Kutty, Omar, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'The Gift of Society: Social Welfare Programs and Political Identity in an Indian Megacity,' supervised by Dr. John L. Comaroff
OMAR KUTTY, then a student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded a grant in April 2005 to aid research on 'The Gift of Society: Social Welfare Programs and Political Identity in an Indian Megacity,' supervised by Dr. John L. Comaroff. While this project was originally designed as a multi-community study, prior to receipt of Wenner-Gren funds it had been decided that it would be more fruitful to focus on the caste of sanitation workers known as the Valmiki Samaj. Because this community is one of the most ostracized and marginalized in Delhi, analysis of the many governmental and non-governmental welfare programs that target the Valmikis provided extremely rich ethnographic data pertaining to the changing policies and culture of welfare provision in contemporary India. Among the data collected under the auspices of the foundation were interviews with members of the internationally recognized NGO, Sulabh International, whose mission is to improve the condition of this community through a business model incorporating pay-and-use toilets which then also act as self-sustaining sources of employment. Other exemplary data pertained to a special governmental financial program that provides business loans specifically to the Valmiki community. Middle Class Resident Welfare Associations, who have recently begun to organize their hitherto informal, local sanitation workers on a business model were also observed. The tentative conclusion reached from this data is that new models of welfare provision are gradually but dramatically changing the nature of labor among the Valmiki community.
Bigham, Abigail Winslow, Penn State U., University Park, PA - To aid research on 'Signatures of Natural Selection among Populations of the Andean Altiplano and the Tibetan Plateau,' supervised by Dr. Mark David Shriver
ABIGAIL BIGHAM, then a student at Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, received a grant in October 2006 to aid research on 'Signatures of Natural Selection among Populations of the Andean Altiplano and the Tibetan Plateau,' supervised by Dr. Mark Shriver. This research's focus was to identify gene specific evidence for genetic adaptation to high altitude hypoxia using independent, highland populations from distinct geographic regions. This includes the populations of the Andes (Quechua and Aymara) and a population from the Tibetan Plateau (Tibetans). Three major questions were addressed: 1) Is there gene-specific evidence for natural selection among populations of the Tibetan Plateau? 2) Is there gene-specific evidence for natural selection among populations of the Andean Altiplano? 3) Do the Tibetan and Andean populations exhibit similarities and/or differences in genes or functionally different changes in the same genes involved in high altitude adaptation? In order to answer these questions, a variety of molecular assays were performed on the study populations. These included: 1) Using high density multi-locus genome scan data to identify natural selection candidate genes and gene regions; 2) Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) typing in each of the candidate genes to further scrutinize these regions for evidence of selection; 3) DNA sequencing of one gene showing strong evidence of selection in both Tibetans and Andeans; and 4) Association analyses that control for admixture to test for genotype-phenotype correlations.
Pan, Yichung, U. of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK - To aid research on 'The Colonisation and Abandonment of Neolithic Islandscapes: A Case Study from the Penghu Archipelago, Taiwan,' supervised by Dr. Keith Dobney
Preliminary abstract: This project aims to reinvestigate the evidence for the early occupation and exploitation of the Penghu archipelago, Taiwan by Neolithic settlers between 5000 to 4000B.P and to explore if the islands were abandoned by end of the Neolithic. By combining zooarchaeological, geoarchaeological and GIS approaches the project will enable the key relationships between site location, resource availability/exploitation and environmental factors to be established in order to throw new light on the important role this relatively unknown but key island archipelago played in the early expansion of Austronesian-speaking peoples from mainland ISEA. This research will apply and modify archaeological theory of both island and landscape archaeology and will help highlight and promote the combination of advanced GIS, geoarchaelogical and island zooarchaeological research within Taiwanese archaeology.
Fitting, Elizabeth, M., New School for Social Research, New York, NY - To aid research on 'From Milpa to Market: Household Labor and Corn Production in the Tehuacan Valley, Mexico,' supervised by Dr. Deborah A. Poole
ELIZABETH M. FITTING, while a student at the New School for Social Research in New York, New York, was awarded a grant in November 2001 to aid research on household labor and corn production in the Tehuacan Valley, Mexico, under the supervision of Dr. Deborah A. Poole. Maize is at the center of images and debates about the Mexican countryside. It was a key commodity in the NAFTA negotiations-the crowning achievement of neoliberal reform-and the target of rural reforms more generally, and it lies at the heart of an international debate about the risks transgenic crops and imports may pose to Mexican biodiversity. Fitting considered these images and debates in relation to changing livelihood strategies in the southern Tehuacan Valley, one of the possible sites of original maize domestication. She investigated the ways in which the rural household was reproduced through the circuits of labor and capital beyond the borders of the house, the field, and the nation-state and how this entailed the negotiation of both neoliberal policy and local values and pressures. She found that agricultural production had declined, but corn had become a more significant share of overall production, contrary to policy predictions. Neoliberal reform and sustained economic crisis had produced an increasingly flexible, gendered labor force in the valley. At the same time, U.S.-bound labor migration constituted part of the local strategy. Fitting examined this strategy and the tension between reproducing rural livelihoods and agrarian futures, on one hand, and the erosion of agricultural knowledge and production, on the other. She focused on the local aspects of rural labor migration, although the cycle itself was transnational.
