Racial Ambiguity and Citizenship in the Postemancipation British Caribbean and United States
My work uncovers overlooked experiences of racially ambiguous people in the postemancipation British Caribbean and US. Scholars tend to define these societies as failed experiments in racially inclusive citizenship, but in doing so they rely on dichotomies like black/white, free/enslaved, and success/failure. I place racially ambiguous people in their frameworks. Instead of addressing those whose physical traits defied easy categorization--e.g. people of "mixed race" who "passed"--I analyze subjects whose "black" or "white" appearance came into conflict with typical racialized assumptions of normative behavior. For example, "black" Jamaicans who voted in favor of white landowners in local government were accused of disloyalty framed in terms of ambiguous identities: they were "black" men with "white hearts." I discuss four means by which ambiguity was created: transracial adoption, political participation, economic practices, and sexual habits. Subjects include former slaves adopted by white families, and their understanding of national belonging; black Jamaicans accused of acting white and excluded from an imagined exclusively black community for doing so; depictions of African Americans as "prosthetic" citizens in the postbellum US white "political body"; and white sectarian missionaries in the Caribbean and carpetbaggers (Northern officeholders in the US South); both were accused of racially impure sexual tendencies and relationships to property by white supremacists seeking to reclaim citizenship as exclusively white. I trace common vocabularies and experiences of ambiguity in both locations. In particular, I uncover a transnational conservative movement that opposed racial equality, and shared means and objectives of undermining its proponents. In its focus on racial ambiguity, the study adds to discussions about postemancipation societies, racial identity, black nationalism, and white supremacy, revealing more complex and contradictory pictures in each case.
Echoes of Legal Pasts: Landed Property Relations in the Negev, 1858-1948
My dissertation research aims to explore the interplay of geography and law in a relational way in the Negev, now part of Israel, under two different regimes: the late Ottoman, since the enactment of the Ottoman Land Code (1858-1917), and the British Mandatory (1917-1948). Looking at both the social and the material dimensions of geography and law, this project examines the frequent reconfigurations of land relations in the Negev over the century preceding 1948 and how land rights were defined and reshaped within a unique legal order that evolved through the dynamic interaction of state law and tribal customary law. This dynamic relationship was influenced by fluctuating notions of modernization, sovereignty, authority, as well as ongoing capitalist development, all of which impacted the land regime and had significant social repercussions. Focusing on this region's Bedouin-Arab population, my project draws on Ottoman, British, and Israeli archives, personal papers and interviews, to explore the system and evolution of landed property relations, in the context of a broader analysis of state-society relationships. My dissertation will examine how the shifting understandings and categorizations of specific legal, spatial, and social realities by governmental and social actors (including courts, judges, regional governors, tax and land registry staff, inhabitants, and local leaders) shaped the geographic and legal order in the Negev. My project's focus on land relations in the Negev since 1858 provides an excellent angle from which to investigate the legal orders of imperial, colonial, and post colonial regimes in this particular region, and challenges the neat distinctions often drawn between each political order. Further, the research challenges scholarly tendency to treat the legal history of modern Palestine as if each regime brought with it an entirely distinct legal system.
Authoritative Scriptural Interpreters: An Anthropology of Islam
Shortly after the collapse of the central government in Somalia in 1990, there began to sprout up clan-based Islamic or Shari'a courts in southern Somalia. The courts began a process of centralization which culminated in the formation of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in 2004. By 2006 the ICU was in control of all of southern and central Somalia. An Ethiopian invasion of the country in December 2006 resulted in the disintegration of the ICU as a governing entity and a unified political movement. The Shari'a courts did not only represent different clans and sub-clans but also distinct schools of thought and theological positions within Islam in Somali society. This project will approach the emergence of the courts and their unification as an entry point to conduct a historical and ethnographic study of how local Islamic practice and orthodoxy is established. It will do so by focusing on the role and position of authoritative scriptural interpreters in the formation of the Shari'a courts and in today's Somali society. How do kinship and politico-economic conditions influence who and how scriptures are interpreted, understood, and lived? This project will provide the first in-depth and explicitly theoretical attempt to understand how local cultural and political factors interact with foundational Islamic scriptures in the establishment of local Islamic practice and orthodoxy. In so doing this project will engage with and contribute to the general literature on political Islam and specifically the anthropological debate on how to conceptualize in a single analytical framework the relationship between Islam as a universal religion and the diversity of specific local Islamic practices.
