Nsabimana, Natacha, Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Violence, Subject Formation and Humanitarian Discourse in Post-Gacaca Rwanda,' supervised by Dr. Mahmood Mamdani
Preliminary abstract: My project takes the Gacaca trials in Rwanda as a point of entry and asks three main sets of questions: 1) how can we understand the processes and implications of interpellating people as perpetrators and survivors? What are the legal, political, and social dimensions of this subject formation? What new possibilities and barriers do these different subjectivities produce and foreclose? 2) How can we understand the everyday afterlife of violence? And finally 3) how does this 'local' Rwandan project that deploys a particular understanding of genocide articulate within a larger metanarrative on universal human rights and 'humanitarian reason'? The first set of questions examines the consequences of the legal and political institutionalization of Rwandans into the categories of perpetrators and survivors brought forth by the Gacaca trials and the kinds of political communities and lived social realities and subject positions such a process creates on the ground. That is, this project also interrogates how Rwandans inhabit these legal categorizations. What kinds of sensibilities and lived experiences are being produced in the process? The second question centers on the afterlife of violence. I will explore the specter of violence in the everyday life of post-genocide Rwanda. In other words, the project is an exploration of the affective afterlife of violence and of subject formation in the aftermath of the Gacaca trials. Finally, the third question looks specifically at the Gacaca courts in relation to specific tropes of humanitarian reason.
D'Avella, Nicholas John, U. of California, Davis, CA - To aid research on 'From Banks to Bricks: Architecture, Finance, and Neighborhood Life in Buenos Aires, Argentina,' supervised by Dr. Donald L. Donham
NICHOLAS J. D'AVELLA, then a student of University of California, Davis, California, received a grant in October 2008 to aid research on 'From Banks to Bricks: Architecture, Finance, and Neighborhood Life in Buenos Aires, Argentina,' supervised by Dr. Donald L. Donham. Between January 2009 and April 2010, the grantee conducted research aimed at understanding how architects and neighborhood residents work to utilize, resist, or redirect the effects of new real estate investment practices that are remaking the material landscape of Buenos Aires. Fieldwork in the Architecture school at the University of Buenos Aires consisted of: interviews with practicing architects and real estate developers; observation of professional real estate seminars and interviews with associated market experts; interviews with several small investors who were purchasing or considering the purchase of real estate as investments; and observation and in-depth interviews with the members of various neighborhood groups working to change the city's building code or influence state regulations in their respective neighborhoods. Research findings indicate a series of disjunctures between various conceptions of what a building should be. Each group of actors had their own culturally distinct way of relating to buildings, and these differing cultures surrounding the same objects generated conflicts over the form that urban construction should take. By studying these various ways of thinking about and relating to buildings, this project attempts to better illustrate the forces which contribute to the formation of the urban environment.
Stoetzer, Bettina Yvonne, U. of California, Santa Cruz, CA - To aid research on 'At the Edges of the City: An Ethnography of Affective Landscapes and Racial Geographies in Berlin,' supervised by Dr. Lisa Beth Rofel
BETTINA STOETZER, then a student at University of California, Santa Cruz, California, received funding in October 2006 to aid research on 'At the Edges of the City: An Ethnography of Affective Landscapes and Racial Geographies in Berlin,' supervised by Dr. Lisa Rofel. The city of Berlin and the surrounding East German countryside together make an intriguing site to explore how boundaries are made and remade in a changing Europe. While debates about urban 'segregation' and 'ghettoization' proliferate in the city, Berlin simultaneously prides itself on being the 'greenest city' in Europe. Yet Berlin's many landscapes -- its urban districts, parks, green spaces, and rural edges -- offer both a trap and a refuge for different populations. Conducting research with immigrant and refugee communities living at the edge of the city -- as well as communities in one of Berlin's officially declared 'districts with special need for development' -- this one-year ethnographic project examines how contemporary urban and rural landscapes in and around Berlin become important in struggles over borders and thus in projects of inclusion and exclusion. Through interviews, informal conversations and participant observation, the project explores the following questions: 1) How do immigrants and refugees, city planners, public policy makers, park rangers, East Germans, and tourists transform urban and rural landscapes in and around Berlin through their planning, regulation, use, and experience of these spaces? 2) How and to what extent does the transformation of Berlin's urban and rural landscapes (and 'nature spaces' in particular) efface old divisions, reinscribe past histories and construct new ethnic, national and racialized forms of belonging? And 3) what are the various folk geographies and discrepant ways in which immigrants and other local actors that are situated at various social margins, experience, imagine and remake the material environments in which they live?
