Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Yale-NUS College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Michigan
Differences to Blame: Narrative, Agency and Responsibility in War, Sorcery, and Suffering in Suriname

My project seeks to understand the influence of different cultural logics of accounting responsibility for misfortune on conceptions of ethnic difference in Suriname. I inquire into the ways people within the Indo-Surinamese and Afro-Surinamese communities’ differently narrate human and supernatural agency and responsibility for misfortune—particularly for the Surinamese civil war of 1986-1992. My project asks how cultural traditions differently construct authoritative evidence of human and supernatural agency to explain misfortune and assess the consequences of action and the meanings of contingency. By examining how Indo-Surinamese Hindus and Muslims and Afro-Surinamese Traditionalists and Christians differently attribute agency to explain personal sufferings like illness or national misfortune like war, I can learn how these assessments of responsibility are related to ethical narratives that associate moral dispositions with ethnic traits. How these interpretations are linked to ethnic difference should then shed light on the social objectification of ethnicity. I will examine how differences in accounting responsibility inflect ideologies of ethnicity to shape the ways members of ethnic collectivities conceive of themselves and interact with others. In doing so, I can address foundational issues about culture and social difference in social science, developing an action centered approach to understanding the social practices of difference.