The Party Family: The Private Life of Communists in Twentieth-Century Chile
The Party Family, the title of my doctoral dissertation, encapsulates the multiple layers of this research on communist activism in twentieth-century Chile. First and foremost, this is a study of communist families, their internal dynamics and their private practices. Second, it is an invitation to think of communist parties as extended families, with networks of solidarity and hierarchical relationships based on gender and age. Finally, it is an attempt to engage with, and speak to, the larger audience of scholars interested in what political scientists call the family of communist parties. The research spans from the mid-1930s to 1973 and is based on four types of sources: the communist press, oral histories, civil registry documents, and internal party documentation. By studying Chilean communist families in the long duration and through a diverse set of sources, my research delves into the interpenetration of the public and the private spheres in political activism. "The first duty of a militant," the statutes of the party asserted, "is to make the acts of his or her public and private life fit the principles and program of the party." A communist was not only supposed to be a good revolutionary in the street, but also the best spouse and parent at home. I believe that a study of this dimension of Chilean communism can help advance a more holistic definition of political activism. Focusing on armed insurgency and state repression, scholars of Latin America have aptly argued that politics was a matter of life and death. I put the emphasis on everyday activism at home rather than intermittent violence in the streets to rethink politics as an existential matter in the broadest sense. Although centered on a specific communist party, informed by sociological questions, and rooted in historical methods, my dissertation seeks to challenge our understanding of what constitutes both politics and human beings as political animals.
Muslims in the Landscape: A Social Map of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 13th Century
My project seeks to address for the first time how the Muslim communities of the 13th-century Kingdom of Jerusalem experience life under crusader rule. Fleshing out the lives of these subjects is the key to better understanding this important period of history, and will offer insights into the ways in which cultures adapt and adjust to new rulership more broadly. By posing questions concerning the Muslim communities' relations among each other and with other groups, and their roles in political, economic, and cultural life of the kingdom, my research presents a new vantage point from which to consider the popularly accepted notion that the crusades, and by extension the crusader states, were a locus of a monolithic clash of West and East or Christianity and Islam. By untangling the relations between the Muslim communities and their rulers, my work will offer a more fully realized image of a society too multifaceted to be reasonably reduced to a black and white binary opposition. In order to achieve this, I will bring into direct conversation Latin, Old French, and Arabic sources typically used separately from one another as well as consider the role of the physical environment through an incorporation of extent archaeological remains. I will conduct this research while based at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in order to have access to its libraries which contain source editions not readily available elsewhere and to work in consultation with the primary experts in the field. Conducting research in Israel will also grant me critical access to archaeological sites from which I can attempt to reconstruct the daily lived experience of these communities.
Regulating the Nuclear: The Textual Production of Technical Independence at the International Atomic Energy Agency
The proposed study is an ethnography of the communicative practices through which civil servants at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seek to establish and maintain the organization's legitimacy as the sole arbiter in the regulation of global nuclear technology. This project asks how, against accusations of politicization and regulatory capture, various actors at the Agency work to display and communicate "technical independence"—the unbiased technical competence and legal judgment by which the IAEA's missions can be made globally acceptable—to a vast international audience. The results of this study aim to expand anthropological knowledge in four domains: (1) the study of bureaucracy and documents, (2) historical and social scientific studies of knowledge and expertise, (3) analyses of legal and political language, and (4) understandings of a changing nuclear age. This project's careful attention to language as embedded in a range of other semiotic (sign) systems can offer a novel perspective on how the nuclear order with its laws and knowledge is constituted and contested. The research is based on 14 months of participant-observation, interviews, and archival work at the public information, legal, and training divisions of the IAEA and will be completed by rigorous linguistic anthropological analyses of the actors' interactional, ritual, and documentary practices.
Shifting Margins in Brazil: State-Society Interactions in the Cultural Sphere
State-society relations take on distinct forms "at the margins," understood not only as a spatial border, but also as a social border by which subnational communities are hierarchized and excluded. This project examines the ways that such margins can shift in the context of cultural policy. Specifically, it examines this process as it occurs within the Brazilian Pontos de Cultura program, a state-sponsored initiative that for the past decade has supported diverse artistic activities in marginalized communities throughout the country. As remarkable as the program's innovative mission of "bottom up" cultural development is its painfully bureaucratic mode of implementation, generating tensions that state managers and marginalized artists negotiate together. What distinct forms of state-society interactions are emerging in the context of the Pontos de Cultura Program? How are state managers and artists negotiating the contradictions between the bureaucratic order of the state and the creative agency involved in cultural production, and how might such interactions change the practices or perceptions of those involved? What kinds of narratives is the program generating, and how do they impact the ideational marginalization of particular populations? To address these questions, the project relies on interviews with state officials and artists, observations of program activities, review of materials produced about the program, and analysis of the program's cultural outputs. It builds on a small but insightful political science literature which has helped highlight the role cultural forms play in political action and the broader systems of meaning within which power struggles occur, but which has tended to presume an oppositional relationship between state and society. This work explores the space culture creates for more collaborative encounters between state and marginalized actors, in which relationships of authority are altered and room for creative agency is expanded.
