Blumenthal, Scott Adam, City U. of New York, Graduate Center, New York, NY - To aid research on Reconstructing Woody Cover and Habitat Heterogeneity in Modern and Ancient East African Environments with Stable Isotopes,' supervised by Dr. Thomas W. Plummer
SCOTT A. BLUMENTHAL, then a student at City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, New York, was awarded a grant in April 2013 to aid research on 'Reconstructing Woody Cover and Habitat Heterogeneity in Modern and Ancient East African Environments with Stable Isotopes,' supervised by Dr. Thomas Plummer. Environmental dynamics are thought to have driven numerous fundamental human evolutionary innovations during the Pleistocene (~2.5-1 million years ago). Paleoenvironmental records from northern Kenya and northern Ethiopia suggest that hominin experienced increasingly open, heterogeneous environmental conditions in East Africa. Unfortunately, our understanding of regional variability in environmental change is severely biased by interpretations from a small sample of sites, and there are few empirical records to assess heterogeneity in the fossil record. The first aim of this study was to understand vegetation variation across a wide range of modern environments using stable carbon isotopes in soils from national parks and reserves in Uganda. This provides a template for reconstructing vegetation heterogeneity in the fossil record. The second aim of this study was to reconstruct Pleistocene environments to understand the record of human evolution on the Homa Peninsula, southwestern Kenya. It appears that paleoenvironments in this region were characterized by an abundance of grass during periods of fossil mammal preservation, which indicates that unlike other regions there is no evidence for a directional shift toward more open habitats. These results suggest that environmental hypotheses of human evolution must account for regional variability in environmental change across East Africa.
Radeva, Mariya Ivanova, City U. of New York, Graduate Center, New York, NY - To aid research on 'Frontiers of Progress, Landscapes of Enchantment: Sustainable Development in Postsocialist Europe,' supervised by Dr. Katherine Verdery
MARIYA I. RADEVA, then a student at City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, New York, received funding in October 2010 to aid research on 'Frontiers of Progress, Landscapes of Enchantment: Sustainable Development in Postsocialist Europe,' supervised by Dr. Katherine Verdery. This dissertation project focused on one territorially exceptional space -- Strandzha Nature Park in Bulgaria -- in order to ask how the creation of 'sustainable' public goods such as nature parks since the 1990s has commodified previously non-commodified objects and how this process is resisted or contested. Data collected through interviews with experts, archival research, and participant observation suggest an uneven temporality of the process, beginning in late socialism and continuing today. Yet a critical transformation of value occurred in the 1990s, when aid from foreign development agencies was made conditional upon nature conservation. Swapping differently valued objects in the then expanding green market altered the macroeconomic terrain. Different mechanisms were used to disburse large amounts of project funding to reform land tenure, build civil society, and preserve the environment. While never a singular force, investing new value in nature has had fascinating effects. A coalition of green NGOs emerged, who vie for legislative power and manifest as a civic social movement. The localities cut out for conservation experienced dramatic change because devalued socialist assets have been revalued as natural and cultural heritage. Such revaluation articulated with the creation of new forms of global intangible commodities in UNESCO's world heritage preservation.
G'sell, Brady Lyford, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Relational Subjects: Women's Child-Support Claims and the Remaking of Political Identity,' supervised by Dr. Adam Ashforth
Preliminary abstract: My research examines women's child support claims to explore constructions of political identities in South Africa. Through ethnographic research, I will investigate the claims women make upon multiple people and institutions for various forms of support so I that may track how citizenship is worked out in everyday practices, themselves intimately tied up with kinship bonds. In South Africa the state's support of a child must be mediated by a caregiver and, conversely, the caregiver's needs only garner support insofar as they affect the needs of the child. I examine the conditions produced by the legal and social imaginations of the child-in-need-of-support in which political recognition is predicated on proving a relationship to a child, and I explore how these conditions impact the lives of the women and families who care for children. My research asks what new kinds of relationships to the state are formed and what new forms of political subjectivity emerge that challenge the presumed centrality of the individual within theories of citizenship. By articulating an intersection of citizenship, family, and state, my research will bridge the analytical divide between the domestic and the political and provide a reconceptualization of the political subject in terms of relationality.
