Degani, Michael Jason, Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'The City Electric: Ingenuity and Infrastructure in Dar es Salaam,' supervised by Dr. Michael McGovern
MICHAEL J. DEGANI, then a student at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, received a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'The City Electric: Infrastructure and Ingenuity in Dar es Salaam,' supervised by Dr. Michael McGovern. Fieldwork was conducted in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from July to December 2012 as part of a broader ethnography an African electrical grid. Research focused on three themes: 1) the links between national experience and power generation; 2) the informal economy of power transmission; and 3) the everyday life of electricity consumption. Local immersion, interviews, and discourse analysis mapped connections between the political economy of power generation contracts, chronic outages, and the experience of post-socialist Tanzanian nation. Fieldwork with contractors, bureaucrats, electricians, and consumers revealed a web of shifting collaborations around municipal power theft, expedited bureaucratic procedures, and surreptitious connections to the grid. Finally, neighborhood surveys and three, month-long household 'energy diaries' demonstrated electricity to be a highly variable economic asset: a business expense, prestige good, or investment in social relations. This variability contributed to problems of collective action in paying for electricity and financing infrastructure in unconnected neighborhoods. Ultimately this research may help describe a version of contemporary infrastructures that are neither heroic public works nor sunk into the background of everyday life.
Henry, Eric, Cornell U., Ithaca, NY - To aid research on 'Speaking English in China: Second Language Learning and the Construction of Cosmopolitan Identities,' supervised by Dr. P. Steven Sangren
ERIC HENRY, then a student at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, received a grant in January 2005 to aid research on 'Speaking English in China: Second Language Learning and the Construction of Cosmopolitan Identities,' supervised by Dr. P. Steven Sangren. One question that seems to aggravate foreign English teachers and linguists in China is why educational institutions and students seem uninterested in a 'proper' way to teach English. Their resistance has been attributed to everything from Confucianism to plain stubbornness. The grantee conducted a year of fieldwork in the northeastern city of Shenyang to examine the social and cultural contexts in which English-language learning takes place, and the structures and processes in which English is embedded in Chinese society. In other words, the research attempts to redirect the question from 'Why do English learners not listen to experts?' to 'What are Chinese learners attempting to accomplish through their study of English?' Data gathered through interviews with language learners, school administrators, teachers, and other stakeholders located English-language learning within a set of self-fashioning technologies that are designed to advance alternative notions of identity in a globalizing medium of social relations. Knowledge of English allowed proficient learners to participate as dominant partners in what Bourdieu has called a 'language market.' The research also served to highlight affinities between the processes of English-language learning and specific local concerns, such as the status of the local dialect and fears of being cheated in relations with others.
Stone, Naomi Shira, Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Human Technologies in the Iraq War,' supervised by Dr. Brinkley Messick
Preliminary abstract: This is a study of the Iraq War through the dual lens of a subset of American politico-military theoreticians and the Iraqi 'frontier figures' whom they recruit as human technologies of war. Variously understood as translators of culture by the US military and as collaborators back home, how do these figures (mock villagers in combat simulations, political advisers, fixers, interpreters) see themselves? How might we understand the lives and complex allegiances, debts, and doubts of frontier Iraqis, both maneuvered by the military and making their own moves within economic and moral calculi, and now displaced into the America to which they, at great cost, aligned? And as these figures translate Iraqi culture, how do they translate themselves when wartime compels practices of constant masking? I investigate two interrelated case-studies of Americans and Iraqis within the war landscape: first, American military theoreticians at Fort Irwin, California's mock Iraqi villages, and the Iraqi role-players employed there; and second, American political strategists and Iraqis who advise them, and a range of other Iraqis who worked with the Americans during the war (drivers, interpreters) in Washington, DC. I will collect life-histories and observe the lives of frontier Iraqis; interview American theoreticians of war; and engage the military scripts that generate storylines for simulations. I propose that embodying the frontier location turns selves and bodies into second selves and bodies: technologies doing work within a bigger warmaking apparatus, traversing national & cultural boundaries. I further debates on contemporary war, arguing that amidst improved machine technology enabling distance & a potential turn to the 'posthuman,' my study foregrounds the human being at the frontier as an irreplaceable technology of war.
