Chronicles of Deaths Foretold?: Farmer Suicides in Chhattisgarh, India
More than a quarter of a million farmers have committed suicide across India since 1995. Since what one report terms the 'largest wave of recorded suicides in human history' (Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, 2011) first received attention in the mid-nineties, the 'farmer's' suicide' has emerged as a potent politically charged symbol for intense public debates on the depredations of neoliberal structural adjustment, and the failures of state and society. Scholarly and activist discourses have attempted to establish causal links between the widespread suicide of farmers and the large-scale industrial transformation of agricultural production in the early 1990s. My dissertation research will focus on the suicides of farmers in the Durg and Mahasamund districts of the central-Indian state of Chhattisgarh in order to examine the means by which suicide is transformed from an exceptional occurrence in peasant life, to entering a culturally available repertoire of action. By examining affects and narratives around suicide deaths among cultivators in Mahasamund and Durg on the one hand, and the ways in which the category of the 'farmers' suicide' is energized as the grounds of new political mobilizations against neoliberalism on the other, my project explores the relationship between conditions of socio-structural marginality, forms of life and political possibility, under conditions of neoliberal precarity.
Objects of Veneration: Music, Materiality, and Marketing in the Composer-Cults of Nineteenth-Century Germany and Austria
My dissertation explores the popular veneration of nineteenth-century German and Austrian composers as figures akin to saints. The project's seven case studies focus on material "relics" as encounters with the composer's body, along with the museums that housed relics as sites for these encounters. While the project takes objects and spaces as its focus, I will also draw upon other "sites" of popular reception, such as panegyric poems, memoirs, obituaries, and biographies. An important aspect of my study will be to situate these genres and practices in the growing consumer culture of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, where the Romantic ideal of aesthetic transcendence was transformed into a commodity that combined artistic prestige with personal veneration. I will show that the proliferation of hagiographic biographies, enshrined objects, and mass-produced souvenirs in the nineteenth century were part of a growing tourism industry that promoted "pilgrimage" to birthplaces and gravesites. At its core, this study reveals a critical tension in nineteenth century aesthetics: the seeming incompatibility of the tangible (relics, body, composer) and the intangible (music, genius, the divine). This tension underlies many of the concerns about authenticity and kitsch that dominated nineteenth-century aesthetic debates. My project also contributes to the narrative of canon formation where textual and material objects, pervasive in nineteenth-century popular culture, functioned alongside monumentality and the "work concept" to crystallize the pantheon of (primarily German and Austrian) composers and a core of musical masterworks.
On a Biplane: Aerial Photography and the Politics of Space in the Middle East (1895-1950)
My dissertation examines the history of aerial photography in the Middle East through the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of independent states in Syria under French mandate, Iraq under British rule and in the Republic of Turkey (1895-1950.) First, my project explores the social construction of this technology at a time when, upon the fall of the empire, aerial mapping became instrumental to the charting of former Ottoman territories. There, aerial photographs were able to capture the coexistence of sedentary, semi-nomadic and nomadic communities with an unprecedented clarity and the development of aerial mapping disseminated conceptions of human geography that enabled the classification this diverse population along sectarian lines. Therefore, I examine the history of aerial photography as the development of not only a visual device but also a historically contingent way of seeing that shaped the Middle East at this critical juncture in time. Second, my research follows aerial mapping in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey in order to trace the deployment of this new visual practice in policies aimed at obliterating Ottoman institutions. In Syria and Iraq under colonial occupation, I question whether these policies destroyed important contact-zones that were characteristic of the Ottoman Empire by confining various populations within designated geographical areas. Additionally, I examine the modernization of Ottoman cartography by the Republic of Turkey in light of nationalist narratives that embraced notions of human geography in order to classify the Anatolian population into new categories such as 'Turks' and 'mountain Turks.' By tracing connections among aerial photography, human geography, and the dismantling of the Ottoman polity, my dissertation unravels the technological and scientific history of sectarianism as way to shed new light on the transition from empire to nation-state in the Middle East.
