SSRC-IDRF Book Fellowship > Competitions

SSRC-IDRF Book Fellowship 2012


Bianca Dahl
Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Anthropology
Great Expectations: Humanitarianism and the Invention of AIDS Orphans in Botswana
[ project summary ]
With one in four adults infected with HIV and one in five children orphaned, it is no surprise that talk of “crisis” frames Botswana’s epidemic. As Tswana politicians and villagers alike lament what they see as failings of their culture amidst dramatic demographic changes, scholarship tends to replicate the disaster rhetoric without examining the terms of its production. This book probes beyond an uncritical notion of crisis to understand the actual effects of AIDS – and the aid industry it has generated – on everyday social life. Pushing past the emphasis on illness and treatment that dominates the social science literature on AIDS, Great Expectations foregrounds the most symbolically significant group in Botswana today – orphans – as a pivotal population through whom the wider changes related to AIDS can be understood.. By demonstrating precisely how foreign-funded orphan-care charities create new relations of inequality, affect kinship, and transform the emotional lives of orphans, this ethnography disentangles components of “crisis” and its consequences at multiple social levels. Drawing on 38 months of ethnography, I argue that the emotional and material economies circulating through aid organizations are not only revealing entry points into understanding social processes underpinning the “crisis,” but also have become mechanisms of social change themselves.
Jennifer Derr
Assistant Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz, History
A New Nile: The Geography of Water and the Production of Agricultural Space in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Egypt
[ project summary ]
A New Nile explores the construction of agricultural space in nineteenth and twentieth-century southern Egypt, arguing that Egyptian cultivators experienced state authority through their interactions with the environment. In the 1860s, Khedive Isma`il dramatically expanded the territories of the khedivial estates, the Daira Sanieh. The khedivial state constructed a wide array of infrastructural forms including irrigation canals, railways, and sugar mills to support a new state venture in sugarcane cultivation and processing. Through the management of the Daira Sanieh, this state played an active role in constructing agricultural space and the environment. The construction of the 1902 Aswan dam transformed Egypt’s environment and the production of agriculture as the state relied on new forms of technology to manipulate its environment and determine patterns of labor, land tenure, and capital flow. Following the completion of the dam, the rise of a class of powerful landowners and private businesses, namely the Egyptian Sugar Company, further complicated the geography of authority in Egypt’s south. A New Nile critically considers the interstices at which authority and the environment intersected and shaped the fates of Egypt’s rural populations.
Jane Martin Ferguson
Lecturer, Australian National University, Asian Studies
Rockin’ for a Free World: Tracking popular music jams in the longest running civil war in modern
[ project summary ]
Since 1958, ethnic Shan insurgents have been at war with the Burmese military in one of the longest-running civil wars in modern history. Although the Shan are considered to be ethnically and linguistically closer to the Thais, Shan people fleeing war seldom find welcome refuge in neighboring Thailand. Because borderland insurgent territories are not only outside the domain of the forces of the Burmese Army, the Tatmadaw, but also beyond the domineering ethnonational gaze of the Thai, these interstitial spaces form unique generative geographies for popular culture production and resignification. This process is carried out in the practice sessions of a neighborhood amateur rock band, where Shan people gather for an evening’s entertainment in the fluid switching of instruments and repertoire. Based on over two years’ ethnographic fieldwork in a community of Shan insurgents and their affiliates in a contested zone at the Thai-Burma border, as well as limited fieldwork amongst Burmese popular musicians and songwriters, this book argues that through the effective resignification of popular music genres, especially those of Burmese rock, advocates for Shan independence envision an independent Shanland which is recognized within a global order.
Edin Hajdarpasic
Assistant Professor, Loyola University of Chicago, History
Whose Bosnia? Imagination and Nation-Formation in the Modern Balkans
[ project summary ]
My book analyzes the politics of nation-formation in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1840 to 1914, a crucial period that witnessed the rise of several competing and converging national movements in the Ottoman and Habsburg Balkan provinces. My project reveals the interconnectedness of national movements across Central Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East and challenges the periodization breaks and geopolitical divisions that define these fields. By analyzing how Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim activists discovered and fostered identification with their co-nationals in Bosnia, who appeared simultaneously as their “brothers” and their “enemies,” my study outlines new methodological positions from which the complex workings of nationalism can be better understood. Focusing on problems that aspiring patriots faced in three key areas—language, suffering, and political activism—my book argues for closer scrutiny of the problem of national identification, contending that identification can be best explored as a dynamic realm of political imagination capable of ascribing both sameness and radical difference to existing and potential co-nationals. My book thus analyzes the formative engagements with the question of Bosnia’s “proper” national belonging that produced both a lasting sense of Yugoslav unity and troubling division, while also illuminating the competing visions of democracy, modernity, and community that inhere in nation-building projects.
Susan N. Johnson-Roehr
ACLS New Faculty Fellow, University of Virginia, McIntire Department of Art
Spectacle, Sovereignty and Science: Landscapes of Power and Politics in Early Modern India, c. 1721-1743
[ project summary ]
Spectacle, Sovereignty and Science: Landscapes of Power and Politics in Early Modern India, c. 1721-1743 analyzes the relationship between landscape and power as viewed from the intersection of spectacle and science. Taking as its starting point the network of astronomical observatories built under the patronage of Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, this book examines the ways in which the physical environment shaped the practice of astronomy and contributed to particular formations of political and social power in northern India. A reconceptualization of the design and working relationships between the observatories in Jaipur, Shahjahanabad, Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi, this book demonstrates that the observatories served as a catalyst for putting knowledge and people in motion, positioning Sawai Jai Singh as a major participant in the global conversation about astronomy. Drawing on work produced across a variety of disciplines, this project uses the built environment to tease out the traces of motion to explain Sawai Jai Singh’s employment of science and spectacle to localize scientific knowledge and to negotiate a dominant, yet occasionally fragile, position within the unique social and political structure of the Mughal Empire.
Sara H Smith
Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Geography
Intimate Geopolitics: Love, Babies, and the Making of Territory in Ladakh
[ project summary ]
Intimate geopolitics is a book about broken hearts, concerned parents, and intimacy as the material through which territory is made or unmade in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region. Geographers and feminists have written about the body as a territory, but I trace the ways that bodies make territory, and how territory is tied to youth and the future. This theoretical argument is grounded in the narratives of women and men living in the midst of a territorial uncertainty that colors their intimate lives. My argument is drawn from discussions with people coping with and sometimes refusing this territorial logic; I bring their struggles in conversation with recent literature on territory, medicalized bodies, the politics of life, and the future. Caught between India’s disputed borders with China and Pakistan, politics in Ladakh’s Leh District have become tied to religion and intimate daily life – in particular family planning and the regulation of intimacy between the district’s Buddhist majority and Sunni and Shia minorities. Drawing on research conducted from 2004 2010, including life history interviews, a survey of 192 women, interviews with religious and political leaders, and youth oral history and photography projects, this book comprises an intervention into the concept of territory.