Gross, Victoria Gabrielle, Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Articulating Honor, Authoring the Past: Political Statements among the Devendra Kula Velallars of Tamil Nadu,' supervised by Dr. E. Valentine Daniel
VICTORIA G. GROSS, then a student at Columbia University, New York, New York, was awarded a grant in April 2012 to aid research on 'Articulating Honor, Authoring the Past: Political Statements among the Devendra Kula Velallars of Tamil Nadu,' supervised by Dr. E. Valentine Daniel. The Devendra Kula Velallar community-a Dalit caste long subjected to violent subjugation in the Tamil region of India-is in the midst of a multivalent socio-political movement. Devendras, who are known to others as Pallars, are in the process of claiming a higher status for themselves. They articulate their claim by adopting a more aristocratic caste title, performatively asserting dominance during caste-centered functions and in everyday moments of bodily comportment, writing and distributing documents about their history, and engaging in conspicuous consumption indicative of a high class position. In opposition to most approaches to Dalit assertion, which employ the discourses of human rights and distributive justice and foreground the oppression of India's untouchables, Devendras refuse victimization. Instead they focus on their position in the distant past, which, they claim, was very high. Some even claim that the Devendras are, in fact, the descendants of the ancient kings of the Tamil region. Such claims are not voiced without opposition. The Thevar community, which used to dominate Southern Tamil Nadu, is staunchly opposed to the Devendras, and intercaste violence between the two communities is increasingly common. This study tracks both the Devendras' upward mobility and the Thevar backlash that it elicits.
Buswala, Bhawani, Brown U., Providence, RI - To aid research on 'Untouchable Butchers: Caste, Gender, and Occupation in India,' supervised by Dr. Lina Fruzzetti
BHAWANI BUSWALA, then a student at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, received a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'Untouchable Butchers: Caste, Gender, and Occupation in India,' supervised by Dr. Lina Fruzzetti. The social life of caste in contemporary India creates precarious conditions for the 'untouchables' to carry out their everyday lives. They continue to negotiate different caste practices, varying from daily subtle discriminations to extreme forms of physical violence. Focusing on a butcher caste in north India, this dissertation project examines how a low caste negotiates its untouchable status through everyday practices. A caste's relation with its conventional occupation in a changing politico-economic context is analyzed through different symbolic and material values attached to the occupation, contests around these values, and practical implications of these on daily conduct and community relations. Changing occupational possibilities for the women of this caste are examined for their role in status negotiations. Inter-caste relations with reference to similar ranking lower status castes are also examined to understand the collaborating and competing conditions that shape the local socio-political relations. Taking untouchable occupation as a site for caste and gender formations, and based on ethnographic data collected through participant observations and informal interviews, this project studies how everyday struggles by the untouchables create possibilities for resisting caste marginality, the forms and the limits of these struggles, and how they may relate to broader political actions.
Welker, Marina, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Industry as Aid: Mining, Development, and Moral Conflict in Sumbawa, Indonesia,' supervised by Dr. Webb Keane
MARINA WELKER, while a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, received funding in November 2001 to aid research on mining, development, and moral conflict in Sumbawa, Indonesia, under the supervision of Dr. Webb Keane. Welker considered the incorporation of a new business paradigm, 'corporate social responsibility' (CSR), in the transnational mining industry. During eighteen months of data collection in Indonesia, she combined long-term village research on community development projects carried out by Newmont Nusa Tenggara near the Batu Hijau copper and gold mine in Sumbawa with two months of comparative research in Jakarta and at other mine sites. Primary methods included participant observation, interviews, and archival research (corporate documents and newspapers). Welker focused on transformations in the risk management strategies mining companies applied to groups they recognized as 'stakeholders': farmers, businesspeople, mothers, the state, developmentalist nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and advocacy NGOs. She found that under the CSR paradigm, corporations were attempting to substitute a market rationality construing local communities as autonomous and independent for the gift logic that served as the conventional basis of corporate-community relations. By examining how new flows of material and discourse between companies and stakeholders were constituted and contested, Welker approached CSR as an extension of corporate power and knowledge. She found both stakeholder groups and companies transformed through their participation in negotiations over the proper relationship between mining companies and mine-affected communities.
Welker, Marina. 2014. Enacting the Corporation: An American Mining Firm in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia. University of California Press: Berkeley and Los Angeles.
Welker, Marina. 2012. The Green Revolution's Ghost: Unruly Subjects of Participatory Development in Rural Indonesia. American Ethnologist 39(2):389-406.
Welker, Marina A. 2009. 'Corporate Security Begins in the Community:' Mining, The Corporate Social
Responsibility Industry, and Environmental Advocacy in Indonesia. Cutlural Anthropology 24(1):142-179.
Saraf, Ishani, U. of California, Davis, CA - To aid research on ''Scrap-scape': Waste, Trade, and Urban Ecologies in Contemporary Delhi,' supervised by Dr. Smriti Srinivas
Preliminary abstract: In the context of urban reform in Delhi that seeks to remove 'wastes' from its landscape, my project will focus on the little understood practices of waste trade by examining the trade in metal scrap (henceforth scrap). I seek to understand how metal, which had captured the imagination of the developmentalist nation-state of India, is apprehended in the form of scrap. Through multi-sited ethnographic research conducted in 'Junk Market', India's largest metal parts market in Delhi, and Dadri dry port in the National Capital Region where scrap from transnational trade reaches Delhi, I will ask: What are the different meanings of scrap in official discourses and according to those who trade it? What are the diverse circuits of flow and multiple forms of transactions through which scrap is traded? How is scrap made marketable and what is the work of valuation that makes this possible? Through these questions, I study how the diverse activities around the trade in scrap intersect with the increasingly frequent and often abrupt interventions by regulatory institutions. I ask how they affect the livelihoods of those who participate in this landscape of scrap transformation. My hypothesis is that these activities and intersections constitute a specific type of urban ecology that I call the 'scrap-scape' which includes the scrap market, the dry port, and the movement and interaction of people and things to and from and between them that make up its processes. While official and corporate discourses frame the urban landscape as one devoid of certain materials-such as 'wastes'-and people working with them, I adopt an optic constituted by these very people and practices, and the lifeworlds that they inhabit and enact, to understand the shadowy, occluded, and underground terrain of megacities like Delhi.
