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.
Locating Non-Violence: An Ethnographic Research of the Contemporary Palestinian Political Culture
Atlantic Crescent: Afro-Muslim Internationalism, Anti-Colonialism, and Transnational Community Formation, 1955-1990
This dissertation explores the creation of international Afro-Muslim networks as they were created in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the British Caribbean. I posit that beginning in 1955, in the midst of a period of rapid decolonization from European imperialism, there emerged a distinct Afro-Muslim identity that was defined by its refusal to be limited by national boundaries. This identity was formed by mutual conversations among Afro-Muslim communities throughout the Atlantic basin regarding the best strategies for fighting colonialism. As the nature of colonialism changed over this forty-five year period – from its focus on European decolonization; to American imperialism throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East; and then finally to an understanding of the urban inner city as a colonized and occupied space – Afro-Muslim understandings of how to position themselves vis-à-vis these varying forms of colonialism changed in tandem. From 1955 to 1990, international engagement among Atlantic Afro-Muslim communities was critical to the formation of an anti-imperial, Afro-Muslim political identity for both Muslims and, at times, non-Muslims as well. By engaging internationally, these groups were able to discursively and actively assert that they were not powerless minorities, but instead, part of a powerful, global majority. The critical intersection between Islam and race in this period, therefore, presents itself as crucial for challenging global and local power structures.
It Takes More than a Village: Polycentric Governance and Local Health Systems in Central America
This project aims to understand how institutional conditions shape the performance of local health systems in developing countries. The problem motivating the project is the inability of health systems in many countries to prevent disparities and human suffering. Decentralization reforms, premised on local institutions providing public services better than central governments, are a common response to this problem. However, theoretical arguments for health sector decentralization are underdeveloped and empirical results inconsistent on whether reformed systems produce healthier communities. This project's guiding question is: Why do some local health systems perform better than others? I propose to address this question in two steps. First, I build on the idea of polycentric governance to develop a context-sensitive theory linking governance structure to community health through individual and organizational behavior. Specifically, I hypothesize that decentralized governance will improve performance only in health systems with high densities of ties among local actors and strong organizational links across levels of government. Second, I will assess this theory through a comparative subnational research design involving original data collection in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. I focus on decentralization reforms because they change the composition and augment the powers of institutions involved in community health; in short, they change governance structure. Leveraging this external variation and grounding my project in ideas of polycentricity allows me to systematically investigate the effects of governance structure on community health. My research in Honduras is supported by the National Science Foundation, and I am requesting funding from the SSRC to expand my work to Guatemala and Nicaragua; this support will enable a deeper assessment of my theory and help improve our collective understanding of governance and community health in developing countries.
Japanese Recession of the 1990's and its Lessons for Advanced Industrial Countries
Borderland Sovereignties: Race, Class, and Nation in Patagonia’s Nation-State Building, Argentina and Chile, 1840-1925
Geographies of Armed Protest: Transnational Cold War, Latin American Internationalism and the New Left in the Southern Cone (1966-1976).
Policemen, Political Actors and Criminals in Argentina: causes and consequences of a risky triangle
An Unresolved Inheritance: Postcolonial State Formation and Indigenous Communities in Chimborazo, Ecuador, 1820-1875
From Head-Measuring to Festival Gazing: Thinking about Race in Cuba, 1878-1940
From Democratic Revolution to Massacre in Venezuela: Popular Consciousness and the Emergence of the Multitude in Caracas, 1958-1989
Rebuilding Technologically Competitive Industries: Lessons from Chile’s and Argentina’s Wine Industry Restructuring
The Production of Urban "Knowledges:" The Favelas of Rio de Janeiro as Sites of Intervention
Back to the Homeland: Neofascism, Precarity and Crisis in the New Borderlands of 'Fortress Europe'
In this project I explore the rise of nativist, xenophobic and neo-fascist sentiments among Italian youth since the 2008 crisis in the newly opened borderlands of Central Europe, by investigating the booming back-to-the-land movements in the decaying border-town of Trieste. While in 2007 the EU free trade area expanded beyond the old Iron Curtain borders, in 2008 Europe was hit by the most damaging economic crisis in decades. Since then, Trieste unemployed or precariously employed youth (precari/e) have reopened hundreds of abandoned gardens along the edge of the newly opened border to Slovenia as community centers, collective gardens and ecological villages. In order to deal with both professional and personal crises, they claim to go back to the "madre terra" (mother Earth/motherland), and are simultaneously renegotiating their relationships with both nature and nation, land and homeland. Their opposition to Berlusconi-era neoliberal policies and back-to-the-land spirit today coexist with growing xenophobic sentiments, and many among them support the nativist group Trieste Libera (Free Trieste), arguing for the independence of the city from Italy and reclaiming its hinterland, now part of Slovenia and Croatia. I will thus engage in an ethnography of new communities opened by Italian-speaking youth along and across the old border, in order to investigate the ways in which the production of new relationships between the "Italian" and the Eastern European "other" is remaking these post-Iron Curtain borderlands in everyday life. In the context the recent rightward shift in many parts of "Fortress Europe", my project builds on an understanding of borderlands as inescapable spaces of encounter with difference, critically challenging reductive views of contemporary Europe as a monolithic fortress.