Political Families and Familial Politics: Family, Gender and Politics in Punjab, 1880s-1950s
This project will re-conceptualize early twentieth century politics in colonial Punjab by analyzing the role of family networks in enabling Muslim women's political participation in this period. Using family as a category of historical and critical analysis, my research will focus on politicians belonging to the professional, middle-class Mian family of Baghbanpura, near Lahore, especially Mian Muhammad Shafi (1869-1932) and his daughter, Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz (1896-1979). First, I will reconstruct their lives and careers, reform-minded promotion of Muslim women's education, and political choices. Second, I will contextualize their actions in the socio-political landscape of late nineteenth-early twentieth century Punjab to develop a narrative encompassing Muslim social reform and Muslim politics – issues that have hitherto been examined in disparate historiographies. I will develop this narrative by combining a critical social history approach to government records with literary close readings of Muslim women's memoirs and other writings. By adopting this family centered, integrated approach, my project will illuminate the historical connections between practitioners of social reform and political actors in Punjabi Muslim society of this period. In light of Shafi and Shahnawaz's experiences as well-known reformers and eminent politicians, this project will then investigate how these forces allowed Punjabi Muslim women to embark on political careers and succeed in public office. My attention to Punjabi Muslims' practice of reform, and Punjabi Muslim women's techniques for doing politics can shed light on late twentieth century emergence of political families – like Bhuttos and Nehrus in Pakistan and India respectively – and the rise of prominent women politicians – such as Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi – in the subcontinent, despite the persistence of gender discriminatory societal paradigms that inhibit most South Asian women's lives.
Implicated Images: Photography, Aid and Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
International aid agencies number more than 25,000 worldwide, increasingly acting and photographically documenting their work in conflict zones. Their striking imagery often portrays both individual victims and aid-helped survivors. Research addressing these images notes their ability to evoke Western compassion as well as to unwittingly heighten conflict in the regions they depict. Despite the dramatic and potentially deadly effects of humanitarian images, how such photographs become loaded with local meaning in communities where they are made, intersect regional systems of representation, and articulate the nuanced social identities carried therein, remains poorly understood. This project addresses this gap by analyzing the connections and contrasts between humanitarian and local visual culture and practice in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – the site of both the deadliest conflict since WWII and one of the world's largest humanitarian efforts. While history, politics, resources, and economics motivate the conflict, combatants target civilians for their social identities, including politicized ethnic differences and categories of belonging, which are often marked or interpreted visually. Employing participant observation, structured and unstructured interviews, and a novel combination of photographic methods, this project addresses the processes of local and humanitarian image creation and interpretation. Balancing local and aid agency perspectives through the comparison of local visual culture (photography by Congolese for their own use and enjoyment) and humanitarian visual culture (photographs created by both Congolese and Westerners for aid agencies) this project examines how humanitarian photographic practices and processes shape social identities and impact local and international relationships, power dynamics, notions of belonging, and ultimately, the ongoing violence in the eastern DRC.
Dockworkers of the World Unite: Transnational Class Formation and the New Labor Internationalism
My project uses multi-sited interview and archival research to study the relationship between global union federations and transnational working-class formation through an examination of federations' efforts to organize complementary solidarity education and action among dockworkers' unions in the United States, the Southern Cone and Europe. While a large body of literature has examined class formation at the national level, very little research has been done on transnational working-class formation. This lack of research is surprising given the growing interest among social scientists, movement practitioners and policy makers in understanding the effects of economic globalization on workers. While the globalization of capital has arguably led to many adverse consequences for organized labor, it may also present an opportunity for new forms of transnational organization that could facilitate improved outcomes for workers. I examine these possibilities through a comparative case study of two international federations of dockworkers' unions, the International Transportation Workers Federation and the International Dockworkers' Council. Dockworkers play a crucial role in the flow of commodities in the global economy, and the nature of their work requires a significant degree of international coordination, making them excellent candidates for a study of labor federations and transnational class organization. The comparative dimension of my study allows me to examine the effects of organizational form, federation politics, alliance structures and national contexts on transnational class formation among dockworkers through nested comparisons in three global regions. My project thus sits at the intersection of political sociology, labor sociology, comparative historical sociology, the sociology of globalization and labor history, and promises to yield important insights into processes of transnational class formation and labor standards in the global economy.