Mateescu, Oana M., U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Memory, Proof, and Persuasion: Re-Creating Communal Ownership in Postsocialist Romania,' supervised by Dr. Katherine Verdery
OANA M. MATEESCU, then a student at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, was awarded a grant in May 2005 to aid research on 'Memory, Proof, and Persuasion: Re-Creating Communal Ownership in Postsocialist Romania,' supervised by Dr. Katherine Verdery. Through archival research, interviews, and participant observation, this project studied four key historical events for the repertoire of knowledge practices they provide to current villagers of Vrancea region (Romania) involved in the reconstitution of communal ownership over forests. These are the successful reclaiming of forests in an 1816 lawsuit, the 1910 organization of forests according to the Forestry Code, the emergence of anthropology as a discipline in Romania through the study of Vrancea's communal ownership in the late 1920's and the failed uprising of hundreds of villagers upon the nationalization of forests in 1950. These events shape disputes over the present meaning of communal ownership and they inform the particular forms of claim making (lawsuits, complaints, humble appeals, the accumulation of evidence, and insurgency) villagers have at their disposal. Last, but not least, they serve as unique confirmations of the possibility for critique and effective intervention. Since 1816, proof-oriented actions such as the quest for documents, their secret keeping, forgery, loss, sale or destruction become inseparable from what it means to own the forests in Vrancea. The complex histories of such evidentiary objects as they shape ownership conflicts throughout the 20th century and come to haunt the current desires and strategies of villagers are central to this inquiry into the problematic of ownership, time, evidence and credibility.
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, Grossman, Kathryn Mary, PI - To aid research on 'Re-centering the Ninevite 5 Economy: Archaeological Investigations at Hamoukar, Syria,' supervised by Dr. Gil J. Stein
MARY KATHRYN GROSSMAN, then a student at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded funding in November 2009, to aid research on 'Recentering the Ninevite 5 Economy: Archaeological Investigations at Hamoukar, Syria,' supervised by Dr. Gil J. Stein. Recent archaeological studies of ancient urban societies have drawn attention to the new kinds of social, political, and economic relationships that came into existence as cities emerged and developed. This focus on the disjunction between pre-urban and urban societies, however, needs to be balanced by a recognition that the specific trajectory followed by each case of urbanization was largely determined by what came before. This research project investigated the foundations of the urbanization process in Early Bronze Age northern Mesopotamia, fore-fronting the social context of food and craft production within a single site, rather than focusing on regional political economy. The project was built around excavations at Hamoukar, a major urban settlement in northeastern Syria with abundant evidence for both the Ninevite 5 period (c. 3000-2500 BC) and the better-known urban phase that followed (c. 2500-2200 BC). Excavations on the eastern and western sides of Hamoukar's lower town uncovered successive phases of well-preserved mudbrick architecture and a rich, in situ artifactual assemblage. Analysis of the architecture, ceramics, faunal remains, and administrative tools from these excavations has provided a wealth of new information about the roots of the urbanization process in northern Mesopotamia.
Guffin, Matthew Bascom, U. of California, Davis, CA - To aid research on 'Space and Identity Formation among Programmers in Hyderabad's Urbanizing Periphery,' supervised by Dr. Smriti Srinivas
BASCOM GUFFIN, then a student at the University of California, Davis, California, was granted funding in October 2009, to aid research on 'Space and Identity Formation among Programmers in Hyderabad's Urbanizing Periphery,' supervised by Dr. Smriti Srinivas. The grantee conducted fieldwork with infotech professionals living and working in the western periphery of Hyderabad. The grantee stayed in a gated community to track how rituals and celebrations, daily interactions, and an active email list helped to create a strong sense of community. Visiting informant's apartments and workplaces, research documented how new spaces of work built by multinational and Indian IT companies have created a new sense of comfortable living. The grantee participated in dance and aerobics classes, played soccer, and went to nightclubs, examining the gender dynamics inherent in the body cultures of each space. Traveling in the city and talking with commuters provided a sense of traffic culture in Hyderabad where order is maintained chiefly by concrete constraints like speed bumps, medians, and the relative size and speed of oncoming vehicles. The grantee also accompanied informants to view under-construction apartments and saw how their aspirations were placed in negotiation with the concrete realities of these spaces-in-formation. Preliminary findings reveal that a new kind of society is rising in this periphery, one that valorizes individual socioeconomic and geographic mobility and affirms individual aspirations in part through the construction and use of new concrete spaces.
