Pearson, Thomas William, State U. of New York, Binghamton, NY - To aid research on 'Biosafety, Neoliberalism, and the Struggle for Life: Anti-biotechnology Activism & the Politics of Expertise in Central America,' supervised by Dr. Carmen Alicia Ferradás
THOMAS WILLIAM PEARSON, then a student at State University of New York, Binghamton, New York, received funding in May 2007 to aid research on 'Biosafety, Neoliberalism, and the Struggle for Life: Anti-Biotechnology Activism and the Politics of Expertise in Central America,' supervised by Dr. Carmen Alicia Ferradas. Fieldwork investigated the relationships between neoliberal economic reforms and new concerns with the management of biological life, as an object of both technocratic control and political struggle. Through ethnographic research on conflicts over transgenic organisms and agricultural biotechnology, the grantee examined how biosafety is socially constituted as a form of risk management and expertise that mediates local and global circuits of technology, knowledge, capital, and nature. Ethnographic fieldwork with environmental activists who campaign against transgenics, and who work to reshape the meaning and practice of biosafety, provided insight into how 'life itself' is symbolically constructed as an object of struggle amidst wider transformations associated with free-market policies and ideologies. The research also adapted to and incorporated rapidly changing fieldwork circumstances when broad opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) coalesced into one of the largest social movements in the history of contemporary Costa Rica. As concerns over CAFTA came to concentrate on the impacts of new intellectual property rights reforms, environmentalists were unexpectedly propelled to the center of the popular movement, leading a struggle against the privatization and commoditization of genetic resources and seeds framed around the 'defense of life itself.'
Pearson, Thomas W. 2012. Transgenic-Free Territories in Costa Rica: Networks, Place, and the Politics of Life. American Ethnologist 39(1):90-105.
Pearson, Thomas W. 2013. 'Life is Not for Sale!': Confronting Free Trade and Intellectual Property in Costa Rica. American Anthropologist 115(1):58-71.
Drah, Bright Bensah, U. of Toronto, Toronto, Canada - To aid research on 'Crisis Fostering in an Age of HIV/AIDS: Experiences of Queen Mothers of Manya Krobo, Ghana,' supervised by Dr. Daniel W. Sellen
BRIGHT BENSAH DRAH, then a student at University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, received a grant in November 2008 to aid research on 'Crisis Fostering in an Age of HIV/AIDS: Experiences of Queen Mothers of Manya Krobo, Ghana,' supervised by Dr. Daniel W. Sellen. About 170,000 Ghanaian children are orphaned due to AIDS, 80 percent of whom are fostered by women. Existing research about orphan care has focused on the woman-child dyad, thereby obscuring other forms of care. Moreover, the conventional measures of orphan care are based on frameworks that ignore orphans' perspectives and the social context in which caregiving is negotiated. In the Lower and Upper Manya Krobo districts in Ghana's Eastern Region, queen mothers (traditional female leaders) are responsible for orphans. The aims of the current study are to examine: 1) the socio-cultural context of orphan care in Manya Krobo; 2) caregiving strategies used by the queen mothers; and 3) the outcomes for orphans. Between September 2008 and December 2009, data were collected from queen mothers, children 6-11 years old, chiefs, HIV-infected/uninfected adults, welfare officers and NGOs using qualitative and quantitative methods, including focus groups, semi-structured interviews, structured interviews, and participant observation in households. Data collected included participants' understandings and expressions of care, child/orphan and caregiving practices. Analysis and manuscript preparation are expected to be complete by June 2010. Findings will address existing gaps in anthropological theory of community based child caregiving and contribute to improving orphan care in Ghana and internationally.
Todd, James E., U. of California, Santa Cruz, CA - To aid research on 'Racing the South: The Poetics and Politics of Race and Region in NASCAR,' supervised by Dr. Hugh Raffles
JAMES E. TODD, while a student at University of California, Santa Cruz, California, was awarded a grant in November 2001 to aid research on 'Racing the South: The Poetics and Politics of Race and Region in NASCAR,' supervised by Dr. Hugh Raffles. This research offers an ethnographic examination of the connections between the cultural practices of region-making and the production of racial difference in the traditionally white, working-class sport of NASCAR stock-car racing, a sport which has recently begun traveling beyond its original Southern circuits in an effort to become nationally recognized. Because NASCAR's premier racing series 'tours' racetracks in the South and throughout the United States, it presents an exceptional case for studying how the South and white racialness travel through locations, people, commodities, narratives, and spectacular events. The largest phase of this project was supported by Wenner-Gren: ethnographic research was undertaken by following the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup stock-car racing circuit in a recreational vehicle. Over the course of 10 months and 40,000 miles, the researcher observed and documented the narratives and practices of fans, sports writers, marketers, public relations employees, corporate executives, evangelical preachers, drivers, and teams. NASCAR provided full access to racing facilities, marketing and public relations employees granted admission to meetings and provided press room credentials to observe reporters creating stories. Over the 38 four-day events, substantial time was spent among fans in the camping areas. The research was highly successful and was completed with broad depth. The dissertation is expected to be finished in 2005.