Transnationalizing the Dam: The Unanticipated Consequences of the Itaipu Dam in the Making of the Upper Paraná Region (1957-1992)
My dissertation centers on the story of the connections between the largest developmental megaproject of the western hemisphere – the building of the Itaipú Dam in the late twentieth century – and its unintended effects in the making of a new transnational region: the Upper Paraná in the borderlands of Brazil and Paraguay. As an interdisciplinary environmental historian I draw on classic social theory in conjunction with environmental and development studies to explain the impact of the Itaipú Dam. I address two major conceptual questions. First, I explain a crucial developmental experience in the Southern Cone through the lens of the theory of the unanticipated consequences of social action. Secondly, I seek to grasp the role of megaprojects in the making of transnational regions through its most sensitive political, social and environmental effects. The scholarship on the Itaipú Dam has focused on the intended effects of the dam: energy, development, modernization, state-building, and environmental costs. However, I argue that the most significant effects of the construction of the Itaipú Dam were unanticipated: informal modernization; unplanned urbanization; the unexpected effects of scientific management of the environment; and the rise of unruly borderlands. I pursue five lines of research: modernization; urbanization; environmental history; transnational studies; and democratization. My research method is multidisciplinary and combines archival work with interviews in United States, Brazil and Paraguay. The time period of this study spans three and a half decades from the foundation of the border town of Ciudad del Este in 1957 to the creation of MERCOSUR (the Southern Common Market) in 1992, a year after the completion of the Itaipú Dam. The region under study cuts approximately ninety-thousands square miles across the Brazilian border state of Parana, and the Paraguayan border states of Alto Paraná, and Canendiyú, all connected by the Paraná River waters.
Sheep Is Life and Diné Decolonization: Re-membering the Spanish and Mexican Arrivals to Navajoland
Grounded within the Diné (Navajo) epistemology of Sheep Is Life and with traditional sheep butchering as an analytical framework, this dissertation aims to provide unique insights to Diné relationships with sheep, the dialogue between sheep butchering and decolonization, as well as Diné perspectives of the Spanish and Mexican arrivals to the southwest. Utilizing Indigenous methodologies and Diné research methods I challenge research of sheep as a mere economic/ecological subject, studies of Diné pastoralism as a relationship of domination, and ultimately, scholarships that treats sheep as a foreign object introduced to Diné alongside Spanish colonialisms. As much as this is an ethnographic study of the co-constituted identities between sheep and Diné, my project also argues that Diné practices of sheep care and sheep butchery are complex responses to Western ways of knowing as well as critiques of the Western monopoly on knowledge production. My hypothesis suggests that maintaining sheep as the axis of this project will allow for previously marginalized or ignored Native intellectualism of the Spanish and Mexican arrivals to emerge. Although traditional butchering techniques vary throughout Navajoland,the simultaneous dismembering/re-membering process allow for dialogue between these variations and with decolonizing practices. While butchering requires the dismembering of sheep, it demonstrates how sheep re-member Diné by reinforcing kinship, promoting dialogue, and re-purposing the dismembered sheep according to Diné ways of sensing the world. Therefore, much as the dismembered parts of sheep are used rather than discarded, I will address how the butchering of sheep allows for the dissolution and reconfiguration of Western knowledges and previous academic research in ways that heal Diné experiences with colonialism starting with the Spanish arrivals continuing until the contemporary.
