Srivastava, Dr. Sanjay, Deakin U., Melbourne, Australia - To aid workshop on 'In Relation To. New Cultures of Intimacy and Togetherness in Asia,' 2009, New Delhi, India, in collaboration with Dr. Brinda Bose
'New Cultures of Intimacy and Togetherness in Asia'
February 5-7, 2009, Nehru Memorial Library, Delhi, India
Organizers: Sanjay Srivastava (Deakin University) and Brinda Bose (University of Delhi)
This conference sought to initiate an interdisciplinary dialogue between anthropologists and those working in areas such as gender studies, film/media studies, popular culture, and urban studies in order to explore emerging cultures of intimacies and friendship in contemporary non-Western contexts. It was held on the premises of the Nehru Memorial Library and Museum in Delhi. Countries represented included China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, as well as scholars from the United Kingdom and United States. There was wide ranging discussion over the three days on a diverse range of topics. These included intimacies and new forms of public transport in India, urban queer cultures in Delhi, sexualities and the public sphere in Thailand, non-heterosexual intimacy in contemporary Indonesian cinema, 'informal' marriages in Indonesia, transvestite cultures in Burma, and the marriage-brokering business in Taiwan. The diverse background of the
audience—anthropologists, sociologists, historians, literature specialists, media scholars, and representatives from NGOs—also enhanced the nature of the interaction. January is a 'conference-heavy' month in Delhi; however, notwithstanding several competing engagements, attendance on all days of the event was extremely high (60 to 70 persons). The organizers are negotiating with Routledge for publication of conference proceedings.
Mullard, Jordan C., London School of Economics, London, UK - To aid research on 'Where the Water Flows: Suffering, Illness, and Human Rights in Rajasthan India,' supervised by Dr. Christopher J. Fuller
JORDAN C. MULLARD, then a student at London School of Economics, London, England, was awarded a grant in March 2005 to aid research on 'Where the Water Flows: Suffering, Illness, and Human Rights in Rajasthan India,' supervised by Dr. Christopher J. Fuller. This research is a study of caste, class, and religion. Particularly, how all are utilized as strategies for social mobility for India's low castes. Research was carried out in a village containing a high class, yet low (untouchable) caste, ruling elite in Rajasthan State. The ethnographic data is divided into four key institutional arenas: caste and the village, economics and class, public sector and politics, and religion. Relations within and between these arenas are articulated through social networks comprising of both achieved (class) and ascribed (caste) status distinctions. These can overlap to form open networks but can also close into enduring groups. Findings indicate that change is characterised, in the village, by the networks undergoing a process of dialectical expansion and contraction resulting from contradictions presented by visible upward social mobility. Explicitly, it is the malleability of the said dichotomous relationship between caste and class, popular in both political discourse and in some village social relations, that provides the form and texture to the process of change. These antagonistic and contradictory unions represent the way in which social mobility in India, as never before, is perhaps challenging the basis of the naturalisation of hierarchy upon which the society has rested.
Kaehler, Laura E., City U. of New York, Graduate Center, NY - To aid research on 'Market Translators in Kuala Lumpur: Social Practice in High Finance,' supervised by Dr. Jane C. Schneider
LAURA E. KAEHLER, while a student at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in New York, New York, received funding in July 2001 to aid research on social practice in high finance in Kuala Lumpur, under the supervision of Dr. Jane C. Schneider. Kaehler's findings indicated that in Malaysia, the commodification of risk was a crucial cause of the financial crisis of 1997-98. Risk management practices were also implicated in the uneven distribution of the effects of the crisis across society. At the time of Kaehler's research, the political and financial elite were attempting to inculcate practices of risk management at the family, state, and national levels. However, the governmental calculus and rhetoric of risk aversion, as well as the state-controlled media's focus on manipulation of risk, had served to make the public not more risk averse but less so. 'Stock fever' continued at pre-crisis levels, and market participation had become a key marker of sociability, patronage, and prestige. Increasingly, social life had become regulated by market practice, which meant not just simple market economics but the adoption of a frenzied style of stock-market speculation by unlikely comers from private and public life. Kaehler collected evidence through interviews with government officials, fund managers, and individual investors and through participant observation at a Malaysian hedge fund. Her findings suggested a possible reformulation of anthropologists' arguments regarding the embedding of markets in societies to incorporate the transplanting of Euro-American financial markets into developing countries without grafting roots in local market cultures, even where financial markets were run by locals.
