DPDF Student Fellowship Competition > DPDF Student Fellowship Competition 2014

Modernity and Autochthony: The Question of Land-Based Group Identity

Open only to doctoral students based at universities within the U.S.

Workshop dates:
Spring- June 4-8, 2014 in Berkeley, California
Fall- September 17-21, 2014 in Arlington, Virginia

This workshop will focus on the contemporary problem of autochthony in a global environment and the longer cultural history of autochthony in the European and American imagination. By "autochthonous," we mean something broader than the more common term "indigenous," which in both recent United Nations usage and scholarly convention has designated minority groups whose ancestral ways of life as first settlers tied to the land have been threatened by something called modernity or globalization. (That the UN in 2007 sanctioned the French translation of "indigenous" as "autochtone" only adds to the confusion.) Instead, with the term "autochthonous," we mean to indicate both the plight of generally powerless "indigenous" peoples as well as the increasing resistance of local "nativist" groups ("sons of the soil"), the latter often in positions of political power, who defend their existential rights against immigrants, transients, and those who are perceived as not "belonging" where they happen to be. Our aim is to follow the trajectories of these notions of belonging in their shifting meanings and different contexts.

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Field Directors

Vincent P. Pecora
Gordon B. Hinckley Professor of British Literature and Culture, University of Utah, English [ bio ]
Vincent P. Pecora is Gordon B. Hinckley Professor of British Literature and Culture at the University of Utah. In addition to authoring several other books and numerous journal articles, he is currently preparing two new manuscripts: Secularization without End: Beckett, Mann, and Coetzee and "Anyone Is as Their Land Is": Autochthonous Modernism. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of California Research Institute. His research interests include late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature, critical theory, intellectual history, and the question of secularization in modernity, with specific regional interests in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Western Europe. Pecora received his PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
Peter Geschiere
Professor, University of Amsterdam, Sociology and Anthropology [ bio ]
Peter Geschiere is Professor of African Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He is a fellow of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and a member of the Academy of Sciences of Cameroon. In 2002, he was named "Distinguished Africanist of the year" by the US African Studies Association. His books include Perils of Belonging - Autochthony, Citizenship and Exclusion in Africa and Europe (University of Chicago 2009) and Witchcraft, Intimacy and Trust - Africa in Comparison (University of Chicago 2013). He has received grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and other funding sources. Geschiere received his PhD in Social Sciences from the Free University, Amsterdam.


