that enmeshed the Egyptian countryside between the Egyptian government’s declaration of bankruptcy in 1876 and the onset of the First World War.
Sohini Kar
Brown University, Anthropology
Creditable Lives: Microfinance, Development and Financial Risk in India
[ project summary ]
Proponents of microfinance contend that financial inclusion mitigates socio-economic disparities by incorporating the poor into more efficient markets. However, the sustainability of microfinance institutions (MFIs), which mediate lending from commercial banks to the poor, requires the exclusion of those who fail to meet stringent risk criteria. Based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Kolkata, India, this project looks at how borrowers and lenders of microfinance negotiate this tension between "financial inclusion" and exclusions informed by global financial norms and locally constituted ideas of creditability. While the enfolding of the poor into financial networks represents what some scholars have termed "financialization" of the world, I examine how these global financial regimes are understood, experienced and contended with locally. In India, women borrowers justify their loans in terms of their social obligations and identities as “good” wives, mothers, and neighbors, rather than just entrepreneurship; MFI field staff both exclude “risky” subjects and knowingly make loans for non-business purposes such as weddings and healthcare. This project examines how borrowers and lenders manage these often divergent ethics of financial sustainability and everyday obligations of personal relationships. In particular, how does formally determined creditworthiness intersect with the informal everyday ethics of kinship, community, and gender? Taking credit as a site of encounter between global finance, state and institutional regulations, and situated everyday practices, I aim to understand how MFIs come to know and select their “ideal” borrowers and how this process shapes—and is shaped by—new economic subjects.
Jehanzaib Khan
New York University, Sociology of Education
School or Madrassa: Parents' Choice and the Failure of State-Run Education in Pakistan
[ project summary ]
My research seeks to explain the relationship between parents’ perceptions of public primary education and their decisions to send their children to madrassas in Pakistan. I employ a mixed-methods design to collect data in Quetta and Pishin districts in Balochistan Province. Using surveys and semi-structured interviews, I examine: a) parents’ perceptions of public schools and madrassas, and factors that influence their decisions to choose alternative educational options; b) teachers’ perceptions of the organizational context of which they are part; and c) key officials’ perceptions of the performance of public schools and madrassas. Parent surveys will also explore the role of religion and parents’ socioeconomic backgrounds in making educational choices for their children. In addition, I will measure variations in student performance between madrassas and public schools and within sector. Understanding the association of the performance of public education and madrassas and the perceptions of parents is critical to learning how parents make educational decisions for their children. A more nuanced understanding of parents’ perceptions of educational options and the factors—cognitive, moral, or structural—that influence the educational decisions parents make for their children can guide policy toward appropriate public education reforms.
Jieun Lee
University of California, Davis, Anthropology
Revitalizing Promises: How the Post-Scandal Stem Cell Research Becomes “Good Science” For Korea
[ project summary ]
Stem cell research, although it is ethically controversial and its future outcome is uncertain, is pursued as a national enterprise in many countries. It requires significant efforts of stem cell scientists to persuade the public of the promises of stem cell research attempting to win over its uncertainty and controversial aspects. This project explores how stem cell research has restored public support in Korea after a scandalous disclosure of the ethical and economic uncertainties that led to a credibility collapse of stem cell research in Korea. In their repair effort, the post-scandal scientists try to present stem cell research as good science, which is promising and credible. Paying attention to the conception of credibility and promises in Korea after the scandal, I will investigate the interface between scientists and the public that shapes the current scientific practices and future prospects of stem cell research. Moreover, I suggest that the post-scandal repair effort entail certain ideas of the public, nation and society with diverse interests as interpreted and imagined by the scientists. This project examines how stem cell research, through the repair efforts, re-emerges not merely as a field of scientific research, but also as a national enterprise expected to secure the return to the public on investment. To pursue these inquiries, I will conduct ethnographic fieldwork in stem cell labs in Korea and discourse analysis following how stem cell research is practiced in the labs and presented to the public. Through this research, I propose that the scientists not only produce scientific knowledge, but also generate a vision of future that relates stem cells to national prosperity and builds a governing structure through which scientists secure the pathway toward the anticipated stem cell future.
Joel Lee
Columbia University, Anthropology
'Untouchable' Religion: Identity Transformation among Sweepers in North India
[ project summary ]
Writers in the late nineteenth century characterized castes of north Indian sweepers as neither Hindu nor Muslim but practitioners of an autonomous religion particular to ‘untouchables.’ Yet today, not only do most members of sweeper castes identify themselves decisively as either Hindu or Muslim, but many are actively engaged in religion-based mass mobilization, even as they continue to face caste discrimination as ‘untouchables.’ This project seeks to understand the identitarian politics of the present by addressing the historical question of how and for what reasons north Indian sweeper castes adopted Hindu, Muslim, and non-religious identities in the course of the twentieth century. The project design involves twelve months of 1) ethnographic research among Muslim, Hindu, and non-religious members of sweeper castes who live in a slum of the north Indian city of Lucknow, and 2) archival research in the records of Lucknow municipal administration responsible for the employment of many sweepers, the documents of religious reform movements that targeted ‘untouchables’ for conversion, and literature produced by sweepers themselves. Grounded thus in ethnographic and archival research, the study will develop an empirical base from which to interrogate regnant ideas and enrich current debates in postcolonial theory, Islamic studies, the anthropology of caste, and theory of subaltern symbolic struggle.
Anneka Erin Lenssen
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Art History/Architecture
Perennial Painting and Modernism’s Mortality: The New Syrian Art, 1946-76
[ project summary ]
This study tracks modernist painting through Syria’s cultural institutions from 1946-1976. A new and comprehensive arts bureaucracy instituted by the state in 1958 circulated its national artists to European art academies for finishing. The intellectual formation that results incorporated Arab and European artists together in study at academies in Cairo, Rome, Paris, and Damascus. By a series of case studies of individual artists at the foreign academy settings that occupied the center of Syrian cultural institutions, I investigate how artists dealt with rapid reconfigurations of the relationship between art, education, and governance. While the state invested capital and rhetoric in that multi-national academic system – so appropriating the same foundation claimed by Euro-American modern art in liberal educational ideals and the democratic nation-state – it also recuperated that symbolism for a centrally planned monopoly on culture. In the early sixties, Syrian artists saw painting as a transformative practice meant to realize an authentic self, followed by the realization of a just society. In the sixties, however, a sequence of proclaimed radical breaks with modern art provided that painterly practice with a distinct, anti-Western valence. After the Arab loss in the 1967 Six-Day War with Israel, a new body of cultural criticism emerged that critiqued modern conceptions of painting that presupposed its universality. The protests in Paris in May of 1968 – joined by the Syrian artists studying in Paris – again lambasted painting’s presumption to universal significance, further rejecting it as a commodified object and oppressive force within contemporary society. By a sustained analysis of the conditions that produced modernism in Syria and subsequently adjudicated its relevance, I investigate how the formal preoccupations of modernist painting (often literally the product of a specific school of art) in interaction with entirely other contemporary contexts might be marked as living practices or dead objects.