Inundation Nation: Water, Land, and Power in the Lesotho Highlands
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is a multi-billion dollar effort to transfer water from the mountains of Lesotho to Johannesburg, South Africa. Faced with few other economic opportunities, the Lesotho government has placed water export at the center of its development strategy. State officials suggest that "white gold" can free Lesotho from dependence upon other nation-states, although many people in Lesotho suggest that revenues generated from the LHWP benefit an urban elite and not ordinary people. The opportunity to exploit this economic potential has brought water under new kinds of national scrutiny, calling into question who owns it, and what kinds of properties and capabilities it has. One particularly important arena of scrutiny is that of soil conservation efforts, where my ethnographic study is centered. Acute soil erosion threatens to reduce the capacity of Lesotho's reservoirs and compromise project infrastructure, leading the LHWP to implement erosion control programs collectively known as Integrated Catchment Management (ICM). ICM places the blame for soil erosion mostly on common land tenure, proposing to shift land management authority from chiefs to exclusive "grazing associations" controlled by commoners and state officials. Rates and causes of soil erosion are notoriously difficult to measure, however, and ultimately hinge on ideas about how water interacts with soil, and how these interactions are shaped by the practices of herders. This dissertation project investigates these empirically informed debates about water's behaviors and capabilities, and what new forms of association and resistance are emerging from such debates. Through twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork with ICM fieldworkers and ordinary people in the Lesotho highlands where ICM is being implemented, I ask: What are the socio-political implications of changing ideas and practices surrounding water in Lesotho?.
Ink under the Fingernails: Mexico City Printers and the Material Politics of Print, 1810-1910
My dissertation project examines Mexico City's printing industry—its oft-neglected participants and sites of production—to recast our understanding of print's crucial role in independent Mexico's history. I argue that printers were integral mediators in the major conflicts that shaped newly independent Mexico's historical development. By asking how printed materials were produced across the nineteenth century, my research reveals that Mexico City printers were central not only because they issued texts that engaged in and fueled such conflicts, but also because they maintained close business and political dealings with the federal government. While historians of Mexico's first century of state formation have focused either on metropolitan elites or rural and urban popular sectors, my work explores the socially mixed space of the printshop, where a diverse group of men—from manual laborers to educated editors—navigated difficult economic and political realities as they worked to produce printed materials for diverse and often fractious audiences. Scholars of the press have relied on abstract notions—particularly theories that link expanding print capitalism to the rise of a public sphere—rather than trace print's growing role in forming the nation's politics and culture. My project focuses instead on print production itself: its main actors, their social position and professional practices, and printed products (considered as visual and material objects that used design and images to influence viewer experience beyond literacy) in order to understand how printers acted as key but controversial mediators in Mexico's political and cultural debates. Examining these material politics of print, I argue, challenges misleading dichotomies—between text and image, literate and oral, worker and intellectual, public and private—and opens a new way to interpret Mexico's dramatic century of conflict, consolidation and crisis: as it formed on the printshop floor.
The Sino-African Imaginary: Cultural Exchange and The Afro-Asian Writers Bureau (1958-1978)
While most all studies of China and Africa focus on current economic or foreign policy concerns, my dissertation maps the literary and cultural history of the Sino-African imaginary. Growing out of the Africa-Asia Conference of Bandung, Indonesia in 1955, the Afro-Asian Writers Bureau attempted to forge Third World cultural solidarities via alternative conceptions of modernity. Although they did not use the term, they attempted to define the parameters of what is now understood as Postcolonial Studies. Among other exchanges, the Bureau provided a transnational forum for the aesthetic entanglements of Pan-Africanism, Marxist humanism, and Maoism. In 1966, it would divide into a Cairo-based, Soviet dominated bureau and a Beijing-led, Chinese dominated one. The publication of literary anthologies and journals such as Lotus (Cairo) and The Call (Beijing) would straddle the complications of the split, the aesthetic line between propaganda and art, as well as Maoist versus Soviet definitions of socialist realism. The importance of Africa as a ground of ideological contestation ultimately produced a "socialist scramble" on the continent. Maoism's emphasis on the rural peasantry, racial difference, and the role of literature and culture in national revolution resonated with many Pan-African writers and intellectuals such as Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Kwame Nkrumah and W.E.B DuBois. Thus, the Sino-African imaginary of the period was based on a cultural exchange that lay outside of a colonial power dynamic. By analyzing the horizontal cultural exchanges of the Global South, my thesis moves beyond the limitation of most postcolonial scholarship that focuses on a vertical analytic of the colonizer/colonized. Furthermore, it reinterprets the Cold War outside of an American/Soviet dichotomy. By focusing on the rise of a Sino-African imaginary, I both reread the Cold War from a Third World perspective and provide a cultural historicization to contemporary Sino-African capitalism.