Voorhees, Hannah Huber, U. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - To aid research on 'Co-Management of Alaskan Marine Mammals: Dilemmas of Indigenous Legitimacy in the Age of Environmental Risk,' supervised by Dr. Adriana Petryna
HANNAH H. VOORHEES, then a student at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was awarded funding in October 2010 to aid research on 'Co-Management of Alaskan Marine Mammals: Dilemmas of Indigenous Legitimacy in the Age of Environmental Risk,' supervised by Dr. Adriana Petryna. This dissertation research focuses on collaborations between Alaska Native subsistence hunters and governmental biologists conducting marine mammal research in the Bering Strait region amidst accelerating loss of arctic sea ice. The mandates of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act have increased scientific demand for information about the changing Arctic environment. Biologists seek the knowledge, skills, and cooperation of Inupiat and Siberian Yupiit hunters, who are uniquely skilled at locating, capturing, and tagging animals traditionally harvested for subsistence. These skills, along with Traditional Ecological Knowledge and community support, have become valuable resources in a new Arctic 'economy of loss.' Environmental monitoring is a valuable asset, and increasingly, a subjective mode of being on the land (and sea) for Alaska Natives. Yet hunters, scientists, and bureaucrats continue to negotiate a 'fair price' for indigenous contributions, in both economic and, political terms.
Koga, Yukiko, Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Modernity and Urban Space in the Cities of Manchuria,' supervised by Dr. Marilyn J. Ivy
YUKIKO KOGA, while a student at Columbia University in New York, New York, received funding in January 2002 to aid research on modernity and urban space in the cities of Manchuria, under the supervision of Dr. Marilyn J. Ivy. This research into China's post-coloniality and Japan's post-imperiality-erased or silenced during the countries' respective postwar eras-took place in Harbin, Changchun, and Dalian, three major cities in northeast China, as well as in Japan, the former metropole of 'Manchukuo.' In each city, Koga examined the aftereffects of colonial modernity in the construction of post-1945 China and Japan. The focus of the research in Harbin was the intricate play between memories of the colonial past and those of the Cultural Revolution, both of which were triggered by the (re)presentation of colonial-era structures through a recent government decision to renovate and protect them. The main findings in Changchun concerned the ways in which local Chinese and Japanese visitors experienced and interpreted the architectural remainders of 'Manchukuo'-specifically, Japanese visitors' reactions to their encounters with these historical artifacts, Chinese locals' views of them, and the content of history education at schools in Changchun. The research in Dalian highlighted the Chinese and Japanese encounter in the present as a result of their deepening economic relations in a city where 60 percent of foreign investment is Japanese. What it meant to work for Japanese corporations in a city that had once experienced Japanese occupation was explored through interviews, in conjunction with an examination of how the Dalian city government located and presented the presence of the Japanese within the image and future of the city.
Ayuandina, Sherria Puteri, Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'Restoring Virginity: Hymenoplasty, Value Negotiations, and Sexual Knowledge among Migrant Muslim Women in the Netherlands,' supervised by Dr. John R. Bowen
Preliminary abstract: In many societies, unmarried women must negotiate the tension between premarital sexual desires and social expectations to maintain virginity before marriage (Eich 2010, Buskens 1999, Parla 2001). With recent developments in medical technology and the rise of opportunities for premarital sexual behavior, young women who believe that they no longer possess an intact hymen can now undergo hymenoplasty surgery, which alters the hymen ring to minimize the aperture. While hymenoplasty draws its significance from socially-constructed values of virginity, there is a lack of ethnographic exploration of the phenomenon. Studies on hymenoplasty to date have been primarily conducted by medical researchers who focus on the surgical procedure and doctors' ethical dilemmas. They often assume that the desire for this surgery is evidence of women's oppression. Most ignore the social motivations of the female patients, the intergenerational networks among women of migrant background, and the 'migrant-native' dynamics between the patient and the doctors (Bhugra 1998, Parla 2001). I will investigate the complicated and contradictory social aspects of hymenoplasty as experienced and negotiated by Muslim women patients from migrant background in the Netherlands. The surgery will provide a site to observe the negotiation of sexual values surrounding female virginity between the young women and other members of the community of her background, between the patients, the family, and the doctors, as well as among the doctors themselves, and thereby explore the negotiation of values and of control of sexuality in a pluralistic setting.