Ke Li
Indiana University Bloomington, Sociology
Seeking Divorce in the Countryside: Marital Grievances, Dispute Resolutions, and Gender Inequalities in Contemporary China
[ project summary ]
By studying rural women seeking divorce, this project will explore the help-seeking behaviors of two enormous segments of the Chinese population: rural residents and women. In post-Mao rural China, how have rapid social changes affected marriage and family life? To what extent and by what means do rural residents mobilize law to address marital grievances? In what ways does a grassroots legal system redress inequities and injustices and in what ways does it reproduce and reinforce them? These questions are intrinsically important insofar as rural Chinese account for a sizable chunk (over 10 percent) of humanity, and an even greater proportion of humanity seeking divorce. Moreover, in China, women are far more likely than men to initiate divorce litigation; in recent years, this gender disparity in divorce lawsuits has become ever more pronounced in the countryside. However, to date no research has explored Chinese women's litigiousness. In highlighting these two social groups (rural residents and women), this project will be the first systematic research on the character of grievances rural women tend to harbor, how they seek justice through legal channels, and the needs and wants they experience throughout disputing processes. I intend to address these research questions through an ethnographic study of divorce litigation in rural Sichuan Province in southwest China. My research will proceed in four steps. First, I will examine rural women’s experiences of seeking legal assistance via the burgeoning legal services market. Second, I will investigate how rural women pursue legal remedies for divorce and how basic-level courts respond to their initiatives. Third, I will go back to identify the underlying marital grievances that led to divorce litigation. Finally, I will explore how marital disputes are handled outside the legal system. Together, these research inquires will cast new light on gender, politics, and law in contemporary China.
John Fabian Lopez
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Art History/Architecture
The Hydrographic City: Mapping Mexico City's Urban Form in Relation to its Aquatic Condition, 1521-1700
[ project summary ]
On September 7, 2009, Mexico City awoke in the midst of floodwaters. Nearly 700 years after the Aztec founded their island city of Tenochtitlan in 1325 (renamed Mexico City by the Spanish), it has yet to solve its flood problems. Mexico City is a special case in urban history because the measures taken to avoid inundations have fundamentally changed this city’s character. In 1521, it was an island-city; in 1629, it lay near the banks of the Lake of Mexico; and by 1700, it rested on reclaimed land. This transformation is significant, speaking not only to the flood control approaches of the Aztec and Spanish, but equally important, to how these methods profoundly altered this city’s urban condition. Like the Aztec, the Spanish sought to control the six fresh- and salt-water lakes surrounding the city to prevent inundations, yet their approach was quite different. The Aztec model relied on containment and regulation, while the Spanish undertook drainage, referred to as the desagüe. Despite the scholarly attention devoted to pre-Columbian and colonial hydraulics and this city’s urban form, no comprehensive research examines the relationship between the city’s lacustrine environment and its form. The Hydrographic City addresses three key questions: (1) What were the respective flood control approaches of the Aztec and Spanish? (2) How did these approaches shape two fundamentally different cities? (3) How did the Aztec and the Spanish differ epistemologically in how they conceived of their respective cities’ aquatic conditions?
Greta Marchesi
University of California, Berkeley, Geography
Grounding New Deal Power in the Americas: Soil Science and Development before Truman (1929-49)
[ project summary ]
The Green Revolution is widely considered agricultural science’s contribution to the post-war rise of global US influence in the 20th century. However, the Green Revolution was not the first attempt by the United States to further its global ambitions through the extension of state agricultural expertise, nor was it the inevitable outcome of scientific attention to agricultural production in the 1930s and 1940s. In this dissertation, I will argue that the New Deal era, marked by the US Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, was in fact the birthplace of a radically different mode of transnational agrarian planning, a mode that was actively exported through the Americas during the Second World War. These USsponsored hemispheric development programs drew on ideological strategies of the Mexican Revolution and were rooted in notions of collectivist conservationism, cultural pluralism, and democratic resource management. The result of scientific experiments by teams of Interior Department anthropologists, sociologists, and soil scientists working to combat erosion on US Indian tribal lands, New Deal-era land management models attended to both the cultural and biological processes at work in diverse environmental and political contexts. This research is a comparative examination of three local manifestations of this project. In the US, I will consider contested de-stocking programs on the tribal lands of the Navajo Nation. In Latin America, I will turn to US-sponsored agrarian development under shifting property relations in Colombia’s Cauca Valley and to scientific research and development in the indigenous eijidos of Michoacán, Mexico.
Marcy Elisabeth McCullaugh
University of California, Berkeley, Political Science
From Well to Welfare: Social Spending in Mineral-Rich Post-Soviet States
[ project summary ]
This dissertation examines variation in welfare expenditure levels in three mineral-rich post-Soviet states: Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. The project asks why commitments to welfare spending in three countries with similar conditions—including regime type, vast mineral wealth, and the communist legacy of central planning and a cradle-to-grave welfare system—diverged markedly in the two decades since the Soviet collapse. To explain this outcome, I develop two theoretical frameworks that distinguish between arenas of welfare spending decision-making in authoritarian regimes that have the capacity to capture large rents from oil and gas exports. In the first, a single institutional actor makes all welfare spending decisions, and in the second, multiple institutional actors are involved in the decision-making process. Drawing on these theoretical conceptions as well as the literature on political economy and elite behavior in authoritarian regimes, I hypothesize several factors that may influence welfare expenditure levels: (1) leaders' expectations about staying in power; (2) the strength of civil society; and (3) the number and character of institutional actors involved in welfare spending decisions. I will test these hypotheses using both qualitative and quantitative data collected in the field between August 1, 2010 and July 31, 2011. Due to my previous research experience in Russia, fluency in Russian, extensive background in post-Soviet area studies, and the network of academic and institutional contacts I have already established in all three countries, I am extremely qualified to carry out this research plan within a 12-month period.
Daniel C. Miller
University of Michigan, Environmental Science
Coping with Conservation: The Legacy of Biodiversity Aid on a West African Frontier
[ project summary ]
The impact of biodiversity conservation on rural communities represents one of the most controversial issues in international conservation research and policy, particularly in Africa. Scholarship in political ecology and other fields has focused primarily on how national parks and other protected areas affect local livelihoods. However, this literature has not yet considered conservation’s social impacts relative to climate variability and change. The proposed study will address this important gap. The goal of my dissertation research is to systematically analyze the legacy of a large externally-funded conservation project in Africa’s first transboundary biosphere reserve. Specifically, I ask how the project has affected rural household capacity to adapt in the face of a changing climate. The “W” Region Biosphere Reserve, named for a sharp double bend in the Niger River near the intersection of Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger, was established through the European Union-supported ECOPAS project from 2002-2008. With three distinct national political contexts structuring outcomes in a common territory, the W Reserve presents an ideal opportunity for comparative analysis of the effect of an external conservation intervention on local adaptive capacity. This research combines qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate adaptive capacity before and after ECOPAS. This mixed methodology will enable me to understand the complex socio-political setting of the project’s implementation and specify how key institutional variables mediate its effects on adaptive capacity in the three country contexts. My study will be among the first to explore the legacy of biodiversity conservation aid in the face of climate variability and change. Given the extensive number of projects across the tropical world like ECOPAS, which were designed to conserve biodiversity through community engagement, research results will be of broad theoretical and practical relevance.