Nisrin Elamin Abdelrahman
Stanford University, Anthropology
'Our Land, Our Blood': Contested Landscapes, Citizenship and Public Authority in the Gezira region of central Sudan
[ project summary ]
The Gezira region of central Sudan nestled between the Blue and White Niles, is home to over three million people and one of the world's largest agricultural schemes. In 2005, the Sudanese government implemented a set of new land laws to facilitate privatizing and seizing Gezira lands from small holder farmers, in order to attract foreign agribusiness investors interested in leasing cultivated land for large-scale food production. These foreign land acquisitions have been met with various forms of organized resistance-from civil disobedience to court cases. My research seeks to investigate and historically situate resistance to land dispossession in central Sudan and to examine the ways in which public and religious authority as well as notions of citizenship and belonging are contested through current efforts to reclaim seized lands. In the process, it hopes to conceptualize foreign land acquisitions as a set of contestations, practices and interactions that are reshaping social relations between various stakeholders with competing claims to land.
Seraje Assi
Georgetown University, Arabic and Islamic Studies
Politics of Nomadism in Modern Palestine (1882-1948)
[ project summary ]
My research examines the history and politics of nomadism in modern Palestine from late nineteenth up to the mid-twentieth century. Drawing on primary sources in Arabic and Hebrew, I aim to show how native conceptions of nomadism have been reconstructed on new legal taxonomies rooted in modern European theories and praxes. By undertaking a comparative approach, I wish to show how the introduction of these new epistemes not only transformed native Palestinian perceptions of rootedness and nativity, but also perceptions that characterized Hebrew and Jewish literature up to the early twentieth century. My chief purpose is to locate these discursive metamorphoses within distinct historical and political developments. I am especially interested in the nexus of knowledge and praxis shaping the fate of nomadism in modern Palestine, that is, how changing representations of nomadism have been accompanied by the emergence in Palestine of new forms of political and social organizations with a distinct anti-nomadic character.
Kai A. Bosworth
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Geography
Pipe Dreams: Race, Indigeneity, Land and Belonging in North American Energy Politics
[ project summary ]
My research examines relationships between race, land and environmental politics in western South Dakota through an analysis of political discourse about the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Geographers have long examined the environmental and economic impacts of energy development on indigenous peoples, but have not taken account of white collective identity, acceptance or resistance to transnational flows of oil, which reinforces and naturalizes racial feelings of ownership and belonging to the land. Bringing together concepts and methods from the study of nature and society in geography and anthropology I ask how belonging, ownership of land and control of political sovereignty are naturalized and predicated on local political discourses opposing global flows of energy and capital. While discourses of autochthony are dominant, my research also finds spaces in which both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples apprehend and challenge energy development by working for broader environmental justice and alternative articulations of belonging.
Keith H Budner
University of California, Berkeley, Comparative Literature
When the Empire was a Colony: Territory, Culture, and the National Imaginary from Roman Hispania to Early Modern Spain
[ project summary ]
My dissertation argues that Early Modern Spain imagined its emergent nationhood by reviving a historic vision of itself as the Roman colony of Hispania. Serving as a way to distinguish between Spain's dual identities as both global empire and emergent nation-state, Roman Hispania became an image of autochthonous national culture that ascribed peoplehood not to ethnic-tribal lineage but rather to territorial belonging. By focusing on the peninsula's history under Rome, and especially a canon of Hispano-Roman literary figures, Early Modern Spanish authors came to imagine land not as something timeless and essential, but as the result of historical processes, as constituted by the sediments of history and culture. As such, these authors came to see their own creative production as more than acts of recovering; they were participating in the tradition and projecting it into a new national and imperial imaginary.
Miggie Mackenzie Cramblit
Duke University, Cultural Anthropology
Building the Common Estate: Land Reform, Ecological Stewardship and Living Off-Grid in Rural Scotland
[ project summary ]
Scotland's rural Highlands and Islands are witnessing an unprecedented inversion in historic patterns of migration. For the first time in a thousand years, more people are settling in these areas than leaving. This wave of newcomers constitutes a class of permanent vacationers: urbanites from England and other European countries seeking to unplug from the energy grid and devote themselves to the land while remaining connected to communications networks and circuits of global capital. At the same time, national debates over land reform have intensified as longstanding tenants are being priced out of the land market. This dissertation links off-grid communities and Scotland's thriving "green" tourism industry to a longer regional history of tenurial exploitation, land evictions, and strategic protections for wealthy sporting estates. By examining competing claims to land-based belonging made by off-gridders and land reform activists, this project highlights the political stakes of participation in Scotland's contemporary "green" economy.
Emily Hong
Cornell University, Anthropology
High Stakes Collaboration: Land Rights and Ethnic Sovereignty in Burma
[ project summary ]
Ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples in Southeast Asia are often represented as hill tribes stuck in the past or as violent insurgents; my research seeks to complicate this narrative by looking at how Kachin activists in Burma create their own political futures. My proposed research explores the discourse and practices of Kachin activists seeking rights, legal recourse, and autonomy within a future federal Burma, in the face of massive land confiscations. As such, my project brings classic anthropological foci--land and the status of ethnic minorities--to a field which has so far largely ignored them: the interdisciplinary scholarship on human rights. It also seeks to contribute to the academic debate on sovereignty in a new arena--ethnic and indigenous autonomy within a post-colonial context, far from the logic of settler-colonial relations.