Sekine, Emily Laura, New School U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'The Unsteady Earth: Predicting Nature's Uncertainties in Post 3.11 Japan,' supervised by Dr. Hugh Raffles
Preliminary abstract: The Japanese archipelago stretches across four major tectonic plates, making it one of the most earthquake-prone areas of the world. But even in a place where tremors are commonplace, the massive 9.0 quake that struck the Tohoku region in March 2011 -- stirring a tsunami and unleashing a nuclear meltdown -- came as a stark reminder of the tremendous capabilities of earthquakes to surprise, to undo previous assumptions, and to destroy and remake worlds. The failure of seismologists to predict this devastating quake has added fuel to long-standing international debates over the possibilities and limits of seismological knowledge. This ethnographic and historical study explores how the uncertainty surrounding earthquakes has made seismology into a field that is remarkably -- if at times begrudgingly -- open to unconventional explanations, methods, and types of evidence. Furthermore, the study considers how people understand earthquakes not only through science, but also through folklore, history, spirituality, public education, popular culture, and observations of strange weather and animal behavior. By asking how earthquake science accommodates everyday knowledge, as well as how non-scientists draw upon various knowledge traditions to make sense of a volatile and inscrutable earth, this research sheds light on how people in Japan actually live with and interpret nature?s uncertainties. Centrally, the project inquires into how the physical instability of the earth might compel and reconfigure practices of observing, sensing, and knowing 'nature' itself. This effort will significantly contribute to anthropological studies of the environment/human-nature relations, as well as studies of Japan, which rarely attend closely to geophysical activity and how it permeates everyday life.
Li, Jin, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Reassembling Religion: Tibetan Buddhism in Post-Communist China,' supervised by Dr. Erik Mueggler
Preliminary abstract: Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, Tibetan and Chinese Buddhists have formed a new network centered in a Nyingma monastery in eastern Tibet, called Larung. This encounter invites us to examine the formation and transformation of religious subjectivity: Why have Tibetan monks included Han Chinese in their revival of Buddhism? Why have so many urban Chinese abandoned the secularist worldview cultivated by the state to convert to Tibetan Buddhism? I address the questions by looking into a tradition in the Nyingma sect, known as gter, or ¡°excavation of hidden treasures.¡± In 1986, the founder of Larung, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, discovered as a ¡°hidden treasure¡± an old gazetteer about Mount Wutai, a Chinese Buddhist mountain sacred to both Tibetans and Chinese. In his eyes, this object was a revelation that Padmasambhava, the Indian master who introduced tantric Buddhism to Tibet, buried treasures to allow Tibetan monks to reconstruct ties with the Chinese. This episode shows how treasure hunting articulates the regimes of landscape, materiality, human wayfaring and religious interpretation. It reveals the two theoretical explorations of my research: First, the research takes issue with the anthropological convention that looks at the religious domain with a panoptic view, and sees the religious domain that has been revived by treasure hunting as an assembly. This assembly gradually comes into being, through encounters between people and things. Second, the research asks how religious subjects are created through their wayfaring encounters with the assembly. This will help engage into Joel Robbins¡¯s (2007) provocative question¡ªHow can anthropology anchored in ¡°continuity thinking¡± explain radical changes in human subjectivity, such as conversion?
Gamez Diaz, Laura Lucia, U. of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA - To aid research on 'Household Religiosity: Discerning Pluralism or Integration in Ancient Maya Society,' supervised by Dr. Olivier de Montmollin
LAURA LUCIA GAMEZ DIAZ, then a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, received a grant in October 2009, to aid research on 'Household Religiosity: Discerning Pluralism or Integration in Ancient Maya Society,' supervised by Dr. Olivier de Montmollin. This project conducted field research at the ancient Maya city of Yaxha, located in northern Guatemala. The primary focus of the investigation was the ancient Maya domestic ritual practices in this pre-Hispanic polity. It is suspected ancient social diversity involved differences and similarities between religious ideology and rituals from elites and nobles on the one hand (state religion), and commoners on the other (folk religion). The project sought to learn how these folk and state religions meshed together and how commoners might have participated in this state religion. Excavations where carried out in six different households at Yaxha's residential zone, all differing in their superficial characteristics and location within that zone. Not only ample material samples from these households were collected through the excavations, but also, it was possible to gather very useful information from the monumental central zone while on the site, setting an appropriate database for further analysis and comparisons.