Yasmin Moll
New York University, Anthropology
Virtuous Viewing: A Cultural Analysis of Islamic Televangelism in Egypt
[ project summary ]
In recent years the Arab satellite sector has seen the emergence of several Islamic “televangelical” channels boasting a viewership numbering in the tens of millions. Located within a regional landscape marked by economic neo-liberalization, continued political repression, and a three-decade strong “Islamic Revival,” Islamic satellite channels are the newest entrants into the increasingly diverse field of dawa (Islamic outreach) in the Arab Middle East. Funded by Saudi entrepreneurs and staffed by Egyptian producers, these televangelical channels seek to broadcast transnationally an “Islamic entertainment” that can compete with dominant secular media for viewers in the region and beyond. My dissertation project explores how media producers working for two Islamic televangelical channels headquartered in Cairo, Egypt’s capital, 1) understand, produce and circulate Islamically-correct media, and 2) imagine a pious transnational audience of Muslims who are supposed to see the televangelical channels as a “safe haven” in an overwhelmingly “morally corrupt” satellite realm. This project thus raises broader theoretical questions about the role new media technologies play in shaping religious dispositions and sensibilities as well as asking how existing religious practices influence the ways in which such technologies are taken up. It also asks about the specific sensory formations underwriting ideas of “virtuous viewing” within Islamic contexts. At a time when cultural discourses of “authenticity” and “purity” are gaining increasing purchase within the Muslim world, this research also sheds light on the heterogeneity and porosity of self-declared “Islamic media.” Indeed, by situating Islamic televangelism as a rich site of creativity, visual pleasure and moral discipline, this research will contribute to on-going theorizations of the nexus of religion, new media and globalizing processes.
Christopher K. Morris
University of Colorado at Boulder, Anthropology
Pharmaceutical Bioprospecting for Genetic Resources in Postapartheid South Africa
[ project summary ]
Current contestation over the pharmaceutical bioprospecting for genetic resources for drug development and sales in South Africa foregrounds the growing tensions between medicine, capitalism, and regulatory governance in the global South. This project takes the legal case against Schwabe Pharmaceuticals of Germany, a company that was granted patents entitling it exclusive use of the South African Pelargonium for the development of drugs treating respiratory ailments, AIDS and AIDS-related diseases, as an ethnographic window into the North-South politics of intellectual property disputes and the shifting relations between actors—from indigenous communities to states and Northern development agencies, from law-oriented nongovernmental organizations to public-private biotechnology partnerships—vying for say as to who should own, and subsequently benefit from, the knowledge of profitable raw materials for medicine. I hypothesize that the emergence of Eurocentric intellectual property laws impacting the ownership of South African genetic resources has been accompanied by (1) a transformation in the relations between and strategies among these actors in South Africa vying for regulatory influence over bioprospecting and (2) an emergence of novel underlying arguments and strategies legitimizing indigenous communities’ claims to ownership of traditional knowledge of genetic resources. Drawing upon anthropology, economic geography, and critical legal studies, and employing interviews, participant observation and historical genealogy, my research will examine how various stakeholders wield specific practices and forms of knowledge in order to favorably transform current circumstances to fit or recraft intellectual property laws in the context of unregulated bioprospecting in South Africa.
Sharmila Mukherjee
University of Washington, Literature
Shakespeare on Page in Colonial India, 1870-1947
[ project summary ]
My project examines the manifold ways in which Shakespeare was recreated and reproduced on page in India during British rule from 1870 to 1947. By doing so, it tries to understand the social and political uses of Shakespeare made by the British and the Indians during the anti-colonial nationalist movement. Through multi-sited archival research, I examine the historical moment when Shakespeare was introduced to the colonial curriculum in the nineteenth century, how his plays were edited as college textbooks and selectively deployed in shaping a new class of English-educated Indian elite, and how the latter co-opted the plays to address issues of national identity, to bring in social reforms, and to dominate ideologically over native minorities. Through this analysis, I draw attention to the contradictions in the reception of Shakespeare in India, aspiring to move beyond the normative framework in studying the subject, articulated within the binary of British imperial coercion and heroic Indian resistance through subversive appropriation. The prevalent scholarship, I argue, leaves unanswered the vital question why many Indians took to Shakespeare with evident enthusiasm, paradoxically during a time of intense anti-colonial feelings and an increasing demand for vernacular education. Taking a number of previously unexamined sources as my points of entry, I analyze British motivations and the indigenous hierarchies of power and class conflicts which facilitated the consolidation of Shakespeare in India. Finally, I interrogate the playwright’s continued presence in the curriculum since independence so as to map the contours of the intertwining of cultural politics and social struggle in contemporary India. Combining the most recent contributions to literary, historical, South Asia and textual studies, the project will offer new insights into how a canonical English author has been reinvented in India under political and social exigencies peculiar to the colonial state.
Bradley Willem Jensen Murg
University of Washington, Political Science
Imported Institutions: The Political Economy of Legal Transplants in China and the Former Soviet Union
[ project summary ]
What conditions facilitate successful legal transplantation? Why do some laws remain unused on the statute books while others are actively employed and develop into key aspects of a state’s legal system? What are the implications of legal transplants for economic growth? These questions are salient across multiple disciplines: comparative law, economics, political science, and development studies. Furthermore, institutional transplants offer a unique opportunity for scholars of institutions: providing a natural experiment for the study of institutional origins and change. Developing a typology of gradual institutional change originating in the historical institutionalist literature, I contend that issues of timing and sequencing are vital and that the process of successful legal transplantation play out through three separate, necessary conditions: (i) the existing legal environment; (ii) the presence of a foreign investment law providing for the use of “offshore law” creating demand for law; and (iii) “legal layering.” This project finds its empirical basis in the transplant of contract law in four transition economies: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. Utilizing a process tracing approach and a set of contextualized comparisons, this endeavor will shed new light on questions of institutional change, the causes of economic growth, and the relationship between law and development.