Douglas, Aimee Catherine, Cornell U., Ithaca, NY - To aid research on 'Craft, Creativity, and Managing the 'Excesses of Modernity' in Sri Lanka,' supervised by Dr. Viranjini Munasinghe
Preliminary abstract: As tourism flourishes and opportunities for export grow following the end of Sri Lanka's thirty-year war in 2009, the country's heritage craft industry, though a small segment of its economy, has enjoyed unprecedented growth. While the Ministry of Industry & Commerce reports on the generation of 'new market links for our artisans,' dealers remark with delight on the (mostly foreign) buyers flooding into their shops. The proposed research will focus on one corner of this industry, the production of decorative handloom textiles, and on how a discourse of 'creativity' serves within it as a strategy through which industry participants evaluate, struggle against, and come to terms with their own and others' positions within a globalized economic field. This discourse is situated among calls by government officials, scholars and others for investment in Sri Lanka's so-called 'creative economy.' I approach the handloom industry in which it figures so prominently to examine how, in a context of post-war, government-led efforts toward economic integration into global capital markets, ordinary Sri Lankans fashion themselves in relation to one another and to variously imagined national, global and other collectivities. In doing so, I join recent efforts in anthropology to challenge conventional notions of creativity often deployed in social science analyses. In order to capture a wide range of voices (weavers, dealers, designers, and government and NGO officials) while attending to relationships between participants, I will carry out ethnographic research in three locations among individuals involved (to varying degrees) in the textile production activities of Thalagune, a Sinhalese village in Sri Lanka's Central Province.
Taneja, Anand Vivek, Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'The Sacred as History: Jinns and Justice in the Ruins of Delhi,' supervised by Dr. Partha Chatterjee
ANAND VIVEK TANEJA, then a student at Columbia University, New York, New York, was awarded funding in October 2009 to aid research on 'The Sacred as History: Jinns and Justice in the Ruins of Delhi,' supervised by Dr. Partha Chatterjee. This research is concerned with contemporary ritual practices around medieval Islamic ruins in Delhi. Many of these sacralized ruins are those of 'secular' buildings, not intended to be places of worship - palaces, dams, hunting lodges. The grantee argues that the sacredness of these ruins can be understood through an alternate ontology and epistemology linked both to the Islamic tradition, and to the massive disruptions and dislocations that have characterized everyday life in Delhi over the past hundred years. Through this research, the grantee argues for understanding the sacred as history, understanding these terms to be co-constitutive rather than antithetical. The emphasis on alternate epistemologies also offers a way of understanding relations between religiously defined communities beyond the usual approaches of secularism and tolerance. This research explored the understanding of Islam among non-Muslims who come to these ruins, and argues for the idea of Islam not as an identity, but as a remembered way of being, linked to pre-modern ideas of justice and ethics, and with powers of healing across confessional divides.
Taneja, Anand V. 2013. Jinnealogy: Everyday Life and Islamic Theology in Post-Partition Delhi. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3 (3):139-65.
Taneja, Anand Vivek. 2012. Saintly Visions: Other Histories and History's Others in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi. Indian Economic and Social History Review. 49(4):557-590.
Pant, Ketaki, Duke U., Durham, NC - To aid research on 'Homes of Capital: Merchants and Mobility in the Indian Ocean,' supervised by Dr. Engseng Ho
Preliminary abstract: This dissertation project is concerned with the long history of Gujarati merchant mobility in the Indian Ocean. While scholars of globalization have considered the movement of global capital as a new phenomenon, this project studies the itinerant merchant--historically engaged in the long-distance oriented textile trade--as an early iteration of the global capitalist. Merchant homes, which also function as warehouses, workshops and offices, are central to these networks, and historically connected the textile trade from its point of origin in the interior to the shores of the Indian Ocean. These homes, and descendents of merchant families within them, continue to exist today and allow me to ethnographically study how a history of merchant mobility, coordinated through the home, continues to persist in contemporary society. In studying Gujarati merchant networks from its interiors, this project analyzes how kinship and religious networks, routed through the home, are central to capital mobility. I am concerned therefore with how a seemingly stationary space--the home--helps us to understand the flow of capital across an oceanic space. In analyzing this dynamic of enclosed mobility this project seeks to demonstrate that unlike the contemporary multinational corporation, which though independent of, operates under the umbrella of imperial states and their mobile armies, Gujarati merchants, through a long history, have protected capital without the use of force and the help of a strong state.
Pant, Ketaki. 2014. Gujarat's 'Rangoon Wallas.' Himal Southasian. Published online.
