Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Geography, University of North Carolina / Chapel Hill

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2007
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Geography, University of Arizona
Embodied Histories: Women, Religion and Family Decisions in Leh, Ladakh, India

The fertility of the female body is at the intersection of electoral democracy and identity politics: when political actors bring demographic competition between “communities” into discussions of political control, do political concerns begin to inform individual and family choices made in regard to family planning? My research examines life histories in India to determine whether such discourses and debates affect personal and family decisions, and whether and in what way decisions are reframed in explicitly political terms in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir State, India. The population in Leh district is split between Buddhists and Muslims. In my dissertation research, I will begin from these questions: 1) What marriage and family choices are Ladakhis making, what are the factors behind those choices, and how does this compare with their parents’ and grandparents’ choices? 2) How do private motivations and decisions compare to their public representation? 3) To what degree are families of Buddhists and Muslims actually interrelated, and if so, to an increasing or decreasing degree? I will use a multi-method ethnographic approach to examine how political narratives and changing conceptions of identity and the state affect spouse selection and family planning decisions in Leh. I will combine extensive survey work on marriage and fertility decision-making with in-depth life history interviews on individual choices. My research will culminate in community-based ethnographies incorporating local participation and reflection on historical trends and the community histories embedded in family genealogies. With this three-pronged methodology, I will address the choices being made today (surveys); how those choices are interpreted by individuals reflecting on their own lives (interviews); and how discourses of Buddhist/Muslim interrelatedness and difference are produced and contested (reflexive community-based ethnographies).