Venkatesan Natarajan
New York University, Anthropology
The Power of Memory: The Aftermath of Argentina's Dirty War
[ project summary ]
What is everyday life like for groups viewed responsible for Argentina’s 1976-1983 Dirty War? In the context of post-state-violence nation building, of which Argentina is held up as a pioneer, this question has remained largely ignored. Like other post-state violence contexts, Argentina has historically prioritized aiding groups identified as victims. Most Argentine and non-Argentine research on the aftermath of state violence has similarly focused on victims’ experiences. But victims require wrongdoers, and in identifying groups victimized by state violence, notions of who is responsible for state violence also emerge. I plan to use ethnographic observations of everyday life, archival research, and life histories to explore the social, political, and memory processes through which governments and human rights institutions create categories of who is responsible for state violence, and people labeled by these categories experience and negotiate them. Investigating the forms and consequences of these negotiations will deepen scholarly and policy-makers’ understandings of the “transitional justice” processes through which nations ravaged by state violence transform themselves into democracies.
Amy C. Offner
Columbia University, History
Anti-Poverty Programs, Social Conflict, and Economic Thought in Colombia and the United States, 1948-1980
[ project summary ]
My dissertation asks how ideas about capitalist development evolved through the experience of implementing Cold War anti-poverty programs, and how ideas circulated between the United States and Latin America. Focusing the Latin American research on Colombia, I examine the ideas of many groups that fought over social policy in both countries: peasants, urban working classes, government officials, capitalists, international financial institutions, academic researchers, and private consultants. The project is a social history of economic thought, in which Cold War reform projects and the social conflicts surrounding them provide the context for studying ideas. I focus on three Colombian programs that generated vigorous international intervention and domestic social conflict: the creation of Colombia’s first regional development corporation in the 1950s, the construction of Latin America’s largest public housing project during the 1960s, and the transformation of the Colombian economics profession during the 1960s and 1970s. I then follow a number of participants in these projects, including Albert O. Hirschman, David Lilienthal, and the Ford Foundation, back to the United States. There, beginning in the late 1960s, they founded community development corporations, organized business school exchanges, and argued for new forms of corporate investment and public administration. These projects provide a historically grounded way of researching the origins of neoliberalism, the international homogenization of economic theory since 1945, and the rise of economists as policymakers and public intellectuals. They also provide a way of studying how different social and national groups understood economic life during the Cold War, and why most people’s ideas were never considered economic thought.
Pandora O'Mahony-Adams
Columbia University, History
The July Revolution and the African Revolution: Egypt and the Emergence of a Continental Identity, 1952-1970
[ project summary ]
At once an intellectual and a political history, this project is concerned with the re-making of the idea of ‘Africa’ in the 1950s and 1960s. Focusing on revolutionary Egypt under Muhammad Neguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser, I seek to trace the impact of continental pan-African nationalism on the process and possibilities of African decolonization broadly speaking. In looking at the end of French, British and Belgian colonial rule and the early years of independence as a period amenable to a reconfiguration of broader political allegiances, I will be particularly interested in tracing both the genealogical expansion of the term ‘African’ to include the ‘Arab’ residents of northern Africa and its strategic deployment to legitimate a new kind of radical anti-colonial international politics. I argue that Egyptian officials and intellectuals appealed to their country’s ‘African’ identity’ not only as an attempt to forge a new supranational political constituency but also from a conviction that the Egyptian ‘July Revolution’ could itself only succeed as part of an integrated continental and Third Worldist revolution. This project will therefore examine both the discourse and the materiality of Egyptian Africanism. Focussing on relations with Algeria, Ghana and Congo, and using interviews, recorded radio broadcasts and governmental archives, I will explore the diplomatic, military, economic and cultural dimensions of Egyptian involvement. The literature on decolonization is still teleologically preoccupied with the nation-state: my research on Egyptian Pan-Africanism will demonstrate the extent to which trans- and supra-national understanding of political organization also played key roles in the ending of European colonialism. Considering the major importance of Ghana in this period as a pioneer state in African independence and as a rival site of Pan-Africanist activity, my project will also involve examining the Ghanaian reaction to Egypt’s newly-found African vocationalism
Pablo Palomino
University of California, Berkeley, History
Transnational Musical Networks in Latin America, 1910-1950
[ project summary ]
My dissertation will examine the making of modern Latin America’s musical scene—and therefore, its broader cultural history—from a transnational perspective. My hypothesis is that the modernization of musical practices in the region, from 1910 to 1950, was produced by intense transnational circulation of ideas, erudite and popular music styles, musicians, and state policies. This hypothesis challenges the national perspective that currently dominates the field. I will analyze, through research in archives located in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, five key transnational networks enabling this circulation. The interplay and mutual connections among these networks will present a different picture of the modernization of musical practices in Latin America. These five networks—made of intellectuals, erudite composers, commercial brokers, popular musicians, and state cultural policies—were developed in a context characterized by three important processes in Latin America, brought to light in recent literature: the shift among Latin American cultural elites from European musical models to attempts to forge a national canon; the emergence of a popular music industry among urban and rural audiences; and the expanding role of the state in the creation of a legitimate national-popular culture. My research project challenges the teleological perspective of recent scholarship, which has interpreted these three processes and the music styles associated with them, in terms of distinct national developments, each representing a new and idiosyncratic “national culture.” My central argument is that the sounds of the golden era of nationalism were not entirely national, and therefore, that “nation” is not the best category for understanding the making of modern Latin American music and culture. My study, situated at the methodological crossroad of ethnomusicology and social, intellectual, cultural, and transnational history, will contribute to current debates on cultural analysis by
Dinesh Paudel
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Geography
Development of Discontent: Community Forestry, Livelihoods, and the Rise of Maoist Peasant Movements in Nepal
[ project summary ]
Why did oppositional social movements emerge from Rapti region of Nepal where development projects had been implemented intensively for many decades? Through an ethnographic account of the Rapti Integrated Development Project and subsequent community-based commercialization programs in Rapti, Nepal, this research will investigate the socioeconomic, ecological, and ideological effects of community forestry programs, and their connection in producing unrest and rebellion among the rural poor. By combining a) an ethnographic study of RIDP and associated programs with b) archival research of the core development agencies involved in the implementation of RIDP, and c) ecological survey of community forestry in the RIDP tract, this research explains the potential relationship between successful community forestry programs and rising social uprisings in Nepal. The recent entry of community-based approaches in development has unsettled conventional understandings of social movements, which generally treats social unrest as a response to external exploitation. However, in community forestry, local people themselves design and implement programs where they retain authority in decision-making about management and appropriation. Despite these changes in development approaches, however, social unrest has continued. To examine this conundrum, I will conduct the proposed research in two clusters of communities in the Rapti region. This research will show how ostensibly successful development program can enable social uprisings, and thereby allow us to adequately theorize causal connections between development and the rise of social movements in the global south.