Vernacular Englishes: Language, Translation, and Democratic Politics in Post-Liberalization India
My project explores the relationship between language and democracy in post-liberalization India through a study of the expanding presence of English in India. It asks: what is the place of English —as a language and as a symbol– in claims for representation and power by hitherto-marginalized castes, classes and language groups within India today? What, whom and how does the English language claim to represent? Through an analysis of Hindi newspapers, Bollywood film and Hindi and Indian English writing, I argue that it is no longer possible to view English as merely a colonial legacy to be opposed or simply a language of global capital to be embraced. Through close textual analysis and archival research, my work establishes that the "foreign" provenance of English in India opens it to interpretation and continually invests it with newer political meaning. Coupled with Hindi in "vernacular hybrids," English interrupts Hindi to reveal dissatisfactions with India's post-independence nationalist agenda. I approach the English-Hindi hybrids used in multiple media contexts as overlooked acts of translation that modify the way a language is written and spoken. English enables class, caste and gender mobilities, facilitates "social and political translation" of their speakers, and ultimately alters the complexion of democratic inclusion in India. My project emphasizes the transformative role of global media in shifting our understanding of language itself and, consequently, of the political. Transnational market imperatives and considerations of diverse audiences have, globally, infused our idiom with more and more global brand names, and multilingual references. My analysis reckons with everyday linguistic inventiveness as decisive political strategy, and inaugurates a novel approach to study instances of global englishes across the world.
Blood and Bone: Kinship, Science and the Imagined Body in "Humanitarian Exhumations" of the Dead
Exhumation of the dead has become a normative human rights intervention and a requisite aspect of transitional justice. In the wake of political violence, exhumation aims to provide judicial evidence of mass atrocity and to return human remains to families. Understood as bringing closure to families, "humanitarian exhumation" may be carried out even in situations in which there is little or no hope of judicial recourse. Yet, the relationship between forensics teams and families has proven to be complex and often fraught. While some exhumations have received clear support from families, others have been sites of intense controversy. This project asks why there has been persistent tension between families of the missing and forensic teams. Attentive to the polysemy of the dead body, which at different times and places can be understood to be judicial evidence, a medical specimen, a scientific object, a political symbol, a religious relic, a site of the uncanny, a social subject, a dense site of mourning and more, this project explores what humanitarian exhumation means to those most intimately involved: forensic teams and families of the missing. Based in Argentina, location of the earliest and longest continuously excavated humanitarian exhumations, this project takes the complex relationship between families and forensic teams as a generative site to explore how we conceptualize exhumations as "humanitarian," how we expect science to serve social ends and how we imagine relationships of care between the living and the dead.
Contested Natures & Insecurities: The Aerial Fumigation of Illicit Crops in Colombia
Colombia is the only country in the world that currently permits the aerial fumigation of illicit crops. This practice, financed by the US State Department, has exacerbated the already tenuous circumstances of a rural population caught in the crossfire of an ongoing civil conflict. Of central importance to this study are the tensions that exist between the Latin American countries that produce illicit narcotics and the wealthier Northern countries that consume the vast majority of the world's supply. The focus of the US "war on drugs" has largely been on stamping out the production and distribution of cocaine and other illegal drugs, with less emphasis on the issue of domestic consumption. For US policymakers, the aerial fumigation of narcotics is a vital component of counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency imperatives established in the 2000 Plan Colombia agreement. For Colombian peasants, however, aerial fumigation threatens human, plant, and animal lives as well as ways of living. Informed by Critical Geopolitics and Political Ecology, I argue that aerial fumigation policy is conceptually driven by imperatives that render rural Colombians invisible within a landscape of violence and displacement. Furthermore, I argue that the practice of aerial fumigation violates policy guidelines, threatening the health, security, food security, and land tenure of rural Colombians. The purpose of this study is to gather the testimony of spray zone residents, the documentation of voices silenced by transnational geopolitical decisions. These voices will be incorporated into a quantitative dataset that I will use to map the socio-environmental implications of aerial fumigation policy, practice, and experience in Colombia.