Park, Choong-Hwan, U. of California, Santa Barbara, CA - To aid research on 'Serving Peasant Family Meals to Beijing Urbanites: The City and the Country in Post-Mao China,' supervised by Dr. Mayfair Yang
CHOONG-HWAN PARK, then a student at University of California, Santa Barbara, California, received funding in December 2005 to aid research on 'Serving Peasant Family Meals to Beijing Urbanites: The City and the Country in Post-Mao China,' supervised by Dr. Mayfair Yang. Over the last two decades China has witnessed a unique form of countryside tourism called nongjiale (peasant family delights) in which Chinese urban middle-classes travel down to rural villages and consume rustic meals in farm guesthouses run by peasant families. This dissertation fieldwork explored: 1) what socio-economic implications nongjiale tourism has for China's rural village life and development; 2) how and in what politico-economic and cultural conditions nongjiale has become a locus of authenticity and nostalgia in the imagination of Chinese urban middle-classes; and 3) the broader social-historical context of post-Mao China in which nongjiale has become a socially meaningful and economically lucrative tourism commodity. The research finding is that nongjiale is not simply a symptom of 'the tourist gaze' looking for authenticity and escape from urban drudgeries but also a crucial marker of the emergence of a new cultural-political regime in post Mao China, a regime that can be conceptualized in terms of the contrast between Maoist China's emphasis on production and asceticism and post-Mao China's promotion of consumption and hedonism. This post-Mao regime of 'leisure and pleasure' not only informs the desire and fantasy of the Chinese people today but also shapes the discursive formation of rural-urban fault-lines and identities central to forging the cultural hierarchy and power structure in post-Mao China.
Elliott, Luther C., New York U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Goa Trance and the Narrative Construction of Self and Community in Byron Bay, Australia,' supervised by Dr. Steven Feld
LUTHER C. ELLIOTT, while a student at New York University in New York, New York, received funding in July 2002 to aid ethnographic research on the musical genre and social movement known as Goa trance in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, under the supervision of Dr. Steven Feld. Investigating the processes by which a generic ritual form had become localized in Byron Bay, Elliott examined the musical and social practices through which a music that had emerged from U.S. 'hippie culture' and been imported by European settlers in the early 1990s had been resignified-despite anti-American and anti-European sentiment in the area-as part of an authentic Australian counterculture. He explored the practices by which diverse participants had come to feel connected to a community and to reconstruct their life projects in relation to the conventionalized sensual and social orientations into which Goa trancers are socialized. Consonant with Goa trance's orientation toward indigenous peoples, this musical subculture was found to have given experiential authority to a white Australian connection to the land, articulated through popularized notions of Aboriginal 'dreaming' and spiritual investments in land. As a reorientation of personal identification away from dominant themes in Australian national culture and toward a global network of trance music production and a romanticized indigenous history, Goa trance offers a window into the uneasy interpenetration of commodity and cultural production that complicates the contemporary creation of alternative lifestyles.
Taddei, Renzo R., Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'The Metapragmatics of Political Disputes Over Water in Ceara, Northeast Brazil,' supervised by Dr. Lambros Comitas
RENZO R. TADDEI, then a student at Columbia University, New York, New York, received a grant in October 2003 to aid research on 'The Metapragmatics of Political Disputes Over Water in Ceara, Northeast Brazil,' supervised by Dr. Lambros Comitas. This research focused on the socio-semiotic dimensions of new participatory arenas for water allocation in the Jaguaribe Valley, in the semi-arid hinterlands of the State of Ceará, in the Brazilian Northeast. The field research, carried out during 2004, involved over one hundred interviews with farmers, community leaders, politicians, technicians, government agents, individuals knowledgeable in traditional rain forecast techniques (locally called 'rain prophets'), journalists and local researchers in the areas of water management and meteorology. Additionally, rain prophets' meetings were filmed, as were basin-level water committee meetings in the Jaguaribe, Banabuiú and Curú Valleys, meetings of the State Water Resources Council and the international climate outlook fora that take place in Fortaleza. The research was complemented by broad-reaching archival research in local newspapers. A central element being studied, namely the disputes for authority and legitimacy to lead collective action, in committee discussions as well as in daily productive activities (like farming decisions), was addressed through the documentation and analysis of how authoritative discourses were created in the political game. Three institutionalized rituals were picked as case studies: the annual rain prophets' meeting, the climate outlook forum of Fortaleza, and the water allocation meeting that takes place in the Jaguaribe Valley. In each of these cases, the research gathered evidence of how semiotic manipulations - that is, transformation of meanings associated to environmental issues - are used strategically or are 'bricolaged' towards envisioned goals, by different stakeholders involved in the political process.