Jarrin, Alvaro Esteban, Duke U., Durham, NC - To aid research on ''The Right to Beauty': Cosmetic Citizenship and Medical Modernity in Brazil,' supervised by Dr. Anne Allison
ALVARA ESTEBAN JARRIN, then a student at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, received funding in April 2006 to aid research on 'The Right to Beauty: Cosmetic Citizenship and Medical Modernity in Brazil,' supervised by Dr. Anne Allison. This research project examines the construction of beauty in Brazil as a product of the complex race, class and gender inequalities that the country has faced in the past and still faces today. Beauty is a body marker believed to have the power to both stabilize racial and class differences (by making that difference visible to the naked eye) and to make social mobility possible (by providing economic and social opportunities to those who 'achieve' beauty through various means -- particularly plastic surgery). The grantee contrasts the distinct ways in which the body is understood in different social classes, and compare the motives for seeking out plastic surgery among patients in private clinics and patients in public hospitals. The medical world itself has very different approaches to patients in the private and the public health sectors, since the latter is considered the perfect setting for residents to practice and to develop new surgical techniques. The research argues that risk involved in these surgeries is continuously downplayed by medical discourse and by the media, which instead glorifies the transformations achieved through surgery as narratives of social uplift.
Nelms, Taylor C.N., U. of California, Irvine, CA - To aid research on 'Making Change and Valuing Difference: Dollarization and the Plurinational State in Ecuador,' supervised by Dr. Bill Maurer
TAYLOR C.N. NELMS, then a student at University of California, Irvine, California, received funding in October 2011 to aid research on 'Making Change and Valuing Difference: Dollarization and the Plurinational State in Ecuador,' supervised by Dr. Bill Maurer. This research investigates how projects of state transformation in Ecuador -- dollarization, on the one hand, and the institutionalization of 'alternative' economic values, on the other -- are articulated, instantiated, and contested through an ethnography of: 1) two forms of socioeconomic organization, family- and neighborhood-based savings and credit associations and an association of urban market vendors; and 2) encounters between these institutions and actors charged with making them visible to the state. During twelve months of fieldwork, more than 90 semi-structured and informal interviews were conducted across field sites in and around Quito, Ecuador: an urban marketplace; four savings and credit associations; and government offices at the national and municipal level. Participant observation was also carried out in these sites and at conferences, meetings, seminars, protests, and rallies. Archival research and document collection was also conducted. This research shows how dollarization and contemporary state transformation in Ecuador are interconnected, especially in discourses of change and stability. It demonstrates the emic importance of 'trust' in vernacular institution-building and how discourses of solidarity, sovereignty, and suspicion are linked to institutional practice, which then provides the infrastructure for political participation. Finally, this research highlights the role of money in debates about legal and institutional change, the scope of government, and 'representation,' political and semiotic. It does so by exploring the pragmatics of money's diverse uses.
Cox, Phyllida, Africa Gender Institute., Cape Town, South Africa - To aid research on 'Personhood, Gender and Modernity: Mediating Meanings of Abortion in South African Family Planning Clinics,' supervised by Dr. Andrea Cornwall
Classic anthropological perspectives on personhood and ethno medicine, are turned towards research on the perceptions and experiences of termination of pregnancy amongst Nurses and young people in a Xhosa speaking township on the Cape Flats, South Africa. Gendered analysis of stigmatized attitudes to abortion and cosmological beliefs in fetus ghosts are linked to questions of gender identity, sexuality, tradition and modernity in the impoverished and marginal spaces of post Apartheid South Africa. Multi sited ethnographic fieldwork is used to analyse the social spaces of family planning clinics and chart how abortion is given meaning by older women, who embody powerful matriarchal dispositions as Nurses, mothers and matriarchs within their communities. Participant observation and life histories conducted with Nurses, young women and men trace the relationship between changing gender relations and the symbolism of abortion to masculinities in crises. These narratives are connected to reveal intergenerational and gendered tensions over the meanings of cultural identity, tradition and female personhood as this community struggles to define its place within the changing post Apartheid landscape.