Beyond the Bilad al-Sham: Images of Hunting in the Umayyad Empire
This dissertation will explore the polycentric nature of artistic production within the Umayyad empire by focusing on three examples of architectural decoration found in present day Jordan, Iran, and Tajikistan. All three contain representations of hunting and slaughter; a popular iconographic feature of aristocratic interior decoration. Although the Jordanian monument of Qusayr Amra has been at the center of the Umayyad canon for almost a century, Chal Tarkhan-Eshqabad in what is now Iran and the frescoes of Penjikent in modern Tajikistan have not been integrated into the prevailing narrative of Umayyad art because their patrons and artists were probably not Muslims. This selective erasure produces a distorted image of art within the Umayyad caliphate, producing an artificial interpretive vacuum around central monuments such as Qusayr Amra. The encounter between humans and animals represented in early medieval images of hunting provided frameworks for modeling structured relationships between other hierarchically or ontologically distinct entities, e.g. women and men, lover and beloved, self and other, civilization and wilderness, and, most relevant in the period of the Arab conquest, military victors and defeated foes. Differences in the standard iconographic treatments of hunting in Sasanian, Roman-Byzantine, Umayyad, and Sogdian art emphasize hunting as either a venue for spectacular displays of idealized masculinity and aristocratic athleticism, a quotidian seasonal labor, or a round-up and slaughter to be followed by celebratory consumption. Differences in the content and form of these hunting scenes are in fact the product of specific and complex negotiations of documentary details, idealizing aristocratic masculinity, and contingent ideological assumptions about the nature of human-animal relationships. They may also reflect the attitudes of their patrons towards the crystallizing visual culture of the Muslim elite.
Soldiers Now, Citizens Later: Baloch Mercenaries and Bahraini State Formation
National Armies, composed of citizen-soldiers, have been an integral feature of modern nation-states. Recruitment of nationals for state institutions like the army is considered essential for tying together the nation and the state. The nation furnishes state armies with its own nationals, who in their capacity as state-functionaries, often police the nation, as much as fight external wars. Recently though, various states around the world have started employing foreign laborers for positions within critical state institutions like the army. In Bahrain, over 40% of the National Guards are recruited from the Pakistani province of Balochistan. This project asks; how do mercenaries mediate the relationship between state and society? It posits the hypothesis that mercenaries, given their connection to both the place of recruitment and place of deployment, formulate not a binary state-society relationship but a triangulated relation with the mercenary-exporting state as the third coordinate. The research follows Baloch mercenary networks in order to understand 1) how the Bahraini state, through the process of mercenary recruitment, gets woven into political struggles in Pakistan, and 2) how sections of the Bahraini society, due to political maneuvering on the part of Baloch mercenaries, forms bonds with the Pakistani state on the basis of shared sectarian identities. It argues that these two interrelated processes mutually reinforce each other, resulting in state-society aligning along sectarian lines and increasing influence of the Pakistani State. Building on previous professional experience, ethnographic fieldwork, and archival research; the project looks to conduct 14 months of fieldwork in Karachi (Pakistan), Gawadar (Pakistan) and Manama (Bahrain), on the processes and discourses around mercenary recruitment, payment and deployment.
Vehicle of Progress: The Santiago Metro and the Techno-Politics of Military Rule in Chile, 1965–1990
My dissertation is a history of the Santiago metro system in the context of changing techno-political regimes in Chile. My central question is why public transportation became a shared concern among diverse actors between 1965 and 1990 and how their proposals changed over time. Planning for the metro began in 1965, during a period of democratic state-led development under President Eduardo Frei. Transnational from the start, the metro united Chilean engineering with French technology, funding, and expertise. Construction proceeded during the democratic socialist government of Salvador Allende. After the 1973 coup that ousted Allende, the military junta continued to support the project, as did the French funders and consultants. Both before and after the coup, metro planners made claims for the project's importance in terms of apolitical technical criteria. The first metro line opened in 1975, the year that the neoliberal "Chicago Boys" began to occupy influential positions in the new government. Amid a climate of economic austerity and boom and bust cycles, construction proceeded slowly throughout the 1970s and 1980s. My research ends in 1990, just after the metro was converted to a state-owned corporation, and as the dictatorship came to an end. Given this shifting political terrain, why did the metro remain a viable project? What social and political work did the technocratic discourse of metro planners accomplish? My research examines collaboration and conflict between Chilean and French professionals, state agencies and private businesses, technological experts and users, and planners and urban residents. Cutting across democratic and authoritarian periods, this project illuminates degrees of continuity and discontinuity in Chilean state formation. At the same time, it historicizes contemporary debates about the role of the state in providing transportation as a public good.