Lisa Poggiali
Stanford University, Anthropology
Testimony and Texting: Mobile Phone Technology and Emergent 'Publics' in Contemporary Kenya
[ project summary ]
A growing number of developers in Kenya’s burgeoning technology sector believe that mobile phones can transform politics in Kenya. In an effort to put these thoughts into action, developers have created mobile phone platforms that encourage Kenyans who have witnessed various troubling events (from political violence to traffic violations) to text this information to a source, where it is compiled and re-circulated to the Kenyan public through mobile phones. I refer to this as ‘digital testimony’: first-person accounts of injustices that are digitally transmitted. My initial fieldwork suggests that such practices of self-policing are undergirded by a profound disillusionment with the Kenyan state’s ability to maintain order and security and to provide necessary public services. Testifying via mobile phone allows Kenyans to register their observations, frustrations and fears to others while remaining virtually anonymous. Such anonymity is crucial in a setting where the state regularly engages in practices of intimidation and revenge. However, testifying via SMS (short messaging service) does not aim to shame the state into action, but rather obviate the state altogether, looking toward an emergent “witnessing public” for signs of political activity. In this 18-month ethnographic project, I will answer the following question: Is the production and distribution of testimony through mobile phone technology constituting an emergent witnessing public in contemporary Kenya? If so, how, and to what effects? As the first full length ethnographic study to draw attention to the convergence of mobile phone technology and practices of testimony, this research will speak to the role of mobile phone technology in narrative practice, and the forms of political participation and social formation that such practice makes possible.
Magali Rabasa
University of California, Davis, Area and Cultural Studies
A Tianguis of Books, or Making Books Public: Networks of Encuentro in a ‘Continent in Movement’
[ project summary ]
My dissertation examines how the reappropriation of print culture by grassroots political movements in Latin America enables the formation of transnational networks and alternative economies. I develop a multi-sited ethnography of collective-presses and activist-writers in Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, and Argentina to assess how the production and circulation of books is a vital component of the extension and endurance of the particular form of the politics of encuentro (encounter), which characterizes the grassroots movements emerging throughout the region. In the past two decades there have been significant transformations in the political configuration of Latin America and this is evident in two phenomena: 1) the widespread proliferation of the politics of encuentro, that is horizontal, dialogical, face-to-face, and transnationally articulated, in popular movements that contest globalized capitalism and neoliberal policies and that consciously diverge from the old leftist models of vanguardist revolution and party politics of the 1960-80s; and 2) the “left turn” that has resulted from the election of “progressive” presidents in all but three of the region’s nations (Mexico, Colombia, Peru). These transformations are what activist-writer Raúl Zibechi calls “the continent in movement,” and in my dissertation I examine the agency of a material object—the book—as it is produced and circulated by collective-presses with activist-writers in the formation of a regional network of encuentro politics. I develop my analysis of this network as a tianguis (informal Latin American marketplace) of books, to investigate the ways that the production and circulation practices of the collective-presses contribute to the formation of “other markets,” or alternative economies. As an “object-centered” ethnographic study, my dissertation bridges scholarship in transnational network studies, social movement studies, communication studies, and postcolonial Latin American studies.
Anaid Citlalli Reyes-Kipp
Johns Hopkins University, Anthropology
Making Families Through Adoption: Legal Imaginaries and Cross-Class Adoption Practices in Morelos, Mexico
[ project summary ]
My project explores (1) how new legal initiatives and governmental practices that encourage the “full” adoption of poor children are reconfiguring the relationship of family and state in Mexico; and (2) the ways in which new legal conceptions of kinship reshape or censure other existing informal cross-class adoption practices related to domestic service. With the Mexican state’s adherence to international adoption conventions since the 1980s, and the shift towards the right in Mexican politics since 2000, federal and state-level governments adjusted existing codes starting in 1998, to facilitate the “full adoption” (adopción plena) of poor children. The reforms –which define “full adoption” as the creation of family ties that extinguish all previous kinship of the adopted child-, mark a move away from earlier “simple adoption” laws, which conceived adoption as form of “civil kinship” between two individuals that could be revoked. These previous laws provided tenuous regulation of widespread practices of informal adoption or “entenado”, in which wealthier families took in poor children either as domestic servants or because the mothers of those children worked as servants for the adopting mother. Through ethnographic research with adoptive families and the government agents charged with implementing adoption laws in the central Mexican state of Morelos, this research will provide an account of (1) the legal and administrative structure of adoption and the forms of inclusion and exclusion that they make possible; (2) the manner in which the state’s legal provisions of adoption are interpreted and translated into governmental practices within state agencies in charge of adoptions; and (3) the forms of relatedness that earlier and new adoption laws make possible, paying special attention to forms of belonging and exclusion that are created in different families.
Steven Samford
University of New Mexico, Political Science
Coproducing Innovation: The Politics of Knowledge Production and Diffusion in Mexico
[ project summary ]
When faced with the integration of international markets, why do some small industries in the developing world respond by taking the “low road” of cutting labor standards and wages while others take the “high road” of upgrading production to become globally competitive? Why are some able to adopt innovative ideas when many others fail to? This research compares efforts at innovation in three geographically clustered industries in Michoacán, Mexico: ceramics, avocado exportation, and furniture. The former two sectors were able to innovate successfully by, respectively, generating and diffusing a lead-free glaze for ceramic goods and coordinating new plant cleanliness practices to overcome US import restrictions. However, small furniture producers failed to adopt new production practices that would have increased product quality and improved working conditions. Existing explanations – macroeconomic policy, human capital development, geography, culture – seem unable to account for this variation in outcomes across these sectors. This study proposes that the factor that sends producers down either the “low road” or the “high road” is the capacity to innovate or adopt existing productive ideas, and it tests the proposition that the public-private “coproduction” of innovation is a necessary strategy for innovation in small firms. Moreover, it explores the social and political underpinnings of the dynamics of coproduction in a single Mexican state, and, in so doing, seeks to expand the understanding of the broader conditions under which productive knowledge is disseminated across communities and organizations.
Matthew A. Scalena
State University of New York at Stony Brook, History
Illicit Nation: Panamanian State Formation, U.S. Empire, and Illegality across the Isthmus
[ project summary ]
This dissertation focuses on the tandem twentieth-century developments of Panamanian state formation and U.S. empire building on the Isthmus of Panama, a transit space of global importance. Specifically, I chart attempts through the first half of the twentieth century to domesticate and control this space by focusing on the construction and maintenance of borders, both imperial (e.g. the Canal Zone border) and national (e.g. those that guarded Panamanian sovereignty). These regulatory systems will be explored through interactions between the states’ functionaries, the people of Panama, and the Isthmus’s growing diasporic cultures in relation to smuggling and other transnational illegal “flows” passing across the Isthmus. Such “flows” include peoples, arms, contraband, gems, drugs, and exiles. This dance—between those constructing and guarding the Isthmus’s multiple boundaries and those attempting to subvert them—highlights the dynamic interactions of a state in formation, a budding empire, and the vast illegal economic activity that developed alongside legal trade.