Sterner, Kirstin Nicole, New York U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Evolution of the Human Innate Immune Response,' supervised by Dr. Todd Richard Disotell
KIRSTIN N. STERNER, then a student at New York University, New York, New York, received funding in October 2006 to aid research on 'Evolution of the Human Innate Immune Response,' supervised by Dr. Todd Disotell. In order to understand the evolution of the human innate immune response to viruses, this research examined the evolution of the Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) and RIG-I pathways across nonhuman primate taxa. Understanding how the innate immune system has evolved in primates significantly increases our understanding of how the co-evolution of primates and viruses has influenced the primate genome. The specific objectives of this research were to test whether variation in gene sequence, protein sequence and selective pressure observed in these genes correlates with natural SIV infection and/or disease progression or if it is simply correlated with species relatedness. Preliminary analyses of these data have shown that the evolution of the human innate immune system has followed a similar evolutionary trajectory to other primates. However, there is variation across primates and the majority of this variation has the potential to influence protein structure and function. There are a number of shared, derived changes observed in Old World monkeys, as well as in humans. If these changes result in a differential response between humans and nonhuman primates to viral infection (including HIV/SIV), than they may represent adaptations developed by some primates to co-exist with particular viral pressures.
Kadirgamar, Ahilan Arasaratnam, City U. of New York, Graduate Center, New York NY - To aid research on 'Households, Caste, Class, Land and Post-war Reconstruction in Sri Lanka,' supervised by Dr. Michael Blim
AHILAN A. KADIRGAMAR, then a graduate student at City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, New York, was awarded funding in April 2012 to aid research on 'Households, Caste, Class, Land and Post-war Reconstruction in Sri Lanka,' supervised by Dr. Michael Blim. In May 2009, a three-decade-long civil war came to an end in Sri Lanka. In the post-war years a process of reconstruction characterized by state infrastructure development, financialization, and the expansion of the market has been underway. This study looks at rural livelihoods and changes to the social structure of Jaffna, the war-torn, predominantly Tamil district in northern Sri Lanka. How has the process of reconstruction impacted incomes related to the land and agricultural production in Jaffna? What is the relationship between faltering agricultural incomes and widespread indebtedness to out migration and remittances? In analyzing the household economy, this study addresses issues of caste stratification and class differentiation after the war. It further analyzes the economic pressures on rural social associations such as cooperatives and the new forms social exclusion relating to rural education. This study is important for understanding the dispossession of the peasantry, common to so many places in the global South ravaged by armed conflicts and going through rapid global integration.
Arroyo-Kalin, Manuel A., U. of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK - To aid research on 'The Historical Ecology of Landscapes: Geoarchaeological Approaches to the Anthropogenic Transformation of Cent. Amazonian Rainforests,' supervised by Dr. P.T. Miracle
MANUEL A. ARROYO-KALIN, then a student at Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, was awarded funding in December 2002 to aid research on 'the historical ecology of the Central Amazon region: geoarchaeological approaches to anthropogenic landscape transformation,' supervised by Dr. P.T. Miracle. This doctoral project studied sediments and anthrosols from the interfluve between the Negro and Solimões rivers (state of Amazonas, Brazil) -- the research area of the Central Amazon Project (CAP) -- both to examine if anthrosols dated to the first millennium A.D. could be characterized as correlates of intensive pre-Columbian land-use practices and to understand site formation processes associated to a preceramic site. Both aims required developing geoarchaeological data to understand how site formation processes were intertwined with historical processes of human occupation, soil formation, and landscape evolution in the tropical lowlands. Fieldwork consisted in sampling soils within and between archaeological sites by collecting undisturbed block and bulk samples from fourteen soil profiles. Samples were analysed using a suite of techniques to characterise soil micromorphology, texture, isotopic (13C) and elemental composition, magnetic susceptibility, and pH. Microscopic charcoal was extracted from three samples collected at one site in order to date the most stable charcoal pool in the soils and compare it to the CAP macroscopic charcoal chronology. The research revealed that whilst anthrosols from first-second millennium A.D. age sites might have formed as unintended consequences of past populations' reliance on aquatic resources, they in turn likely fuelled the formation of intensive settlement agriculture, enabling high population densities to develop along riparian bluffs. The research also provided data to show that the Archaic age occupation, located in a now podzolized ferralsol and sealed by alluvial sedimentation, was sufficient to produce some phosphate enrichment of the fine clay fraction, suggesting some degree of site permanence.