Coca Nation: The Protean Politics of the Coca Leaf in Bolivian Nationalism (1900 – 1961)
This dissertation is a cultural history of the development, in the twentieth century, of Bolivian coca politics in relation to U.S.-led international anti-narcotics regimes. It investigates the processes through which Bolivians constructed- or reconstructed- coca as an indigenous drug. Challenging essentialist notions of coca as embodying autochthonous Andean culture, my research examines the roles of a broad array of Bolivia's social groups, including but not limited to Indians, in the formation of the cultural politics of the leaf. In order to trace the processes through which coca emerged as a symbol of Bolivian nationalism, I pursue five primary lines of research. These include the development of Bolivian Creole indigenismo, medical and pharmacological modernization, positivist criminology, urban popular and worker culture, and international drug diplomacy. From the point of view of Creoles,I investigate the formation of ambivalent ideas about coca and indigeneity at the intersection of transnational discourses of medicine, criminology, and modernization. I also examine Indian engagement with, and resistance to, Creole efforts to define and regulate coca. Additionally, I examine the entrance of coca into the popular culture of urban mestizos. From a transnational perspective, I consider not only Bolivian geo-politics of drug interdiction, and the impacts thereof, but also the engagement of Bolivians with international discourses on the meanings of both drugs and indigeneity.
Competitive Collaboration: Forging Global Corporate Political Economy, 1600-1730
How, in the seventeenth century, did the rival Dutch (VOC) and English (EIC) East India Companies forge a shared corporate political economy that transcended national political and economic frameworks? In pursuit of this question, my dissertation analyzes company, state and personal records, focusing on the interactions between the agents of both companies. This project advances two primary interventions: (1) that, in a time known for the rise of mercantilism, the VOC and EIC acted as corporate bodies apart from, but related to their home states; and (2) that these corporations forged a relationship with each other in a complicated network of competition and collaboration that developed over the course of the seventeenth century. The competing firms targeted one another with intensive information gathering operations and they emulated each other's successful strategies. The diverse political and economic institutional ecologies of the states and empires throughout early modern Europe and Asia would all come to both define and be defined by this developing corporate organization. Employing methodologies from economic and political history as well as economic sociology and political science, this project addresses several critical inquiries. How did the communication networks and strategies of both firms involve an exchange of cultural, economic, and political ideas? How do we understand corporate as well as international conflict, including transnational trade, the law of nations, and the ways in which economic concepts were formed? How can corporate competition, itself, engender a set of common languages and ideas that create political economy? My dissertation introduces a non-state global institution to early modern economic and political history, long dominated by naturalized national categories. Simultaneously, this project contributes a new historical framework to the modern concept of multinational corporate organization and international law.
Environmentalists with Guns: Conservation and Counterinsurgency in the Petén, Guatemala, 1960-1996
My dissertation examines the development of environmental conservation in northern Guatemala as a strategy of counterinsurgency during its long civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996. The research on which it is based unfolds across three levels of analysis: the institution of the army, which directly governed the region and established conservation policies with enduring legacies; the discourses of conservation and development generated by the army, environmental NGOs, and development agencies; and the practices of conservation on the ground as enacted by actual people in their daily lives as subjects to and enforcers of environmental law. The counterinsurgency priorities that guided conservation policy in northern Guatemala during the civil war weighed heavily on the postwar legacy of environmental protection and the demands for justice that came out of the Peace Accords in 1996, yet debates about conservation in Guatemala regularly ignore this violent past. Grafting together the methods of political ecology with those of social, cultural, and institutional history, I attempt to show how the conservation landscapes of northern Guatemala are both the product of a bloody counterinsurgent war and the continuation of it by other means. My evidence is drawn from national, municipal, and private documentary sources, as well as oral testimony, collected from sites in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States. The implications for this project speak to both academic and policy debates on conservation in the underdeveloped world, challenging scholars and practitioners to grasp the social problems at the heart of conservation.
Troubled Waters: The International Order and Conceptions of Nature in the North Atlantic Fisheries, 1713-1783
I explore the relationship between nature and the international order to ask how and why contests over resource access enabled specific ways of knowing the environment to gain authority over others in Newfoundland's eighteenth-century cod fisheries. I introduce nature to the study of the international order to question interpretations of the eighteenth-century transformation of the international order as a shift from empire to nation. Rather, I see it as a shift in how polities interacted to construct resource regimes. I focus on the French Shore, a stretch of northeast Newfoundland coast encircling half the island (3000 miles), so-designated by diplomats from 1713-1783. I follow the cod to show how fishermen's common access traditions were challenged by French and British diplomats looking to build a resource regime based on enclosure. To show the tensions between these resource regimes, I study the different ways fishermen and diplomats knew the space. Fishermen knew Newfoundland from lived experience, while diplomats knew it from often-faulty cartographic knowledge. I ask how the diplomat's epistemology acquired authority even though it was removed from environmental realties, and how this affected fishermen and cod populations. Moving out of the imagined world of diplomats to the lived world on the island, I ask how the category of nation meant little to the Irish fishermen who spoke a different language than their English captains, and had more in common politically and religiously with their French neighbors. Thinking about labor in this brutal environment also requires a recognition that European diplomats seemed reluctant to make: the indigenous Mi'kmaq and Beothuk outnumbered Europeans and were more adept at navigating the island. This project highlights how the problems facing one industry in the remote reaches of empire contributed to important shifts in the international order and prompted lasting environmental ramifications and jurisdictional disputes.