Marian E. Schlotterbeck
Yale University, History
Everyday Revolution: Grassroots Movements and the Making of Socialism in Chile, 1960-1973
[ project summary ]
The southern Chilean province of Concepción, home to students, steelworkers, and coal miners, has a unique history of political activism that cuts across political regimes and world regions. In the 1960s and 1970s, Concepción boasted some of the most radical political and social movements in the country. In telling the story of the convergence of workers and students in Concepción, my dissertation will disclose the everyday revolutionary interactions through which Chileans sought to remake relationships of power and carve out local spaces of meaning. Spanning the thousand days of Salvador Allende’s presidency (1970-1973), the Popular Unity period is one of the most crucial moments in Chilean history. Yet its social history remains to be written. Through archival research and extensive oral history interviews, I will reconstruct the struggles of anonymous activists in Concepción to build a more democratic society. By de-centering attention away from the national and international struggles that culminated in the September 11, 1973 coup, I will reveal how everyday people shaped the course of Chile’s revolution. My dissertation draws from interdisciplinary literatures on memory, social movements, and cultural geography to significantly revise Chilean historiography. Although this is a local history, its significance extends beyond the confines of the Chilean border. Concepción’s radicalism stood out in Chile, but worker and student alliances are not unique in world history. Similar patterns may be found in St. Petersburg in 1917, Paris in 1968, Córdoba (Argentina) 1969, and Tehran in 1979. My study will not only offer a fresh perspective on Chile’s experience of revolution and counterrevolution in the twentieth century, but will also contribute to the study of radical movements globally by foregrounding the local dimension of revolution.
Tanya Sermer
University of Rochester, Ethnomusicology/Music
Soundscapes of the Old City of Jerusalem: Musical Practice, Communal Identity, and the Politics of Place
[ project summary ]
The Old City of Jerusalem is one of the most hotly contested spaces in the world. Employing an array of strategies, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities in the city stake their claims to particular (often overlapping) areas and create boundaries of varying degrees of permeability. Sound and music are among many tools Jerusalemite communities exploit to assert control over meaningful spaces and delineate communal identities while simultaneously undermining boundaries and mediating between neighboring groups. Within the context of both monumental and everyday spaces, my research will reveal how the significance of holy sites intensifies debates between competing ideologies regarding music and illuminate how sound and music are implicated in highly charged territorial politics. First, I examine the ways in which various types of public musical performance— such as religious rituals, processionals, or civic demonstrations—reveal constructed relationships with the places of performance. Second, I investigate inter-group dynamics and cultural boundary zones, that is, the politics of who can be heard where and how prominently. I address ways in which various power relations determine the nature of Jerusalem’s soundscapes, including nationalist struggles, gender politics, and tensions between liberal and orthodox ideologies. Lastly, I demonstrate that the relationships between various groups and the space of Jerusalem is, in fact, a complex of multiple, transnational affiliations and loyalties; the factors that shape the Jerusalem soundscape are by no means bounded by the walls of the city. By approaching Jerusalem from a cross-cultural perspective, I aim to deepen our understanding of the ways in which various communities express their relationships to a place whose status continues to be a source of conflict, and to expound on how soundscapes constitute part of the cultural infrastructure of demographically-diverse urban centers worldwide.
Carmen Soliz
New York University, History
Revolution in the Countryside: Agrarian Reform and Rural State Formation in Bolivia, 1936-1964
[ project summary ]
Bolivia’s 1952 National Revolution – which overthrew the land-owning and mine-owning oligarchy, nationalized the tin mines, broke up large estates, and extended suffrage to women and Indians – was the first major social revolution in post-war Latin America. Historians place great emphasis on the revolutionary government’s initiatives, but few studies have studied the underlying causes of the reforms or gauged the social effects of the transformations. As a result, we know relatively little about the revolution’s impact on rural areas where the majority of the population lived at that time. Fundamental questions remain open: What difference did the revolution really make? What was the capacity of society to transform the state through revolution, or of the revolutionary state to transform society? I propose to study the 1952 National Revolution in terms of multiple time-frames from the late 1930s to the 1960s in order to trace both the drastic political and social changes and the slower underlying transformations. I will consider how the balance of power changed before and after the revolution in the relations between the state, the landed elite, and peasants and Indians. I will argue that the events of April 1952 were less of a turning point than we have supposed and show instead a more complex process of change going on in the countryside since the 1930s and intensifying during a period of state crises and popular mobilization in the 1940s. After 1952, I will demonstrate that peasants’ role in the process of land redistribution proved effective and powerful despite the limited capacity of the revolutionary state.
Stephanie Spray
Harvard University, Anthropology
Hope's Harvest: Tactics of Survival among Nepal's Gaine
[ project summary ]
How does hope sustain people when their resources and options in life are limited, if not exhausted? I am applying for funding to explore this question in the lives of the Gaine, a community of traditionally itinerant musicians in Nepal who now engage in a variety of menial jobs and tactics of survival to cope with financial hardship and political instability. Many Gaine speak of asakheti, “hope’s harvest,” as a way of designating a realm of opportunity, in which to both make a living and make life worth living. During a year’s fieldwork in Nepal, I will explore what this idiom entails, focusing on how hope kindles action, fuels the imagination, and mediates the realms of deed and affect to shape experience and transform lives. My project will contribute to critical conversations and debates in anthropology regarding agency, marginalized peoples, and gender, as well as redress the dearth of ethnographic work on the concept of hope.
Siri Suh
Columbia University, Sociomedical Sciences (Medical Sociology)
The Paradox of Post-Abortion Care (PAC): Health Professionals and the Medicalization of a Quasi-Legal Practice in Senegal
[ project summary ]
Abortion laws in Senegal, a predominantly Muslim nation, are among the most restrictive in sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, Senegalese medical professionals in government health facilities regularly practice abortion. My research seeks to explore how health professionals manage this seemingly paradoxical practice. I propose that health professionals draw on post-abortion care (PAC) to redefine abortion as a technical matter. PAC is a multi-pronged reproductive health initiative that seeks to reduce maternal mortality from unsafe abortion. It includes medical treatment using manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) technology, counseling and contraception for women with complications of unsafe abortion. Through PAC, health professionals are medicalizing a domain that has long been dominated by legal and religious authorities. This project will use ethnography to explore how medical practitioners employ PAC to transform abortion into an open secret at health facilities. I will study how medical professionals implement, manage and represent PAC services and technology in health facilities, public health institutions and the general public. I will accomplish this study through one year of research in Senegal with medical professionals and personnel from international organizations that fund PAC. Data collection methods include in-depth interviews with health professionals, direct observation at health facilities and archival research at various institutions, including the Ministry of Health and the University of Dakar. By studying how Senegalese medical practitioners use PAC services and technology to redefine abortion as a technical rather than a moral matter, this project seeks to contribute to sociological studies on medicalization and abortion as well as anthropological studies of science and technology.
