Kar, Sohini, Brown U., Providence RI - To aid research on 'Creditable Lives: Microfinance, Development and Financial Risk in India,' supervised by Dr. Lina Fruzzetti
SOHINI KAR, then a student at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, was awarded funding in May 2010, to aid research on 'Creditable Lives: Microfinance, Development, and Financial Risk in India,' supervised by Dr. Lina Fruzzetti. In 2008, Indian banking regulators celebrated the country's limited exposure to the global financial crisis. Yet, in 2010, India experienced its own 'subprime' crisis due to lending in microfinance. The growing for-profit microfinance sector in India has extended credit to the poorest populations under a 'financial inclusion' policy. As the crisis unfolded, microfinance institutions (MFIs) faced a sudden credit crunch, revealing the wide-reaching effects of tethering the poor to financial markets. While banks and MFIs sought to manage these 'risky' portfolios, loan officers and borrowers who interact regularly negotiated, often-divergent ethics of financial sustainability, and the locally constituted obligations. Drawing on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork in Kolkata, India, this dissertation takes credit as a site of encounter between global finance, state and institutional regulations, and the everyday practices of borrowers and lenders. The project is based on ethnographic data collected through participant observation at MFI branch offices and group meetings, interviews with borrowers, MFI staff, policymakers and bankers, as well as media and textual analysis. It situates microfinance within the history of banking and moneylending practices in India, while tracing the ways in which new financial technologies -- intersecting with local ethics of kinship, community, and gender -- reshapes everyday life.
Dowdy, Sean Michael, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'How 'Strangers' Account: Cosmoeconomics in Contemporary Assam, India,' supervised by Dr. John D. Kelly
Preliminary abstract: This project investigates how, why, and in what ways emergent relations of 'strangerhood' and the forces mobilized in coincidence with them have become sources of prosperity in Assam--a state in India's northeastern periphery beleaguered by violence associated with ethnic personhood. Following recent descriptions of Assam's political and economic turbulence as 'durable disorder,' this project asks how resilient misfortune might also elicit counteragents of fortune. To explore this question ethnographically, this project sets out to describe and analyze Assam's 'parallel economy,' a local theory of the informal economy where economic dynamics are (1) marked by relations between strangers, and (2) driven by impersonal forces of prosperity (e.g. life-giving power, good fortune, deferential honor). Adopting a heuristic of 'cosmoeconomics,' this project investigates how such relations and forces are accessed, accounted for, and mobilized toward new cosmological horizons. Focusing on trans-ethnic events of exchange and value-creation, and how accounts of them are reckoned, this project seeks to open up the study of India's Northeast beyond the politics of ethnic personhood. Doing so, it also seeks to theorize the causal, logical, and conditional relationships between cosmology and economic life, especially by attending to how accounting repertoires might attune microcosmic parts with macrocosmic wholes.
von Hatzfeldt, Gaia, U. of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'Vernacular Justice: Adjudicating Corruption in Rural India,' supervised by Dr. Jonathan Spencer
GAIA von HATZFELDT, then a student at University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, was awarded funding in October 2010 to aid research on 'Vernacular Justice: Adjudicating Corruption in Rural India,' supervised by Dr. Jonathan Spenser. Policy-making is not a static linear process, but rather, it is intrinsically dynamic, involving a broad constellation of variables, actors and activities. A significant variable in this dynamism of policy-making is the role played by civil society. This project examines the processes involved in the formulation of one of India's landmark social policies - the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) - through the lens of one particular civil society formation. Specifically, it focuses on the efforts of these civil society actors in institutionalising social audits, a mechanism for safeguarding transparency and accountability in NREGA. MKSS, an organisation active in rural Rajasthan, has over its two decades of campaigning against corruption, become widely recognised as pundits in the practice of social audits. By mobilising on various scales and performing multiple roles and affiliations, MKSS has played a significant role in drafting national transparency and accountability measures. The entry of MKSS into domains of decision-making in the formulation of NREGA indicates that policy-making is a porous and fluid process. By shaping the formulation of social audits for NREGA, MKSS contributes to the blurring of boundaries between state and society and the reconfiguration of policy-making processes in India.
Piliavsky, Anastasia, U. of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'Crooked Circles: 'Criminal Castes,' Vernacular Governance and the State in Rural North India,' supervised by Dr. David Nicholas Gellner
ANASTASIA PILIAVSKY, then a student at the University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, received funding in May 2008 to aid research on 'Crooked Circles: 'Criminal Castes,' Vernacular Governance and the State in Rural North India,' supervised by Dr. David N. Gellner. This ethnographic and historical research focused on a community of professional thieves, known as Kanjars, in western India, who have been historically instrumental to local governance as agents of resource extraction, intelligence gathering, and protection. Today, many of them continue to be employed both in the 'shadow economy' and the formal governmental sphere. This work shows that relationships between Kanjars and their employers, be they local farmers, police officers or politicians, draw on a basic formula of relatedness, status and rank in local society, which may be heuristically termed the 'patron-client' bond. The ethnography details the moral economy of such relationships -- the attendant rules of comportment, forms of economic exchange and mutual expectations -- in Kanjar life, showing that relations with hereditary patrons and state employees follow a shared set of rules, with policemen, civil servants, and politicians acting much like the erstwhile princely chiefs. The opposition between the logic of patronage and the global philosophy of impersonal statehood has provoked much concern with the 'criminalization' of the Indian state. Because Indian patrons must give, feasts, and gifts are as central to modern political campaigns as they were to the courtly rites of pre-British kingdoms. Resource extraction by means of theft, decried as 'criminal' or 'corrupt' in the press, is crucial to such donorship, making thieving as central to petty countryside politicking as to the success of elections, political parties and Indian rural electoral democracy at large.