The Morality of Revolution: Urban Cleansings and the Making of Socialist Mozambique, 1974-1988
In the years between 1974 and 1988, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), the ruling party of independent Mozambique sought to "mentally decolonize", "purify", and "reeducate" urban citizens deemed to be morally impure and an obstacle to the socialist revolution. FRELIMO violently uprooted thousands of people from the cities and sent them to reeducation and labor camps in the countryside. This exercise in social engineering, which resembled the Great Terror in Stalin's USSR and the Cultural Revolution in China, was carried out by ordinary urban citizens who denounced, hunted down, and helped to expel their fellow compatriots. My dissertation examines the historical, ideological, and socio-political dynamics that drove Mozambicans out of the cities, and documents victims' experiences of reeducation and forced labor. My study moves beyond explanations about why the regime pursued such objectives. It explores the ways in which ordinary urban citizens recast the regime's socialist principles and transformed them into an arena of debate over moral citizenship. Based on extensive archival and ethnographic research, this study redeems a silenced chapter of Mozambique's recent history. It contributes to the understanding of why "ordinary" people participate in violent schemes of social engineering against their compatriots in autocratic regimes.
Piety in Progress: Video Filmmaking and Religious Encounter in Bénin
This research explores collaborative media production in Bénin as religious encounter between Yorùbá-speaking Béninois and Nigerian video filmmakers. Béninois media professionals show ambivalence toward their Nigerian counterparts: they invite these filmmakers to Bénin to serve as experts and mentors, but they express concerns that their Nigerian guests carry with them attitudes toward religion and religious interaction that have been steeped in a national climate of mounting inter-religious tensions and violence. This study thus seeks to determine how the production of religious media becomes a forum to debate and establish norms of community and religious practice for these filmmakers, as well as for the ad hoc audiences who come to watch films being made. As an apprentice with a filmmaking troupe and a large filmmaking NGO in Pobè, Bénin, I will interview filmmakers and spectators from both sides of the Bénin–Nigeria border, participate in all stages of the filmmaking process, and attend religious services and festivals with filmmakers and other members of the community. In so doing, I will determine the roles that national identity, religious affiliation, and professional prestige play in negotiations over religious attitudes and conceptions of community. I also will seek to determine how an open production style shapes the public that can participate in conversations about religious representation, iconography, and aesthetics in media. Firsthand participation and broader analysis of the media landscape will enable me to determine the link between religious deliberation on film sets and the religious attitudes and practices of the participants.
Poetic Investments: Public Finance and the Fiscal Sociology of Anglophone Poetry Since 1945
During the second half of the twentieth century, poets around the world confronted new challenges to financing their art and livelihood. Public funds became an important source of support for poetry, as well as an important topic in poems of the period. While literary scholars have noticed ways in which poetic texts circulate alongside economic concerns, the most influential work on literary aesthetics assumes that poems achieve a strong degree of aesthetic autonomy from fiscal issues. My dissertation challenges this status quo by historicizing and contextualizing public investment in Anglophone poetry after 1945. By examining transnational circuits of public funding that link the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Jamaica, and Nigeria, I explore the impact of public finance on the Anglophone poetic field in a comparative manner as well as ways in which poetic projects respond to values that underwrite public funding for the arts. My proposed research focuses on consulting archives and individuals in Nigeria and Jamaica, with shorter periods of research in the UK and US. Analyzing the routing of public funds, the poems they enabled, and personal accounts of gatekeepers and poet-beneficiaries will offer insight into how public finance shaped cross-cultural poetic flows and how poets aspired to intervene in cultural imaginaries. Archival records and in-depth interviews with gatekeepers will index and symptomatize fiscal policies and institutional values. Consideration of publication and distribution networks and close analysis of poetic texts will show how public finance impacted poetic production and the extent to which institutional and cultural values correspond to the poems they enabled. Taken together, these considerations will allow me to show how state spending has influenced Anglophone poetry in a comparative manner as well how poems have critiqued and contributed to repertoires of value that bear significantly on fiscal policy and cultural identity.