Sosa, Joseph Jay, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Sao Paulo Has Never Been Pinker: Dilemmas in Representing LGBT People in the Public Sphere,' supervised by Dr. William Mazzarella
JOSEPH J. SOSA, then a student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded a grant in October 2011 to aid research on 'São Paulo Has Never Been Pinker: Dilemmas in Representing LGBT People in the Public Sphere,' supervised by Dr. William Mazzarella. This research examines the aesthetic and public modes by which Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) activists demand justice and equality within larger society. The activists and state actors considered in São Paulo, Brazil, faced particular dilemmas and contradictions, which shaped the claims that could be made both on the state and within the public sphere. In the past fifteen years, media representations of LGBT people have multiplied significantly, while violent assaults against LGBT people remained the same or, by some accounts, have increased. This ethnographic study questions an assumption endemic to liberal thought: increased media attention and recognition of minorities within a society leads to greater tolerance. On the contrary, one interlocutor described the period of fieldwork (2011-2012) as when 'homophobia came out of the closet.' After contentious presidential elections in 2010 took an unexpected 'culture wars' turn, debates over the legalization of abortion and the criminalization of homophobia dominated the political public sphere. Through participant observation and interviews with LGBT activists and pro-LGBT advocates within the municipal, state, and federal governments, the study examined how different actors utilized this fairly unique historical moment to enact change inside and outside of the state.
Heller, Alison Whitney, Washington U., St. Louis, MO - To aid research on 'After the Stitches: Negotiating Destigmatization Processes among Women with Fistula in Hausa Speaking Niger,' supervised by Dr. Shanti Parikh
Preliminary abstract: The proposed project examines how transformations of stigmatized identities are negotiated among women in Hausa speaking Niger seeking repair surgeries for obstetric fistula, an injury sustained during childbirth which results in chronic incontinence. Fistula, widely understood as a profoundly stigmatizing condition, is highly treatable through a relatively straightforward, although historically difficult to access, surgical procedure. Recently, Niger has experienced a proliferation of organizations and institutions focusing on fistula prevention and repair; however, little is known about what happens to these women, or their stigmatized identities, once they leave clinics and return home. There is remarkably little ethnographic or theoretical research focusing specifically on processes of destigmatization to draw from. This project aims to develop this under-explored facet of stigma theory, resulting in both a better understanding of how and when destigmatization processes work, and the production of a theoretical model of destigmatization. To do so, this research will investigate women's pre and post surgical experiences with fistula and the dynamics of their social relationships, as well as incorporating representations of fistula in the broader society and the perspectives of local stakeholders, including husbands, co-wives, kin, clinicians, religious leaders, and local nonprofit organization employees involved in fistula eradication initiatives.
Mechlinski, Timothy M., U. of California, Santa Barbara, CA - To aid research on 'How Do They Get There?: Networks, Strategies, and Politics of Border Crossings in West Africa,' supervised by Dr. Kum-Kum Bhavnani
TIMOTHY M. MECHLINSKI, then a student at University of California, Santa Barbara, California, received funding in June 2005 to aid research on on 'How Do They Get There?: Networks, Strategies, and Politics of Border Crossings in West Africa,' supervised by Dr. Kum-Kum Bhavnani. The main ethnographic observation that informs this study was collected during the more than 10,000 miles of travel, in various types of passenger transportation vehicles, including converted pick-up trucks, station wagons, mini-buses, and larger buses, across West Africa. While traveling across 23 international borders, as some countries require multiple types of entry and exit control at their international borders (some combination of police, gendarmes, and customs) observation was conducted at 82 security controls at international borders. In addition to this observations were made at 87 internal controls across Mali, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso, for a total of 169 mobility control checkpoints. In addition, 29 interviews in French, Dyula, and English (and often in a combination of two languages) were conducted. Dyula, a local language, was employed in interviews in all four countries, allowing transportation workers to speak in the language they were most comfortable with. Interviews consisted of open ended questions about drivers' work experience, with specific questions about their relationships with their passengers and with security agents. Finally, in addition to the interviews participant observation at bus stations, and in public transportation vehicles while traveling also form part of the research conducted. Over the course of eleven months observations were made at bus stations and motor parks in Banfora and Bobo-Dioulasso (Burkina Faso), Ouangolodougou and Korhogo (Côte d'Ivoire), Sikasso (Mali), and Sampa and Wenchi (Ghana). These allowed for the observation of the daily interactions between drivers and their passengers, amongst drivers, and between drivers and their union officials.
Campbell, Jeremy Michael, U. of California, Santa Cruz, CA - To aid research on 'The Social Life of an Amazonian Highway,' supervised by Dr. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
JEREMY M. CAMPBELL, then a student at University of California, Santa Cruz, California, was awarded a grant in May 2007 to aid research on 'The Social Life of an Amazonian Highway,' supervised by Dr. Anna Tsing. This study asks how settlers and natives along an unpaved Amazonian highway live with the layered history of property-making along the frontier, and reveals how land-reformers, ranchers, and native Amazonians are participating in the most recent state visions for sustainable development in the region. Research reveals that, over the past 40 years, a diverse array of migrants to the region have put into place improvised land tenure regimes based on conflicting and confused signals from the state. In response to recent promises to pave the highway, distinct practices of property and territory --ranging from collective squatting to land grabbing -- have emerged as key mechanisms for roadside residents to articulate their emerging subject-positions in debates over