Mapping a Contested Landscape: Religion, Politics, and Place in the Making of Pasupata Identity
This nuanced regional study investigates a formative period in the history of the "Pasupatas," the earliest known religious community devoted to the worship of the Hindu God Siva. Through an interdisciplinary approach that integrates the study of new manuscript sources and epigraphic data in Sanskrit, with fieldwork at three vital groups of temple sites, my work will illuminate the ways in which this community participated in, and was shaped by, the religious competition and political upheaval that permeated early medieval northwest India (7th-9th century CE). Using these sources, I will work to recover the many, often marginalized, voices that animated this diverse community and, in doing so, engage in a radical rethinking of what it meant to be "Saiva" (i.e. a devotee of Siva) in this contested region and historical period. This study will produce an alternative history of early Saivism, which challenges the traditional scholarly categories and binaries (e.g. popular/élite; lay/ascetic; orthodox/heterodox) that circumscribe the study of Indian religions. By theorizing the ties between the self-fashioning of the Pasupatas and the dynamic landscape in which they were embedded, my work will move beyond my immediate sub-field and discipline to explore the polysemy of religious identity in India, both medieval and modern. Fieldwork at three clusters of early medieval temple sites—located near Mumbai in Maharashtra, Mandasor in Madhya Pradesh, and Chittorgarh in Rajasthan—will be an intrinsic element of my study of this region. By studying architectural elements and aspects of religious imagery and by analyzing the interrelationships between the natural and constructed features of these sites, I will theorize the multiple ways in which devotees used and experienced these lived spaces. This study will shed new light on the social function of sanctified spaces as media for the negotiation of socio-political hierarchies and the expression of religious identity(ies).
Jewish Political Lives at the End of Empire: Zionism, Nationalism, and British Imperialism in India, South Africa, and Palestine, 1917-1948
My dissertation explores Jewish "political thinking" in the British Empire from 1917 until the 1948 founding of the State of Israel, focusing specifically on three different groups of Jewish leaders in India, South Africa, and Palestine. By Jewish "political thinking," I mean the frameworks by which Jewish leaders in the British Empire understood and acted out their political loyalties, sense of national belonging, and visions of political futures shaped by British imperialism, Zionism, and local, non-Jewish nationalisms. I examine Jewish political thinking through the lens of four issues central to Jewish life in the empire during this period: colonial systems of racial classification and their impact on Jewish citizenship and electoral categorization; Jewish relationships to non-Jewish locals, particularly in relation to nation-building projects; Jewish relations with British colonial authorities; and finally Jewish attitudes towards Zionism, British imperialism, and other non-Jewish local nationalisms. The three groups of Jewish leaders in my dissertation—Baghdadi Jewish leaders in India; Anglo- and Lithuanian Jewish leaders in South Africa; and the Zionist leadership in British Palestine—reflect a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds, cultural and religious practices, politics, and socio-economic statuses among the heterogeneous Jewish communities living throughout the empire. Despite their varied backgrounds, these Jewish leaders all served as intermediaries between the Jewish community and British colonial authorities, while simultaneously confronting Jewish nationalist ideals. An examination of their political thinking can illuminate the nexus between Jewish politics and British imperialism in the age of nationalism. Based on extensive archival research, this dissertation will use a broad range of sources including parliamentary debates, memorials, diaries, travelogues, personal correspondence, minutes, reports, sermons, lectures, and newspapers.
The Compagnie des Indes and the Fate of Commercial Empire in the French Revolution
My dissertation studies the fate of France's late eighteenth-century global empire through the lens of the last French East India Company during the final years of the Old Regime and into the French Revolution. Though this Company has not received any recent scholarly attention, the history of its incorporation and liquidation elucidates a broader transformation in the policy and structures of France's empire. My project will examine the interrelated nature of colonial and metropolitan histories, particularly as I explore how the imperatives of global commercial competition with Britain – especially in the aftermath of France's territorial losses in the Seven Years War in India – informs economic policy at home. I hypothesize that, as Indian markets were drawn into the sphere of British influence, French policymakers began an "imperial exit strategy" that encouraged the development of industries in the mainland to replace key goods imported by the Company. This exit strategy reached its ideological apogee during the radical phase of the Revolution, which I see as part of an ongoing battle between two conflicting visions of France: a maritime, cosmopolitan one, and an insular, continental one. I will place my work in broader scholarly contexts by exploring the links between the policy of exit strategy and larger anti-imperial trends in eighteenth-century intellectual history and political theory. My research will thus explore how eighteenth-century France navigated the balance between foreign expansion and domestic prosperity, which will have contemporary relevance to current debates in both history and other social science disciplines about the origins and processes of globalization.