Samuel B. Kigar
Duke University, Religious Studies
Possessing Morocco: Discourses of Islam and Belonging in Postcolonial Morocco.
[ project summary ]
My research asks how postcolonial Moroccan thinkers understand the relationships between the Moroccan sovereign, people, territory, and Islam. These debates about belonging and possession take place on many registers. Abstract arguments about the specificity of Morocco versus its pan-Islamic and Arab allegiances take on more politically grounded tones in contests over the Family Code and Morocco's relationship with Europe. I suggest that, in order to appreciate the stakes of these political debates, one has to understand their theological registers. All the participants in these disputes hinge their arguments on the reclamation of Muslim intellectual heritage. By bringing the discourses of diverse thinkers--from Islamists to feminists and from traditionalists to academic philosophers--together, I contribute to scholarship that moves away from hard-edged and disembedded conceptions of "political Islam" and towards robust understandings of religion and belonging.
Andrea J Marston
University of California, Berkeley, Geography
Underground Nation: Cooperative Mining and National Belonging in Highland Bolivia
[ project summary ]
One of the most striking developments in contemporary Bolivia is the political significance of the cooperative mining sector. This sector constitutes one of the nation's most influential social forces and has emerged as a pillar of left-leaning President Evo Morales's administration. Yet the sector's history, and its rise to an unprecedented political prominence, remain conspicuously murky. My research suggests that a spatially grounded history of highland Bolivia will reveal that the mining cooperatives' political salience is the result of their ability to articulate two different, but equally powerful, expressions of nationalism, which I term extroverted and introverted nationalism. While focusing my research on an ethnographic exploration of mining cooperatives in the town of Llallagua, I will also use archival work, oral histories, and expert interviews to trace the interconnections between cooperative mining and nationalism. I aim to illuminate how nationalism has been reconfigured and re-entrenched in contemporary Bolivia.
Kyle McAuley
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, English
Town Centers: Provincialism and the Novel in the British Imperial Century
[ project summary ]
In 1874, Henry James criticized Thomas Hardy’s novels for emitting “a certain aroma of the meadows and lanes,” arguing that rustic novels fail to “compete” in the globalized literary arena that came to dominate Britain’s imperial century. In the decades since, critics have cast metropolitan space as the central cultural geography of global and imperial consciousness in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literary history. I seek to revise this understanding of the Victorian era by relocating novelistic provincialism to the heart of British imperialism’s social project. As the British Empire encompasses more peoples and nations, the novel moves away from the city and toward provincial centers to adjudicate shifting conceptions of indigeneity, autochthony, and racial identity transiting between Britain and the colonies. My project argues that major British novelists turn to the provinces to reconsider territorial expansionism’s undergirding of cultural progress, and to reckon with the human toll of empire building.
Kelly M. Presutti
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Art History and Architecture
The Role of Place in Early Nineteenth-Century French Aesthetics
[ project summary ]
This project picks up on a tension in post-Revolutionary France between an administrative desire for a unified nation and the persistence of local tradition and examines the way this tension was manifest in painting, decorative arts and visual culture. In turn, it takes on the predominance of landscape painting and asks how and why landscape came to be the most critical and innovative genre of nineteenth-century French painting. Looking at the work of the Barbizon school painters, the introduction of a topographical (rather than idealized) aesthetic indicates the growing importance of a sense of place. An emphasis on specific sites was also at work in the decoration of porcelain, and exploring connections between artists of the Barbizon school and the work done at the Sèvres porcelain manufactory broadens our picture of the entanglement between aesthetics and autochthony in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Tomonori Sugimoto
Stanford University, Anthropology
Unsettlement: The Politics of Settler Colonialism and Indigeneity in Taiwan and Hokkaido, Japan
[ project summary ]
Chadwick Allen (2002) argues that there is a perennial struggle between "Native" indigeneity and "settler" indigeneity in the Fourth World. My research explores how indigenous peoples in Taiwan and Hokkaido, Japan have experienced this struggle since the late nineteenth century up to the present. In both locales, the settler majority have continuously tried to naturalize their presence and contributed to indigenous peoples' dispossession and displacement. Even the recent rise of multiculturalism only reinforces ongoing settlement by recognizing claims made by various nonindigenous autochthonous identities to invaded lands. My investigation is less interested in comparing Taiwan and Hokkaido as discrete cases than in showing the interconnections between them. It does so by illuminating the decisive impact the shared period of Japanese imperial rule (1895-1945) had on the lives and struggles of indigenous peoples on both islands and the rekindled connections produced by recent transnational solidarity building projects between them.
Anoush Tamar Suni
University of California, Los Angeles, Anthropology
Buried Histories: Ruins and the Politics of Memory in Anatolia
[ project summary ]
Beginning during the decline of the Ottoman Empire, there have been concerted efforts to homogenize Anatolia ethnically, linguistically, and religiously. Among these efforts were the 1915 genocide of Ottoman Armenians and Assyrians, conversion and assimilation of survivors, and ongoing repressions of Kurdish communities. My project will explore the relationship between memory and space in the context of over a century of violence and forced migration in and around the city of Van, in eastern Turkey. As represented by the ruins of Armenian churches and monasteries and by abandoned Kurdish villages, the landscape and the built environment around Van are the material remains that embody those histories of violence. My research explores how these histories are remembered and narrated, and how they shape the lived experience and political subjectivities of individuals in Anatolia today. My project will investigate the intersections of memory, history, space and place, materiality, and ruins.