Hoag, Colin Brewster, U. of California, Santa Cruz, CA - To aid research on 'Emerging Water Cultures: Water Wealth, Soil Erosion, and Nationalism in Lesotho,' supervised by Dr. Anna Tsing
Preliminary abstract: The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is a multi-billion dollar effort to transfer water from the mountains of Lesotho to the arid industrial areas around Johannesburg, South Africa. With declining employment opportunities for Lesotho's citizens in South Africa, 'white gold' is figured by Project supporters as the export commodity that will free Lesotho from economic dependence. However, tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the Project and acute soil erosion threatens to compromise the viability of the project in its entirety, calling into question this national future imaginary. As Project supporters struggle to maintain the image of Lesotho's water future, soil conservation programs collectively known as Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) are being implemented by the LHWP, which will attempt to reform land use management practices that are currently controlled by chiefs. Yet, the rates and causes of soil erosion are notoriously difficult to measure and a long history of ineffective and even harmful soil conservation programs in Lesotho suggests that ICM will not have the final word. Competing ideas about what water means for Lesotho, and what water does as it passes through soils, have distinct implications for social organization, cultural identity, and political authority. This dissertation project tracks these relationships between changing water imaginaries and their consequences, using ethnographic methods to discern emerging water cultures in Lesotho's water-export era.
Milligan, Lauren A., U. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ - To aid 'Comparative Analysis of Primate Milk Composition: Ecology, Ontogeny, and Phylogeny,' supervised by Dr. Mary C. Stiner
LAUREN A. MILLIGAN, then a student at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, received funding in December 2005, to aid research on 'Comparative Analysis of Primate Milk Composition: Ecology, Ontogeny, and Phylogeny,' supervised by Dr. Mary C. Stiner. Human milk composition is argued to be unique among primates because of rapid postnatal brain growth in human infants. Like other human life history traits, milk composition has a primate foundation. Features may be shared among all primates, between closely-related primates, or between primates with similar life history traits (e.g. body size). Milk samples were obtained from 14 species of anthropoids (apes and monkeys), of which five were wild-living. Milk was assayed for proximate (fat, lactose, protein, total solids, minerals, total gross energy) and fatty acid composition to test the null hypothesis of a generalized anthropoid milk composition. Larger body size and longer lactation in apes may have selected for a consistent milk composition, buffered from environmental fluctuations. Faster growth rates among New World monkeys may have selected for milk with more energy provided by protein and higher concentrations of medium chain fatty acids. Fatty acids integral to brain growth varied only with respect to maternal diet. Wild-living species with no source of these fatty acids had virtually equal amounts in milk, despite variation in brain size. Results do not support the null hypothesis or the suggestion that human milk composition is species-specific. Human milk fits well within the larger ape pattern.
Milligan, Lauren A., Richard P. Bazinet. 2008. Evolutionary Modifications of Human Milk composition: Evidence from Long-Chain Polyunsatured Fatty Acid Composition of Anthropoid Milks. Journal of Human Evolution 55(6):1086-1095.
Carter, Jon H., Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Gangs and Media in Honduras,' supervised by Dr. Michael Taussig
JON H. CARTER, then a student at Columbia University, New York, New York, was awarded a grant in May 2005 to aid research on 'Legacies of Organized Crime: An Ethnography of Crime and Sovereignty in Honduras,' supervised by Dr. Michael Taussig. The research examines criminality and violence in contemporary Honduras, focusing on Honduran street gangs and the state-sponsored campaigns to eliminate them. Situated in the context of Zero Tolerance policing strategies and mass detentions that have crippled the national prison system in Honduras over the last ten years, the project works through the revulsion and spectacle framing the event in popular venues in order to explore the ways in which the gangs' ridicule of corruption in state politics has obliquely established the conditions for a new language of resistance in the face of familiar specters of totalitarianism that accompany moments of crisis in small states dismantled by neoliberalism and consumed by the free trade juggernaut. The project centers around ethnographic portraits of life in the urban barrios as much as behind prison walls, examining individual life histories entangled in awkward ethical and moral inversions that have characterized the struggle of armed youth against extermination initiatives as much as their own absorption into wider networks of illegal activity also constituting criminalized and targeted communities living underground. The work contextualizes state violence against gangs in the present by tracing a history of the role played by enemies of the state in promoting the consolidation of state power from the 19th century to present.