Empire Made Flesh: Incursionism, Animals, and Islands in the Formation of the Iberian Atlantic, 1450-1600
This project investigates how merchants, migrants, and mariners involved in incursions of trade and aggression between 1450 and 1600 created an Iberian Atlantic island circuit that enabled and sustained the Portuguese and Spanish empires. Often understood as imperial expansion, these processes gain more analytic clarity if considered under the rubric of "incursionism": episodic, opportunistic initiatives that gradually coalesced into bases for further expeditions. On the Madeiran, Canarian, Cape Verdean, and Azorean archipelagos, as in southwestern Iberia, incursionists participated in resource arrangements and markets in which animals figured prominently as sources of labor, consumption, and concern. Conceptualizing the ways in which incursionism and subsistence drew from the presence and uses of animals, and how these dynamics figured prominently in political and legal arrangements, amplifies the scope for analyzing how incursionists came to build the footholds of Iberian empires on islands that were neither centers nor peripheries. Further, in settlements and their surroundings, municipal charters enumerating rights of access to communal resources created a legal framework with which those invested in benefiting from animals contended. I construct a socio-ecological history of hunting and fishing, pastoralism, and the commerce in animal products, inquiring into what extent these activities held local and regional import at the crossroads of Atlantic thoroughfares. I also investigate the degree to which incursionism and its reliance on animals and islands held political implications for Iberian imperial objectives and the juridical-theological architecture of empire. Materially, I argue, the presence of wild and domesticated animals, and the commerce in animal products, undergirded and contributed to incursionist ventures and regional trade networks; discursively, they served as a living template for conceiving of empire and mobilizing incursionist enterprises.
Prison Days: The History of Prison and Punishment in Iranian Modernity, 1896-1979
My dissertation offers a history of the modern Iranian prison from the late Qajar era of the late 19th century to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Starting from the truism that all modern Iranian intellectuals and movements have cut their political teeth within the four walls of Iran's penal institutions, my dissertation argues that the prison is a preeminent site from which Iranian political and public discourses have been articulated. Through an examination of state archives as well as political and literary texts, I argue that questions of citizenship, rights, criminality, embodiment, and martyrdom were all constituted in the shadow of the peculiar intimacy between the state and its prisoners.
The Noblest Commerce: Intelligence and Sinology on the "Russian Route," 1685-1825
My dissertation deals with the way Russians came to understand, study, and spy on their southeastern neighbors, the Qing Empire, as the two states confronted each other between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries. Intelligence, in the sense of practice-oriented knowledge gathered by actors working on behalf of the state, was vital for diplomatic and commercial relationships: for instance, ambassadors not only needed to know how the Qing court functioned, but also how best to make their way to the Chinese border and beyond. But embassies and trade caravans also shaped the way knowledge was created and circulated. The same ambassadors who had relied on the works of their predecessors returned to augment the Russian state's store of intelligence; for their part, trade caravans provided ample cover for spies as well as often serving as the only means of carrying letters and papers. A particular focus of the project is the relationship between the new Russian Academy of Sciences, created in 1724, and the Jesuit missionaries in Beijing. By forging scientific ties, the two groups nurtured each other's political hopes, with the Jesuits aiming to develop Russia as a link between Europe and China and the Russians hoping to cultivate their new correspondents as a privileged source of influence and intelligence at the Qing court. The role of the Jesuits as well as the increasing volume and importance of trade between the two empires ultimately gave the Russo-Chinese relationship crucial, and wide-ranging, global ramifications. By the end of the eighteenth century, the story had come to involve not just Russia and the Qing but also Britain, France, and the United States. In the nineteenth, the complex of intelligence-gathering mechanisms developed in the previous century produced, and gave way to, the specialized academic discipline known as sinology.
Covert Imperial Statecraft: French Intelligence and the Growth of the Secret State in Interwar Morocco
Covert Imperial Statecraft examines the French Protectorate of Morocco's intelligence apparatus during the years between the First and Second World Wars. It focuses on the methods used on the ground to reconcile the anxieties of French officials in Paris with the counter-hegemonic demands of Moroccans and non-French, foreign actors. Based on preliminary research in French and Moroccan archives, I argue that French civilian officials in Morocco transferred their authority to French intelligence officers in an attempt to halt what they believed was the slow decline of the French Empire. Further, I contend that French intelligence officers created shadow bureaucracies, removed from the constraints of French and international public opinion to offer new solutions to the French Empire's crisis of power. Maintaining order and legitimacy required renewed engagement with Moroccans as well as rival European powers active in the Mediterranean. Yet, the shift from civilian rule to an intelligence state offered embattled French politicians, Moroccans who could not be seen as cooperating with a colonial power, and foreigners who had no official reason for competing with French colonial order, the plausible deniability needed when interacting with one another. All sides had indeed reached an unproductive stalemate that they would try to overcome through political and economic means during the 1920s and 1930s.