Lohokare, Madhura, Syracuse U., Syracuse, NY - To aid research on 'Articulating Public Space to the Public Sphere: A Study of Neighborhood Associations in Pune, India,' supervised by Dr. Cecilia Van Hollen
MADHURA LOHOKARE, then a student at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, received a grant in October 2010 to aid research on 'Articulating Public Space to the Public Sphere: A Study of Neighborhood Associations in Pune, India,' supervised by Dr. Cecilia Van Hollen. This research describes the myriad ways in which the working class/urban poor imagine themselves to be a part of the city of Pune in western India and relevance of these ways for questions of citizenship, by focusing on two disparate sites: a working class neighborhood in the old part of the city, and on the collective process of an incipient resistance of slum dwellers of the same city to state-sponsored slum rehabilitation programs. An ethnographic investigation of these sites demonstrates how modes of belonging to and claiming the city are structured by embodied and affective identities rooted in the physical and social spaces of the neighborhood; while a radically different mode of belonging is engendered for slum dwellers as they locate themselves in the city in legal, political, and economic terms, through their explicit struggle to defend their dynamic living spaces. This ethnography illustrates how modes of belonging to the city are linked to questions of citizenship and participation in the public sphere for the urban poor in contemporary urban India.
Heimsath, Kabir Mansingh, Oxford U., Oxford, UK - To aid research on 'Lhasa Contemporary: Urban Spaces and Tibetan Practices,' supervised by Dr. Marcus Banks
KABIR MANSINGH HEIMSATH, then a student at Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom, received funding in October 2006 to aid research on 'Lhasa Contemporary: Urban Spaces and Tibetan Practices,' supervised by Dr. Marcus Banks. The tangible modernization of Lhasa, Tibet, has accelerated dramatically in the past decade. This research attempts to use the theoretical construction of space as a method for understanding Tibetan lives in a continually shifting urban landscape. Building on previous experiences residing and working in Lhasa, this fieldwork focused on people's interaction with the material and visual environment of the city. The project attempts to bring together ethnographic research methods with more geographic and architectural concerns of space, buildings, and the city. Fieldwork time was divided between different areas of the city as well as different modes of work, leisure, commerce, and home; while research questions focused on the inter-dependence of material, lived, and representative spaces in the city as they relate to the lives of individual Tibetans. The growing diversification of economies, homes, and professions leads to multifarious spaces in Lhasa, but this project also seeks to discover whether it is possible to discuss the city itself as a coherent place/space. Unexpected riots and crackdowns during fieldwork both complicate and emphasize the peculiar nature of urban topography and its significance for Tibetans today.
Yen, Dr.Yueh-Ping, London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom - To aid research and writing on 'In Search of True Characters: An Anthropological Study of Chinese Calligraphy and Writing' - Richard Carley Hunt Fellowship
Shi, Lihong, Tulane U., New Orleans, LA - To aid research on 'Embracing a Singleton-Daughter: An Emerging Transition of Reproductive Choice in Rural Northeast China,' supervised by Dr. Shanshan Du
LIHONG SHI, then a student at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, was awarded funding in April 2006 to aid research on 'Embracing a Singleton-Daughter: An Emerging Transition of Reproductive Choice in Rural Northeast China,' supervised by Dr. Shanshan Du. This dissertation field research was conducted in a rural community and the surrounding areas in Liaoning in northeast China from August 2006 to August 2007. The grantee explored an emerging transition of reproductive choice in rural northeast China where a substantial number of peasant couples have chosen to have a singleton-daughter (only one child, a daughter), rather than take advantage of the modified birth-control policy that allows them a second child if their first birth has produced a girl. Based on intensive interviews, surveys, participant observation, and archival research, the grantee examined the scope and the socio-cultural underpinnings of the emerging transition of reproductive choice. The field research reveals that an emerging transition of peasant couples embracing a singleton-daughter is taking place in rural Northeast China. This transformation of reproductive preference is closely associated with a gendered shift of old-age support, a weakened dedication to the patrilineage, and women's empowerment in making decisions concerning their own reproduction.
Merli, Dr. Laetitia, U. of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom - To aid on 'Shamanism Versus Neo-shamanism: Case Studies in Tuva and in Mongolia'
DR. LAETITIA MERLI, Mongolian and Siberian Studies Center, Paris, France, was awarded a grant in May 2007 to research 'Shamanism versus Neo-shamanism : Case Studies in Tuva and in Mongolia .' The focus of the study was the intercultural processes in the transmission, learning and exportation of shamanic knowledge, practices and representations between local shamans in Mongolia and in Tuva and their new western apprentices. With globalization, development of tourism and a western vogue for shamanism, some people started their quest to the East 'to take shamanism from the roots' as they think. From this confrontation, four main misunderstandings can be noted: 1) about the perception itself of what a shaman is; 2) about the access to the shamanic function and what it means to become a shaman; 3) about the system of representations; and 4) the attitude towards the therapeutic process. The collected data represent a corpus of approximately 35 hours of video rushes (practices, interviews, rituals), 20 hours of audio-recording (mainly interviews), and 8000 digital pictures.