By Way of Vietnam: Racial Critique and Social Collapse in Transnational Protest Art, 1965-75
During the height of the American led wars in Southeast Asia, roughly 1965-75, a global anti-war movement largely informed by the visual strategies of the countercultures of the United States produced hundreds of posters, short films, illustrated print publications, and other quickly reproducible and widely distributable objects of protest art. While eclectic in format and diverse in national provenance, these works comprised what I assert constitutes a specific art historical genre, formed around a shared strategy of linking local politics with the issue of Vietnamese solidarity. Artists working in this genre demonstrated political subjectivity to be a function of visual and conceptual comparison with Vietnam. And while the works they produced imagined radical proximity between disparate identities in order to upend racial categorizations and collapse social hierarchies, my dissertation argues that this particular Vietnam-centric iconography relied on the over-determination of visual differences between people, thereby reinforcing the same social institutions they were staged to critique. My methodology enlists a core theoretical concern bridging modern critical histories of art and race; namely, the power of the visual to calcify social construction as social fact by reifying sameness or difference. Since the race-based critique was most routinely and effectively vocalized during the war by activists drawing significant parallels between government-sanctioned military imperialism abroad and racist policies at home, my theoretical interjection here is to reframe a concurrent episode in global art historical production as constituting an adamantly and equally transnational, if ultimately problematic, radical politics. The objects central to my study are taken from archives in Vietnam, the U.S., Australia, and Jordan, and evidence the vast material and institutional range of this transnational genre of protest art and its historiographic afterlives.
Eating against the Grain in Late Socialist China
In a climate of deep distrust toward the conventional food system, Chinese urban consumers have begun pursuing direct relationships with rural and periurban producers in an effort to secure trustworthy food 'at the source.' In China's late socialist context, problems of food safety are linked to prevailing discourses of social and moral crisis, as well as to popular distrust of state regulation. Through face-to-face relationships, consumers are attempting to personalize and clarify the relations of production behind their daily meals. This project seeks to understand the nature of new farmer-consumer relationships, which are emerging across China's deep rural-urban divide and within the politically- and culturally-charged arena of food. By examining these relationships from the situated perspective of a Hangzhou restaurant, its producer networks, and its clientele, this project will investigate the larger political-economic and moral implications of new mobilizations, and new communities, developing around 'good food.'.
Naming Disorder: Psychiatry, Diagnosis and Literary Modernism in Russia and Germany, 1880 - 1929
My dissertation takes up the multiplicity of German classification systems for mental illness that developed under the aegis of urban university clinics during the second half of the 19th century. I suggest that these systems are the starting point for investigating the presence of diagnostic models, representations of psychiatric diagnosis and psychological disturbance in modernist literature in Germany and Russia between the 1880s and 1920s. By tracing patterns of diagnostic discourse in authors such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Arthur Schnitzler, Alfred Döblin and Gottfried Benn in Germany and Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Evreinov and Andrei Platonov in Russia, I argue for an overlooked resonance between evolving classificatory systems for mental illness and the parallel investigation of the forms, codes and structures shaping the pathology that repeatedly appears in these authors' works. By returning to psychodiagnostic models "lost" or "discarded" in the quest for standardization, my research asks: In what specific ways did the shifting terrain of psychological pathology provide a resource for literary exploration? How were different historical modes of conceptualizing psychological affliction manifested in a literary context and how did they change once there? What were the specific points of crossover between literary production and clinical evaluation and what more diffuse elements contributed to similarities between the two? Were there instances where literary diagnoses trickled back into clinical practice? A ten-month SSRC IDRF would allow me access to the rare print materials, unpublished case histories, manuscripts and correspondence available at archives across Germany and Russia.