Mobility and Locality: Afghan Identity in South India 1629-1779
I propose to follow the history of two Afghan family lineages, the Miyanas and the Pannis, over a hundred and fifty year time span between 1629 and 1779 as they moved across frontiers and between political centers in central and southern India. While attending to these groups' roles in the major political events of the period, I will also focus on situating them within their cultural contexts. Through attention to their literary production and participation in regional and extra-regional religious networks but also through practices of marriage, patronage, adoption, friendship and other ties that bound them to localities, I seek to uncover a political and cultural history focusing on themes often overlooked in state-centered narratives: the regular movement of groups across state frontiers, the construction of social identities spanning diverse cultural and political contexts, and the production of densely interlocked local, regional and transregional spheres of belonging. The project makes three interventions in existing historiography. Firstly it seeks to articulate a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be Afghan in early modern India across commonly divided time periods and geographies. Secondly, the project seeks to expand our understanding negotiations between local, regional and imperial power structures. Finally, the project aims to contribute to a body of scholarship on the nature of global transformations taking place in late medieval and early modern Eurasia.
The Poesis of Musical Remembering: Andalusian Resonances in Contemporary Spain and Morocco
This ethnography explores contemporary, intercultural musicmaking practices of Moroccan musicians living in Granada, Spain and the Tangier-Tetouan region of northern Morocco, alongside those of their Spanish collaborators. Steeped in historic Arabo-Andalusi genres that connect Spain and Morocco, yet musically innovative, how might we consider their efforts as a poesis of musical remembering, a creative deployment of the past in the present? Given the divergent backgrounds of the practitioners, what knowledges, skills, and sensibilities do they require, sustain, and transmit? Finally, what is produced or mobilized—and what effaced—socially, culturally, and politically, in the sonic wake of these spatio-temporal encounters? What does it mean, in essence, to remember musically? These questions are addressed through the framework of three overlapping modalities of memory—socio-cultural, interpersonal, and embodied-sensory. Through this research I aim to develop a multifaceted theoretical conception of the cultural work of remembering. Remembering in this view constitutes a problematic, both an ethnographically observable tension between creative agencies and social obligations, as well as a multiform analytic. As a flexible theoretical paradigm, remembering thus provides an opening through which to link material and phenomenological approaches within anthropology of the senses, ideas about the centrality of the body in philosophy of mind, questions about musical knowledge and skill in ethnomusicology, and concepts of performativity in poetic and narrative discourse as taken up by linguistic and cultural anthropology.
Experimental Subjects: Psychoneurology and the Science of the "New Man" in Russia and the Soviet Union, 1904-1938
My dissertation examines the relationship between the scientific study of human thought and behavior and political projects of individual and social change in Russia and the Soviet Union, from the early 1900s to the Great Purges of the late 1930s. I focus specifically on a cluster of interrelated disciplines known in Russia as the psychoneurological sciences, which together promised to provide a unified science of the human subject. Such knowledge was seen by many throughout the period as a key to producing a better society and a more healthy, conscious, and virtuous person. Placing Bolshevik ambitions for the creation of "New Man" within this broader chronological and intellectual frame, I hypothesize that the psychoneurological sciences served to define both the conditions of possibility and the very limits of human transformation, with profound implications for the fate of the revolutionary project throughout. To test this hypothesis, I will examine the theoretical and practical developments of these experimental sciences of the human subject from the founding of V. M. Bekhterev's Psychoneurological Institute in St. Petersburg in 1904, through their proliferation in the early Soviet period and application to domains of labor, propaganda, child development and national minority integration, to their eventual liquidation by decree in 1936. By reconsidering the relation of science and ideology in early twentieth century Russian history, my research will contribute to significant debates within the field, including questions of expertise and the state, of continuity across the revolutionary divide, and of connections and commonalities between Soviet Union and western Europe. In this way, my project will offer a reappraisal of what is often dubbed the Great Experiment, not simply as an experiment in the building of socialism, but as an experiment in the application of scientific knowledge of the human subject to the management and ordering of human affairs.