Art and Identity in Colonial Oaxaca: Dominicans, Spaniards, and Mixtecs at the Convento of Yanhuitlan
From Shipmates to Soldiers: Emerging Black Identites in Montevideo, 1770-1850
Guerrilla Marketing: Information War and the Demobilization of FARC Rebels in Colombia
Guerilla Marketing: Information War and the Demobilization of FARC Rebels
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.
One Homeland or Two? Territorialization and the Repatriation Decision Among the Mongolian Kazakh Diaspora
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.
New Markets, New Bodies: An Ethnography of Brazil’s Beauty Industry
Porous Empire: Foreign Visitors and the post-Stalin Transformation of the Soviet Union
This project will study the interaction among foreign visitors, the Soviet state and Soviet society in the post-Stalin era. It aims to reconstruct both the socio-cultural impact of the tens of millions of foreigners who visited the Soviet Union between the late 1950s and the early 1980s, and the dilemmas the Soviet authorities faced as they negotiated the clashing imperatives of Cold War cultural diplomacy and their fears of foreign ideological and moral contamination. By looking at a series of case studies including Soviet attempts to control foreign traffic and visitors' efforts evade them, the impact of foreign travel on the Soviet western borderlands, the experience of foreign students in Soviet universities, and foreign support for the Soviet Jewish immigration movement, I will argue that the encounters between Soviet citizens and foreigners in the post-Stalin era constituted a vast transnational network that injected new ideas, identities, fashions and patterns of consumption into a hitherto closed society. The existence of this network and the Soviet failure to sever or control it weakened the ideological control mechanisms of the Soviet party-state and demonstrated the extent to which the post-Stalin Soviet Union became enmeshed in the emerging global regime of increased human, information and capital flows. The Soviet experience of foreign travel and its contribution to the disintegration of the socialist project constitutes therefore a case study of globalization and its impact on the late 20th century erosion of authoritarian regimes and non-capitalist social orders. By studying the Soviet Union's foreign encounters, this project aims to place the post-Stalin era in a global comparative context, to contribute to the growing literature on the influence of transnational forces on Soviet history, and to integrate the Soviet experience into our understanding of the history of the present-day globalized world order.
Mosques, Schools, and Meeting Rooms: Relations between Arab-Educated Elites and the Political Establishment in Kano, Nigeria
My dissertation research focuses on the professional trajectories of “returnees” – religious elites with Arab university degrees – in Kano, Nigeria from 1960 the present. Nigerian returnees desire to Islamize state and society, emphasizing a “pure” Islam defined largely on the basis of Qur’anic interpretations and Islamic theologies that are uncommon in West Africa but dominant in the Arab Middle East. But Nigerian returnees are also a heterogeneous group whose members, in different ways, shape debates about Islam's place in politics and successfully compete with local clerics by popularizing alternative notions of Muslim orthodoxy and global solidarity. Through a focus on democracy, urbanity, and new media, I ask how returnees transform their background and credentials into personal charisma or institutional influence and how their interactions with other Muslims reshape prevailing definitions of Islamic knowledge. I hypothesize that Kano’s intra-Muslim debates, widespread Arabic literacy, shari’a system, independent media, and turbulent politics create spaces for Islamic activism that are particularly receptive to the knowledge and skills returnees possess, competencies as varied as the returnees themselves. This research addresses interrelated concerns in religious studies, anthropology, and political science. Within religious studies, this project will contribute to studies of the impact of transnational religious flows. Within anthropology, my work will increase understanding of urban religion and the behavior of Muslim actors in young democracies. Within political science, I will engage studies of religion’s role in state-society relations in Africa. Using methods of participant-observation, interviews, and media analysis to clarify how returnees make use of their credentials in teaching, theological discourse, and political activism, this research explores the relationship between local politics, sectarianism, and a global religious community.
Dengue in the Landscape: Waste Management and Disease Ecologies in Urban Nicaragua
In the past year, public health authorities in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua have begun using dump trucks and megaphones to stop the spread of dengue fever. In targeted campaigns, doctors, garbage collectors, and community members exhort homeowners to discard the piles of garbage in their homes. They warn that dengue-carrying mosquitoes breed in the pools of rainwater that form in these piles, adding that there is neither a cure nor an effective vaccine for dengue. The anti-dengue campaigns have brought waste and the urban landscape to the forefront of local health discourse. But although they were conceived by local people, the campaigns have not created a consensus among the residents about how to stop dengue from spreading. Instead, they have aggravated social divisions among health workers, city garbage collectors, and the garbage scavengers who survive by collecting items in streets and neighborhood dumps and selling them to recycling companies. These divisions have arisen not over how to define disease, but over how to foster community participation in public health, how to manage space, and how to balance resources and hazards on the landscape. In short, they are about the human role in disease ecology. Halting the spread of infectious diseases is now a major international health priority, but there exist few studies of how people in marginalized urban communities exchange and deploy knowledge about these diseases. My study of waste management in Ciudad Sandino will ask how actors explain disease ecology by drawing not only on biomedical categories but also on everyday experiences with dengue in the landscape. This research will provide a practice-based study of how citizens blend biomedical and experiential knowledge into historically and politically situated disease ecologies.