Piliavsky, Anastasia. 2013. The Moghia Menace, or the Watch Over Watchmen In British India. Modern Asian Studies, 47, pp 751-779 (doi:10.1017/S0026749X11000643)
Piliavsky, Anastasia. 2011. A Secret in the Oxford Sense: Thieves and the Rhetoric of Mystification in Western India. Comparative Studies in Society and History 53(2):290-313.
Kim, Kiho, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'New Vineyards in Old Villages: Modernity and Temporality in China's Wine Industry,' supervised by Dr. Judith Farquhar
Preliminary abstract: Recently, the Chinese government has been boosting its wine industry as part of an effort to proceed to the next stage of modernization in terms of both production and consumption. By looking at urban centers and rural areas, this project will investigate how the imaginaries of each space influence the practices of wine consumption and production in post-socialist China. Combined, these two spheres of modernization, wine consumption and production, have created a paradox of temporality: while developments in the wine industry have led many Chinese to actively criticize their 'old thinking' on agricultural planning and farming techniques, they are at the same time envisioning a future of prosperity and consumerism that is modeled on their colonial past. To analyze this transformation, I will focus on the temporal gap between China's current agricultural village life and wine industry's for the future. In so doing, I will examine the visions of modernity that local Chinese officials project in collaboration with winery managers, and how Chinese vineyard farmers respond to and negotiate newly-introduced quality control and supervision standards. This project will contribute to our understanding of the socio-cultural ramifications of new market forces in rural China.
Fujikura, Yasuko, New School U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Cultural Politics of Badi Families: The Social Impact of AIDS Prevention Projects in Western Nepal,' supervised by Dr. Rayna Rapp
YASUKO FUJIKURA, then a student at New School University, New York, New York, was awarded a grant in May 2003 to aid research on 'Cultural Politics of Badi Families: The Social Impact of AIDS Prevention Projects in Western Nepal,' supervised by Dr. Rayna Rapp. This study focused on the social impact of AIDS prevention projects on reproductive practices in the Badi community, historically considered as a 'prostitute' caste, in the western region of Nepal. The Badi, who are treated as dalit (untouchable caste), had served as entertainers for small rajas (kings) and landlords in the past, and became increasingly dependent on income from women's sex work in the recent decades of migration and urbanization. Badi women became identified as one of the 'high risk groups' by HIV/AIDS prevention projects from the late 1980s, when the WHO and international media predicted that the HIV/AIDS virus would enter Nepal from India through migrant laborers and sex workers. During the 1990s, the identification of specific target areas and groups in the AIDS prevention projects generated various rumors and accusations among other local residents, resulting in renewed discrimination and disputes over the questions of sex work, children's rights, citizenship, and property rights. Through ethnographic fieldwork conducted in a Badi settlement in the urban town of Nepalgunj near the India-Nepal border, this project investigated how the international and domestic AIDS prevention projects create new contexts in which Badi families find possibilities and constraints in their reproductive futures. By identifying subtle transformation through family biographies and life histories, this research documents how people struggle within and against their conditions of life in the context of large social transformations.
Atmavilas, Yamini N., Emory U., Atlanta, GA - To aid research on 'Negotiating Economics, Global and Moral: A Cross-Generational Study of Women and Households in Export Manufacturing, Bangalore, India,' supervised by Dr. Carla S. Freeman
Widger, Thomas, London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'The Youth Suicide Epidemic in Sri Lanka: Causes, Meanings, Prevention Strategies,' supervised by Dr. Jonathan Parry
THOMAS WIDGER, then a student at London School of Economics, London, England, was awarded a grant in January 2005 to aid research on 'The Youth Suicide Epidemic in Sri Lanka: Causes, Meanings, Prevention Strategies,' supervised by Dr. Jonathan Parry. Suicide in Sri Lanka has been a major health and social problem for the past four decades. The research project examined the social and psychological causes, cultural meanings, and formal and informal preventions strategies of suicidal behaviour amongst the Sinhalese of a small town on the northwest coast of the island. A combination of ethnographic, archival, clinical, and epidemiological methods were used that incorporated both qualitative and quantitative approaches. As a result, deep understanding of the range of contexts and experiences that contribute to and frame suicidal behaviour was established. In particular, romantic relationships and romantic loss, marriage, kinship and domestic stress, Sinhalese emotional disorder, and separation and misfortune were examined. The research will make contributions to the anthropology of suicide and South Asia and also anthropological theory.
Roberts, Dr. Mary Nooter, U. of California, Los Angeles, CA - To aid research on 'Images of Efficacy: Devotional Diasporas of Shirdi Sai Baba in the Indian Ocean World'
DR. MARY N. ROBERTS, University of California, Los Angeles, California, received funding in October 2007 to aid research on 'Images of Efficacy: Devotional Diasporas of Shirdi Sai Baba in the Indian Ocean World.' Visual images are integral to the devotional practices of a dynamic contemporary religious movement based upon the life and teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba, a South Asian saint who lived from the mid-1800s to 1918 in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Baba defied religious nationalism, refused to self-identify as either Hindu or Muslim, and accepted the devotions of people of all castes and creeds, thus offering an alternative to communal ideologies. Funding supported multi-sited field research in 2009: on the island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean; on an ashram in Germany headed by a Mauritian swami devoted to Baba and the Virgin Mary; and in Mumbai, Pune, and the holy pilgrimage city of Shirdi in India. The research explored how images actively shape devotion and impact this fast-growing movement's presence and expansion both in India and in the Indian Ocean littoral. In addition to documenting the history, production, and dispersal of images central to the movement, it focuses on the efficacy of the images -- as understood through locally defined concepts of indexicality -- and their radical performative materiality that ensures the presence and proximity of the Saint despite diasporic dislocations.