Christopher M. Sullivan
University of Notre Dame, Political Science
State Surveillance and State Violence in Guatemala
[ project summary ]
The project on “State Surveillance and State Violence in Guatemala” seeks to document two important, but as yet unknown, properties of state violence: (1) Who amongst the population are states likely to target for political violence?, and (2) What leads the state to increase (or decrease) the scope of its targeting?. To cut at the multiple interactive processes linking state surveillance to state violence, the project is composed of a series of three successive studies that investigate how particular aspects related to the state’s surveillance activities - including the distribution of information the state holds about various parts of the country, the ways in which it acquires new information, and the system of classification used to process incoming data - determine the targets of state violence. Empirically, the study involves a systematic data collection effort centered on a unique archive containing records of National Police activities during Guatemala’s civil war. Discovered in 2005, and just opened to academic researchers this year, the archive contains approximately 8 million documents recording police behavior during the most violent period of the conflict, 1975-1985. The anticipated accomplishments are twofold. First, the study will identify patterns of bureaucratic interaction that lead states to violate the human rights of their citizenry. Second, the study will contribute to a broader data-gathering project designed to record the patterns of human rights abuses that took place during Guatemala's civil war.
Kelly E. Summers
Stanford University, History
The Great Return: Reintegrating Émigrés in Revolutionary France, 1794-1802
[ project summary ]
Over the course of the French Revolution, 150000 men, women and children were criminalized for abandoning their embattled nation. The vast majority of these “traitors” sought to return home after the Terror ended in July 1794. At a time of ongoing war and intermittent coups d’état, reintegration demanded considerable concessions from mistrustful legislators, French residents, and émigrés alike, not to mention the creation of a sprawling documentary regime and surveillance apparatus to implement selective amnesties and impose a slew of conditions on returnees. And yet, despite the Revolution’s divisive legacy, less than one percent of émigrés remained abroad by the time Napoleon crowned himself emperor in 1804. How did the First Republic manage to reintegrate a sizable community that was deemed unreliable in its political leanings, resented by much of the populace, and embittered by exile? By analyzing legislative debates, court rulings, police surveillance records, right-to-return petitions and émigrés’ personal papers, my dissertation tackles the problem of return on both an empirical and conceptual level. Its three main thrusts—the discursive, practical and subjective aspects of reintegration—will broach not only the daunting ideological and logistical problems raised by the émigrés’ return, but core questions of identity that the Revolution had forever redefined. I suspect that, as the Revolution’s final chapter, reintegration accomplished what its liberal and Terrorist phases could not: a relatively stable republic in which the “two Frances” coexisted, however awkwardly. At the same time, ironically, the problem of return necessitated the creation of a police state that laid the groundwork for Napoleon’s eventual seizure of power. It is this paradoxical legacy of both reconciliation and repression that I will broach in an epilogue that looks forward to modernity's mass (and in may cases, unresolved) exilic episodes.
Noah Theriault
University of Wisconsin, Madison, Anthropology
Agents of the Environmental State: Indigenous Authority and Environmental Regulation on the Philippines’ “Last Frontier”
[ project summary ]
My research poses two related questions. First, how do differing ideas about “indigenous” political authority and its role in environmental regulation shape encounters between conservation officials and a newly emergent category of indigenous leaders? And, second, how do these encounters influence processes of social and environmental change associated with the frontier transition, wherein the fate of tribal populations and swidden-based lifeways remains an intensely debated question? I will address these questions through an ethnographic study of the Pala’wan people, an internally diverse ethno-linguistic group indigenous to southern Palawan Island, where a consortium of state agencies and NGOs is currently implementing a major biodiversity protection zone. During the 1970s and ‘80s, the Marcos regime appointed chieftains to represent the Pala’wan and other “tribal minority groups,” but the category of chieftain and the type of political authority it implies are radically different from traditional Pala’wan social organization. As post-authoritarian administrations have called on chieftains to implement new, decentralized regimes of environmental regulation, they have found themselves in a predicament that embodies a key contradiction of liberal statecraft in the postcolonial world. Pala’wan chieftains, I suggest, are at once products and agents of their changing socio-natural landscape, but we know little about what their status entails in everyday life. By better understanding their significance, I aim to make a fresh contribution to the anthropology of postcolonial statecraft, the political ecology of environmental institutions, and the cross-disciplinary study of indigeneity as a global phenomenon.
William Thomson
New York University, Anthropology
Harmony under Construction -- The Work of Building the Chinese Century
[ project summary ]
In Reform Era China, the spectacular rise of modern cities is made possible through the strength and labor of a vast workforce from the countryside. My project explores how economic, political and social changes have redefined the context of urban labor, and how these changes are experienced by construction workers in their daily lives. This mostly-male workforce makes up some of the most visible of the so-called "floating population," some 150,000,000 people living in cities, but official registered as "rural." With only temporary status, they lack city benefits and the means to settle permanently. Construction workers often spend eleven months of the year on the building site, returning only during Chinese New Year to reunite with their families. While their wages are low by urban standards, the wide earnings gap between rural and urban salaries means that their savings often support whole families back in villages. "Harmony" is the current watchword of Chinese politics, and the growing disparity between rich cities and the poor countryside is considered one of the key threats to political cohesion. Through my research, I will explore how migrant workers experience crossing between the "two Chinas." I will examine the process of building for the 2011 Horticultural Exposition currently slated for a newly developed district just outside the northwest city of Xian. I will observe the process from construction site to completion in order to analyze new concepts of class, gender and legal subjectivity--the work of social construction that emerges onsite alongside the architectural fabrication.
Stacey A. Van Vleet
Columbia University, East Asian Languages and Cultures
The Efficacy of Tibetan Buddhist Medical Institutions Across the Qing Empire
[ project summary ]
My dissertation will examine changes in the organization, constitution of medical knowledge, and practices of Tibetan medical institutions during three distinct points in their development: an original model in Lhasa (the Iron Mountain Medical Monastery, founded 1696), the subsequent regional appearance of monastic medical colleges (during the 18th and 19th centuries), and finally a new, unique institution built later in Lhasa (the School of Medicine and Astrology, founded 1916) just after the Qing empire crumbled. The majority of the dissertation will focus on the middle period, when Tibetan medical institutions functioned in the context of regional networks and imperial relationships. The two Lhasa institutions – both part of independent Tibetan state-building projects – provide essential background and coda to the historical arc of Tibet’s relationship with the Qing empire. Institutional history is a rare approach within the field of Tibetan Studies that will afford a fresh perspective for thinking about Tibetan Buddhism, not in ethnic terms but as a community of knowledge. By examining medicine as an important dimension of Tibetan Buddhist scholasticism, my research moves beyond the traditional modes of analysis that frame Buddhism only as “religion” (which tends to privilege ritual, the esoteric, and the soteriological) or “philosophy” (which tends to privilege texts, logic, and the mind) and towards a consideration of its full dimensions as a system of knowledge. Such an approach will illuminate how Tibetan Buddhism provided the framework for practical, useful and efficacious solutions (corporeal and ritual) to problems affecting individual human bodies as well as social relationships. An institutional history also provides parameters for historicizing the study of Tibetan medicine, which scholars usually consider in piecemeal as elite textual discourse, eclectic ritual practices, or folk remedies.