Nalley, Thierra Kennec, Arizona State U., Tempe, AZ - To aid research on 'Suspensory Locomotion and the Neck: Analysis of Cervical Vertebrae in Living Primates and Fossil Hominins,' supervised by Dr. William H. Kimbel
THIERRA K. NALLEY, then a student at Arizona State University, Tucson, Arizona, received funding in October 2011 to aid research on 'Suspensory Locomotion and the Neck: Analysis of Cervical Vertebrae in Living Primates and Fossil Hominins,' supervised by Dr. William H. Kimbel. This project examines the functional morphology of cervical vertebrae (i.e., the bony neck) of extant primates, with the goal of using the cervical spine to test hypotheses regarding positional behaviors in early hominins. Three biomechanical models guided the study's extant component: the suspensory, postural, and head-balancing models. Broadly, results were equivocal and no specific predictions were supported across all vertebral levels for both sexes. However, some patterns did emerge from the results. Specifically, analyses demonstrated that the suspensory and postural models received more support in the lower half of the cervical spine (C4-e7) compared to the upper (CI-e3). Results also revealed that the head-balancing model received the strongest support; in contrast to the suspensory or postural models, this evidence was concentrated in the upper half of the cervical spine. Fossil analyses revealed that early hominins, including Homo erectus, were clearly distinct from modern humans. Univariate analyses found that fossil morphology could generally not be distinguished from other anthropoid taxa, but multivariate analyses of overall cervical shape demonstrated that fossil taxa were most similar to extant apes. Overall, these results suggest that modern human cervical morphology did not appear in the hominin fossil record until late into the Pleistocene.
Dolph, Charles, City U. of New York, Graduate Center, New York, NY - To aid research on 'The Terror of Debt?: Soft Law and the Politics of Money in Argentina,' supervised by Dr. Marc Edelman
Preliminary abstract: This ethnographic and historical study analyzes how conflicting notions and historical narratives of 'terror' are intertwined with political and legal struggles over Argentina's sovereign debt. Argentina faces default for the second time in thirteen years, precipitated by the June 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a ruling that Argentina could not pay bondholders who accepted debt restructuring without satisfying holdouts demanding payment at the bonds' face value. The parties did not reach an agreement, setting off a complex political and legal dispute playing out through the UN, banks, and courtrooms in New York, on the pages of newspapers and on TV screens from Argentina to the U.S. and Europe, through legal maneuvering by hedge funds and the Kirchner administration to label one another as criminal terrorists, and in mass demonstrations and public debates in Argentina. Through documentary analysis and interviews with functionaries charged with elaborating soft law regulations aimed at combating 'terrorist financing'; participant-observation at mass demonstrations and public debates over debt and financial speculation in Buenos Aires; analysis of the role of media and its coverage of the debt dispute; and archival research at Argentina's Ministry of Economy, this project analyzes how populist debt politics in Argentina are mutually imbricated with soft law financial regulations and conditioned by the country's history of terror during dictatorships. By studying Argentina's sovereign debt dispute, this study illuminates the changing and contradictory institutional, moral, and political landscapes of money and debt in the contemporary world.
Semel, Beth M., Massachusetts Inst. of Technology, Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Speech, Signal, Symptom: Psychiatric Diagnosis and the Making of Algorithmic Listening in the United States,' supervised by Dr. Graham M. Jones
Preliminary abstract: While traditional techniques of psychiatric diagnosis in North America pivot on clinicians' capacity to interpret the content of patients' speech, this dissertation follows mental health research teams in the academic, commercial, and military arenas that have enlisted the work of computer engineers to develop alternate means of deciphering the biomedical significance of behavioral symptoms. These teams of psychiatrists and signal analysts--computer engineers trained to parse, extract, digitize and process complex signals--are all working to produce technology that they hope will identify connections between inner, psychological states and paralinguistic features of speech (pitch, intonation, prosody, etc.), bypassing the content of speech altogether. I investigate these multidisciplinary research projects with attention to researchers' talk about language and mind and to how the software is designed and tested. Why do researchers insist that their technologies will be agnostic to culture, language, and gender differences, and how are these assumptions objectified in the algorithms they build? How do they envision this diagnostic technology in terms of its capacity to reconfigure the relationship between the speaking and listening subjects in the diagnostic encounter? Moreover, how does the flow of techniques, technologies, and technologists across the domains in which the researchers work pave the way for the permeation of the models of listening, speaking, and self that signal analysts enact into other arenas of listening? Against the backdrop of increased ambivalence toward technologies of surveillance in the U.S. after 9/11, this dissertation considers how signal analysis itself may reinforce linkages between mental health, national security, and commerce.