Ethiopian Royal Vassals: Black Itinerancy in the Iberian Atlantic 1500-1650
My dissertation explores circulations of knowledge about African Christianity within the Iberian Atlantic during the first century and a half of Iberian expansion from 1509-1640. In the sixteenth century, hundreds (if not thousands) of free Afro-Iberians, some of them first generation Africans (manumitted slaves) acquired royal permits to embark in fleets to cross the ocean as vassals of the crown, that is, as Old Christians. The idea of "Christian Ethiopia" allowed crown bureaucrats, free blacks, and slaves to agree that Africans were entitled to claim an "Old" Christian status. Debates about "Christian Ethiopia" circulated amongst European missionaries, the Spanish crown, religious authorities, black individuals, and black religious brotherhoods in key urban spaces. The idea of Ethiopia came to life in books penned by learned clerics and the ambitious plans of universal monarchs trying to justify planetary expansion. But is also came alive in everyday lives of free blacks who participated in the activities of black religious brotherhoods that venerated "Ethiopian" saints in the port cities that constituted the Iberian Atlantic between 1500 and 1650 (and beyond). These brotherhoods created the conditions for black literacy and a black learned republic. I explore how itinerant free blacks served as cultural intermediaries, connecting urban black communities across the Atlantic and disseminating ideas about Christian Ethiopia and African Christianity, particularly in and between Seville (Spain), Veracruz (in present day Mexico), and Cartagena de Indias (in present day Colombia). My dissertation challenges a long-standing historiographical tradition that claims that Africans were considered the ultimate outsiders in the Spanish Monarchy, members of stained human lineages, and inassimilable converts.
Sweet Socialism in the Chocolate Factory: The Last Attempt to Create the New Soviet Person, 1985-1991
My dissertation investigates Perestroika, a period of intense reform in the Soviet Union that began under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 and ended when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. This study reframes new government policies as a response to what reformers perceived as a moral crisis that they set out to solve by reinvigorating socialism. This dissertation then asks one central question: How did Soviet people respond to reform? I answer this question through a microhistorical case study of the Red October Chocolate Factory in Moscow, which offers the opportunity to trace responses across the social spectrum, from the highest members of the Politburo to rank-and-file workers and their children. The primary analytical apparatus of this study is the concept of engagement. Drawing on ideas of historians Jochen Hellbeck and Igal Halfin developed for an earlier period in Soviet history, this concept allows us to consider a multiplicity of responses to reform, including belief and disbelief, support and criticism, as part of a rigorous conversation between the Soviet state and people. This study extends existing literature that frames Perestroika as an economic initiative aimed to revamp a flagging economy by emphasizing the moral and humanistic center of reform. Further, it offers a detailed empirical investigation of popular responses to reform that includes but is not limited to high ranking officials and the intelligentsia. It challenges the argument that the Soviet Union collapsed because nobody believed or cared about socialist. Instead, this study suggests that the Soviet collapse was an unintended consequence of reform. This dissertation offers a way to think about continuities across the 1991 quandary and the ways in which the last years of Soviet history remain relevant today, particularly with respect to contemporary moral discourse in the Russian Federation.
The Cancer War(d): Onco-Nationhood in Post-Traumatic Rwanda
In Africa, the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, rapidly expanding industrial and extractive economies, uncontrolled economic growth, environmental and lifestyle changes, and the rising age of populations with better access to medicine have occasioned rising rates of cancer. Rwanda's national cancer program has been hailed as a unique example of how to build clinical oncology into a public healthcare infrastructure. The twelve-month ethnographic study will address three sets of questions: 1. What historical, economic, social, and political factors have shaped the development of the country's cancer program? 2. How do local clinicians and patients experience cancer as a treatable chronic disease? And how is that experience affected by the development of a national oncology infrastructure and new biomedical technologies? 3. As an instance of the transnational private-public partnerships characteristic of global health interventions in postcolonial Africa, what successes, limitations, and challenges does this cancer program present for envisioning oncology programs elsewhere in the global south? What are the ethical, political, and epistemological stakes involved in different models of cancer care? This project will contribute to a new chapter in medical anthropology, one focused on rising rates of cancer in contemporary Africa. I shall argue that Rwanda's cancer project is an exercise in the construction of a new sense of sovereignty, rendered through the politics of life as onco-nationhood; that it is an effort to create a postcolonial polity whose citizen body is gifted care of a international caliber provided by a paternal state. In a critical moment of post-traumatic social reconstruction, national biomedicine is becoming the entity through which government seeks to fuse sovereign statehood and nationhood in the cause of a healthy Rwandan future. Theorizing this relationship holds at least one key to developing an anthropology of cancer in contemporary Africa.