Stacey Leigh Vanderhurst
Brown University, Anthropology
Victimizing Migrants?: Human Trafficking and Migration Management in Nigeria
[ project summary ]
Over the past six years, the Nigerian government has implemented a number of policies and programs targeting the trafficking of thousands of Nigerian women to Europe for sex work every year. Yet, a significant portion of these women do not identify as victims and are “rescued” against their will by both Nigerian and European authorities. The aim of this project is to understand the interconnections between migration and human trafficking, including the ways they are constructed as humanitarian problems, experienced by people who move, and regulated by states concerned about their consequences. Through 12 months of ethnographic field work in a shelter for human trafficking victims in Nigeria, this study asks the following: (1) How might counter-trafficking programs designed with humanitarian objectives also serve as mechanisms of statecraft, enabling a larger agenda of migration regulation, management of domestic politics, and national and international image-making? (2) How do the purported victims of trafficking understand their experiences of migration and the programs designed to help them, and specifically how do government and donor-supported representations of victimization and exploitation intersect with and even contradict the aspirations and agency of people who migrate? (3) What can be learned about statecraft, the global politics of migration, and the relationship between various forms of mobility between Africa and Europe/America (and between the global South and the global North more generally) when the policies and programs of southern “sending” states like Nigeria are examined with the same attention to political culture and practices that is more commonly applied to northern “receiving” states?
Bharat Jayram Venkat
University of California, Berkeley, Anthropology
Paradoxes of Contemporary Philanthropy: The Business of Giving in the Indian AIDS Crisis
[ project summary ]
The last fifteen years have witnessed a renaissance of philanthropic giving reminiscent of the early twentieth century. Under the banner of “philanthrocapitalism," this new generation of philanthropists has consciously combined the ethics of charitable giving with business principles and practices in an effort to improve the health of the world's poorest people. In India, which has one of the largest HIV-positive populations in the world, much of this philanthropic effort centers on the funding of AIDS treatment programs. This emergent model of philanthropic giving has become a driving force in reshaping the terrain of HIV/AIDS interventions in India, but has received little scholarly attention in studies of medical management. Through an ethnography of the decision-making practices of these new philanthropies, my research examines how practices of business become essential to the the allocation of funds for AIDS-related interventions. Furthermore, this study investigates how categories of health and illness are translated into and reformulated within this business framework. This work challenges the divide in the anthropological literature between gift-giving and economic exchange, arguing instead that “philanthrocapitalism” offers a synthesis of these seemingly antithetical transactional modes. Fieldwork at the Gates Foundation in New Delhi, a governmental intermediary in the state of Tamil Nadu, and a hospital in Chennai will provide a broad picture of the contributions of various actors and agencies in the decision-making process as it occurs across multiple scales and geographic locales. By utilizing an ethnographic approach, this work moves beyond formal analyses of policy to provide a concrete analysis of the actual practices through which decisions are made, policies are crafted and funding is distributed.
Marieke Justine Wilson
Johns Hopkins University, Anthropology
"God is in the Medium": Evangelical Filmmaking and Salvation in Southwestern Nigeria
[ project summary ]
For my dissertation research, I propose to study the complex emotional, social and political dynamics that inform Nigerian evangelical film production. On the one hand, I am interested in reading the films as cultural commodities that play on and reinforce popular understandings of salvation, conversion and spiritual community. In this respect, my study of film production and circulation will offer deeper understandings of the ways in which visual media engage and help to shape religious affiliations and “movements.” On the other hand, I am also interested in understanding how the films, and their tremendous popularity in southwestern Nigeria, speak to literatures and debates on both the Nigerian nation state and African Pentecostal movements more generally. While the economic and cultural aspects of the Nigerian video and film industry have been studied to some extent by anthropologists, my specific interest lies in the examination of transnational evangelical production companies and in understanding how the forms of sentimental and political community encouraged by evangelical media and video, overlap and/or compete with understandings of national belonging, community, and other affiliations. In this respect, my research promises to contribute insights into the impact of religious media on emerging forms of political subjectivity and attachment in Nigeria. In my dissertation research, I ask: 1) How does the evangelical film attest to new Christian models of livelihood at work in the region? 2) How are filmic techniques designed to encourage particular Christian practices and behaviors in audiences? How does this process become linked up to the experiences of members of the viewing community in regional Christian discourse? 3) How are films crafted such that they address not only the redemption of individual souls but also that of the nation-state, which is spiritually and politically linked to the expansion of the international religious community?
Christina S. Yi
Columbia University, East Asian Languages and Cultures
Coercive Collaborations: The Production and Reception of Japanese-Language Literature by Korean Writers, 1930s-1980s
[ project summary ]
In my dissertation project, I examine the rise of Japanese-language literature by Korean colonial subjects during the 1930s and 1940s and its subsequent impact on discourse regarding "national" and "ethnic minority" literature in postwar Japan and Korea. I reevaluate key texts from both the colonial and postcolonial period; I also situate these texts in dialogue with each other in order to examine changes in the Japanese-language literary canon across generations. By bringing these two valences together, I am able to highlight the continuities – rather than the disjunct – among the established fields of colonial-period literature, modern Japanese literature, and modern Korean literature. I also call attention to the historical specificity of the fields themselves, and propose alternate ways to consider the relationship between nihongo bungaku (“Japanese-language literature”) and kokubungaku (“Japanese national literature”). This project will open a much-needed field of inquiry, bringing colonial-period and zainichi texts in dialogue not only with each other but also with other literary movements in Japan and abroad.
Yurou Zhong
Columbia University, Area and Cultural Studies
Basic Chinese: The Transnational Making of Modern Chinese Language and Social Reform, 1916-1958
[ project summary ]
“Basic English” (British American Scientific International and Commercial English) was a system of 850 English words. Invented in England in the early 1920s, it facilitated the spread of English as a universal language. Even prior to Basic English, the concept of “Basic Chinese” was conceived in France during the Great War. It was followed by a series of under-examined movements of the transnational formation of Chinese language and social reform in the early 20th century. By making substantial connections among these language and social movements, my dissertation aims to establish a new historicization and theorization of the origins of modern Chinese. My project marshals a wide array of both literary and non-literary materials in and outside of China, and, by integrating literary studies with social history, this project will be the first to take “Basic Chinese” as the prism to examine the following three movements: (1) the Literacy Movement in France from 1918 and onward; (2) the Chinese Romanization Movement in relation to “Basic English” in the 1920s, and (3) the Chinese Latinization Movement which originated in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. The significance of this project is three fold. Firstly, by highlighting the foreign origins of both the Chinese language and script reforms, this project expands and redefines the horizon of the studies of language reform and hence modern Chinese studies. Secondly, by rediscovering the concept of Basic Chinese which surfaced in all stages of modern Chinese language reform, my project explores the essence of the language reform as a form of technology reform. Lastly, by explicating the radical differences between Romanization Movement and Latinization Movement, this project casts new light on the discussion of language, modernity and nationalism.