Kikon, Dolly, Stanford U., Stanford, CA - To aid research on 'Blurred Borders: Unsettling the Hill/Valley Divide in Northeast India,' supervised by Dr. James G. Ferguson
DOLLY KIKON, then a student at Stanford University, Stanford, California, was awarded a grant in October 2009, to aid research on 'Blurred Borders: Unsettling the Hill/Valley Divide in Northeast India,' supervised by Dr. James G. Ferguson. Hill and valley occupy a critical place in the development of anthropological theory of societies in the eastern Himalayan region. Constructions of social histories and political identities have followed colonially created categories of hill and valley since the nineteenth century, and differences between the topographic locations have been the basis of organizing territorial borders in the region. This is most pronounced in Northeast India, where federal units often have internal borders that mime practices of international borders and where postcolonial legislation has been grafted onto colonial systems of governance. The research objective is to study how hill/valley spatial categories continue to influence and sustain historically contentious borders, laws, and citizenship regimes in Nagaland and Assam in Northeast India.
Friedman, Dr. Sara Lizbeth, Indiana U., Bloomington, IN - To aid workshop on 'Rethinking Intimate Labor through Inter-Asian Migrations,' 2011, Bellagio, Italy, in collaboration with Dr. Pardis Mahdavi
Preliminary abstract: Over the past quarter century, women and men have migrated across and within regions of Asia to engage in different forms of intimate labor. They have done so formally and informally, as spouses, domestic workers, and sex workers. This workshop questions our received categories for classifying and understanding these forms of migration by examining them as types of intimate labor that fundamentally reshape constructions of family, citizenship, gender, and labor across Asia. The framework of intimate labor requires us to rethink formulations of inter-Asian migration premised on artificial distinctions between forced and voluntary movement, formal and informal migration and labor, and legitimate and illegitimate statuses in host and receiving countries. The workshop will bring together research from across East, Southeast, and South Asia and the Gulf countries to foster an inter-Asian dialogue about how intimate labor is being reconfigured through gendered migration practices and policies. By engaging researchers and activists who have conducted ethnographic fieldwork with marital immigrants and migrant sex and/or domestic workers, the workshop will enhance our understanding of convergences across modes of intimate labor and expose gaps between policy and lived experience. The workshop will generate scholarly publications and policy briefs on Asian migration and labor.
Aulino, Felicity, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Transforming Death, Transforming Society: Palliative Caregiving Networks in Thailand,' supervised by Dr. Byron J. Good
FELICITY AULINO, then a student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was awarded funding in May 2008 to aid research on 'Transforming Death, Transforming Society: Palliative Caregiving Networks in Thailand,' supervised by Dr. Byron J. Good. In northern Thailand, the government, the private sector, and civil society alike are increasingly promoting home-based care models for the elderly. Therein, family members and community volunteers face the challenges of carework amidst a web of social caregiving norms challenged by economic and demographic changes, international elder care initiatives, and the daily grind of providing physical care. This research explores caregiver subjectivity and emergent social networks related to the shifting landscape of care for dependent elderly and those nearing death in this setting. The resulting dissertation theorizes a distinctly Thai logic of psychological support and emphasizes Thai attention to and care of the social body as key to understanding the influence (and limitations) of larger-scale elder care reform efforts. Care for the elderly thus offers a glimpse of life in the shadows of institutions: where traditions are calibrated and embodied, where global ideals are carried out or countered, and where communities of like-mindedness emerge and grow.
Venkatesan, Dr. Soumhya, U. of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'Makers of Gods: Materials, Processes and Rituals in Tamil Hindu Life'
DR. SOUMHYA VANKATESAN, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom, was awarded a grant in November 2005 to aid research on 'Makers of Gods: Materials, Processes and Rituals in Tamil Hindu Life.' The research project sought to explore the common-sense distinction between persons and things through ethnographic research among sculptors and potters in Tamilnadu, South India. Acknowledged as ritual experts, the sculptors and potters make images of gods that are worshipped as gods in Hindu temples within and beyond India. The research question was posed as follows: If persons are social actors possessing agency and intentionality, then how do we understand/theorize manufactured artefacts that possess both capacities and are treated as full social actors? Fieldwork produced interesting and complex answers to this question. A further research question sought to unpack a puzzle: why is it that stone sculptors who make pan-Indian, high-status Hindu gods retreat from the images once their work is completed whereas potters who make Tamil 'village gods' remain connected to the gods they make as priests? The answer it was found partly lies in the ascribed natures of the different gods and in indigenous theories about materiality that also critique hierarchies derived on the basis of caste. Fieldwork for the project was carried out in India over four trips of varying length.