The Art of Life at the Margins of Ürümchi: Aesthetics, Minoritarian Politics and the City in Chinese Central Asia
Following a series of riots in 2009, officials of Ürümchi, an ethnically-diverse border city in Northwest China, announced (1) plans to resettle 250,000 indigenous Turkic-Muslim (Uyghur) inhabitants from "slums" to state-subsidized public housing, (2) new incentives for migration to Han settlers from Eastern China, and (3) multi-million yuan investments in art projects across the city which address the official goal of "ethnic harmony." Routing my research through Uyghur and Han art collectives that have been created as supplements to this urban revision, this project will focus on the lived experience and cultural expression of these processes of cityscape revision. How is urban upheaval and resettlement shaping the future of a durable existence among the marginalized inhabitants of Ürümchi? How are artists who arrive in Ürümchi from different class and ethnic positions negotiating insider-outsider lines of demarcation? How does their repertoire of art practices and objects which they produce address the particular histories of the three million inhabitants of the city? Aimed at the intersection of urban studies, expressive culture, minority and migration politics, this research will consider the way late-Socialist Chinese planning policy is deployed and, in turn, how the embodied experience of the resulting upheaval gives rise to new forms of sociality and aesthetics.
Crafting the Self in the Shadow of the Turkish State: The Formation of Yurtsever Subjecthood in the 1990s
My research explores the building of the yurtsever (patriot) youth movement in the 1990s when the Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan - Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) mobilization was at its height in Turkey. I specifically focus on the formation of yurtsever subjecthood in the high school setting when Kurdish youth, whose parents were deemed "backward" and "ignorant", were invited to be part of "civilization" and participate in the project of building the Turkish nation. My research investigates the processes that constituted yurtsever subjecthood as a historical process of subject formation that rejected assimilation and instead chose to be a part of struggle for recognition, even at the cost of their own lives under state of emergency conditions. Today, the youth of the 1990s refer to themselves as the "lost generation" to highlight the massive loss of lives and tutunamayan (disconnected) attitude of survivors towards life. I suggest that this critical moment in the mobilization of Kurdish youth and their struggle for recognition speaks to us about how subjectivities challenged and also reconfigured the Turkish political landscape where their experience of difference and inequality continue to be neglected, denied, or uncounted. I combine in-depth and semi-structured interviews with students and teachers who attended Ziya Gökalp High School in Diyarbakir, one of the main centers of yurtsever youth mobilization, archival research of PKK publications, as well as auto-ethnography, to examine the practices and discourses that shaped young people receptive to the PKK's mobilization efforts. Together, these research approaches will enable me to interpret in what ways the political practices of yurtsever youth challenged and reshaped the Kurdish movement in particular and Turkish politics in general. I expect that my study will contribute to interpreting the production of "the political" and also to comparative understandings of political mobilization and subject formation.
Disobedient Mountains and Rivers of Revolt: Occupation and Insurgency by Other Means in Turkish Kurdistan
My dissertation research deals with the politicization of the physical landscape in Dersim, a Kurdish-Alevi province in eastern Turkey that has been one of the major centers of Leftist and Kurdish politics in the last century. I focus on the various modes of discursive and material struggles between the inhabitants of Dersim, state, and corporate actors over the region’s landscape. I examine how inhabitants locate politics in the physical landscape, working to forensically examine the land in order to imbue it with economic, political, and cultural value and subsequently to guard it. The state in turn responds to this politicization through attempts to contain resistance through strategies such as the building of an extensive network of military posts and hydroelectric dams which reproduce the topography of the region as isolated and contained and submerge material traces of sacred landscapes and past struggles. I accomplish this research through ethnographic fieldwork in three area villages, by following the itineraries of activists, and through archival research in state archives as well as drawing on the archives on the Kurdish conflict that are continuously being created and maintained by Dersim inhabitants as well as the other actors involved in the resistance. I ultimately ask how we can understand the physical landscape of Dersim as both a medium and mediator of political struggle and political identity. The political life of landscape in Dersim provides an opportunity to problematize the urban bias in prevalent analyses of how politics works in relation to space. My dissertation will produce an analysis that brings rural extraction and warfare to the heart of understandings of spatial politics, and the labor of resistance to the center of understandings of production of space in insurgent landscapes, both economically and politically.