Seaver, Nicholas Patrick, U. of California, Irvine, CA - To aid research on 'Computing Taste: The Making of Algorithmic Music Recommendation,' supervised by Dr. William M. Maurer
Preliminary abstract: Cultural life online is marked by the presence of enormous libraries of material, from the archives of newspapers to social network updates to instant-streaming music. Algorithmic filtering systems, implemented in search engines, recommender systems, and other personalization schemes, have emerged as essential complements to this proliferation of items in databases. These filters play an increasingly important role in contouring cultural life online, but their precise workings and the motivations behind their design are often obscure. Through a multi-sited ethnographic study of academic and industry researchers in music recommendation, this study investigates the sociocultural, political, legal, and economic contexts in which filtering algorithms are designed. How do these contexts influence the design of computational systems? How are engineers' theories about taste and users' listening practices operationalized in code? How do designers of algorithms mediate between the popular understandings of musical taste as something ineffably subjective and computation as rigorously objective? By better understanding how filtering algorithms emerge from cultural worlds and treating engineers as human actors with complex motivations, we can grasp how these increasingly influential systems take shape and change over time and more effectively engage in productive critique of their consequences.
Halawa, Mateusz Pawel, New School U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Inhabiting Postsocialism: The Rise of Mortgages in Poland,' supervised by Dr. Ann Laura Stoler
Preliminary abstract: In the recent years mortgages, newly introduced in Poland, have been contributing to the rearranging of property relations, stimulating construction, and enabling middle class aspirations in this postsocialist society. There are more than 1.5 million active contracts today, and there exists no significant group of people who have completed their payments. The typical horizon of household indebtedness reaches more years into the future than the memory of market economy into the past. Half of those contracts are adjustable rate mortgages denominated in Swiss francs, leveraging low interest rates and currency exchange fluctuations. They draw mortgage households into the networks of global finance, enabling people to enjoy the benefits of speculation, but also subjecting them to unprecedented risks and uncertainties. This project engages the anthropology of credit and debt as well as the anthropology of finance in tracking the work of mortgages in enabling new forms of life and wealth in Poland after socialism. It offers an ethnography of financial instruments that forge differences between people through credit, debt, and scoring; enroll households into the markets in property, currency, and capital; and give rhythm and horizon to everyday life 'on one's own.' The research is guided by three questions: (1) What market devices, currencies, laws, people, institutions, and places need to come together in the design of the mortgages in Poland to make them efficacious? (2) How do mortgages work to rearrange the practices of everyday life and domestic economies of Polish households? (3) In what ways do mortgages become associated with shifts in social organization mediated by property in Poland 20 years after the fall of socialism?
Magana, Rocio, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Desert Interventions: Life, Death, and Sovereignty along the Arizona-Sonora Region of the United States-Mexico Border,' supervised by Dr. John L. Comaroff
ROCIO MAGANA, then a student at the University of Chicago, received a grant in December 2005 to aid research on 'Desert Interventions: Life, Death, and Sovereignty along the Arizona-Sonora Region of the United States-Mexico Border,' supervised by Dr. John L. Comaroff and Dr. Claudio Lomnitz. This ethnographic research examined the tension between border security and the protection of unauthorized migrants along the Arizona-Mexico boundary. Through an analysis of the dynamics surrounding the deaths of illegal crossers in the Sonoran Desert, this project explored the conditions and processes through which policies that have proven ineffective and life-threatening become not only socially, politically, and morally sustainable, but also productive of authority and legitimacy. Fieldwork and data-collection for this project focused on the interventions, strategies, relations, and understandings of civil and governmental actors who experienced or responded to the presence, injury, or death of border crossers in Northern Sonora and Southern Arizona. Through an analysis of policing, rescue, and protection interventions, this project outlined the different ways in which safety and security problems were variously experienced, perceived and imagined, and the effect these had on the shaping of a politics of life particular to the border. The resulting monograph explains how, in a landscape in which national security and physical safety collide and coexist, the protection of life and the treatment of death become the idioms through which sociopolitical authority is produced, rights are exercised, and the border is mapped onto its subjects.
Block, Caroline Mohr, Johns Hopkins U., Baltimore, MN - To aid research on 'Rabbis, Rabbas, and Maharats: Aspiration, Innovation and Orthodoxy in American Women's Talmud Programs,' supervised by Dr. Veena Das
Preliminary abstract: My research centers on the women's Talmud programs that have recently emerged in the American Modern Orthodox Jewish community, where women study the rabbinic curriculum without the current possibility of receiving ordination or of serving as rabbis in their Orthodox communities. Institutionally unable to claim traditional rabbinic authority, these women have begun to experiment with cultivating alternative forms of pious authority and spiritual leadership within the bounds of American Orthodoxy. In an ethnographic investigation of these educational institutions and the ways in which aspirations for both individual cultivation and communal innovation are enacted through study within them, this research examines the changing landscape of religious authority in a community which has received little attention from anthropological research. Through its focus on American Jewish denominationalism, and the ways in which it simultaneously promises and poses a threat to innovations such as those toward which these female Talmudic scholars aspire, this study aims to contribute to a new and dynamic picture of tradition as it relates to modern religion in the public sphere.