Kleyna, Mark A., Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Spectacles of the Modern: Technology, Development, and the Imagination of the Indian Nation, 1947-1965,' supervised by Dr. Nicholas B. Dirks
Gaikwad, Namrata, U. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN - To aid research on 'Men against Matrilineage: Contestations Around Gender Politics in Shillong, India,' supervised by Dr. Jean Langford
NAMRATA GAIKWAD, then a student at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, was awarded a grant in October 2010 to aid research on 'Men against Matrilineage: Contestations around Gender Politics in Shillong, India,' supervised by Dr. Jean Langford. During Summer 2011, a second-phase of research was conducted (through participant observation, discussions and interviews) both in the urban center of Shillong but also extended to semi-urban and rural settings in the state of Meghalaya. The data collected provided unique insights into the ways in which dynamics around gender and kinship intersect with conceptualizations of modernity, futurity, and personhood among Khasi village-folk. These discussions threw new light on the research previously conducted in Shillong and enabled a reframing of problems as had been articulated by more educated and well-to-do people. Consequently, it facilitated a sharpening of research questions and a fresh approach to the same theoretical problems encountered in the city. The research also followed relatives of people from the village, who now live in Shillong, in order to track their continued, yet somewhat realigned kinship relations and responsibilities (in all their gendered dimensions). It highlighted an interesting urban-rural schism with the 'nongkyndongs' (Khasi for 'villagers' or 'country bumpkins') both reflecting on what they felt was a false divide created by urbanites but also simultaneously owning their difference and purported lack of class and cultural capital in the name of something more genuinely Khasi.
Basnet, Govinda B., U. of Georgia, Athens, GA - To aid research on 'The Struggle for Water Rights in Contested Commons: Changing Institutional Landscapes in Upper Mustang, Nepal,' supervised by Dr. Robert E. Rhoades
GOVINDA B BASNET, a student at the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia received funding in July 2005 to aid research on 'The Struggle for Water Rights in Contested Commons: Changing Institutional Landscapes in Upper Mustang, Nepal,' supervised by Dr. Robert E Rhoades. The research aimed at investigating how the struggle for water rights modifies the institutional landscape of agricultural resource management in a water scarce region of upper Mustang in Nepal. By integrating comparative and historical methods the research project investigated the dynamics of struggle for water rights in irrigation systems in six villages of upper Mustang through a fieldwork that lasted from October 2004 through July 2006. The project was designed to investigate the dynamics of struggle both within a village, and between villages sharing and not sharing water sources. The initial result form the field research shows that access to water is linked to impartible inheritance system, labor contribution, and types and growth stages of crop. Ownership claim is validated through exercising political power, narratives of local legends, and resorting to customary or state laws as appropriate. Struggle to be a part of decision making bodies for water management has ushered in changes in social institutions: In this arid region, water served not only as a bone of contention but also as a sticking glue to hold a society together.
Wang, Jing, Rice U., Houston, TX - To aid research on 'Reimagining the Silk Road: Muslim Minorities at the Limits of Multiculturalism in Xi'an, China,' supervised by Dr. Dominic Boyer
Preliminary abstract: This project focuses on the Chinese state's ongoing promotion of domestic multiculturalist policies through exploring the way it mobilizes cosmopolitan imaginaries of the 'New Silk Road.' Particularly, I will look at how these emerging imaginaries and forms of multicultural governance intersect with the new ways the Chinese government recognizes and locates as relevant its Muslim minorities in the city of Xi'an, which is strategically branded as the starting point of the New Silk Road. Despite their relatively small population size (compared to the Han Chinese), Muslims in Xi'an have become hailed by Chinese political and cultural elites as the embodiment of the city's complex mosaic of Islamic culture. However, it remains unclear the extent to which the official discourse of multiculturalist cosmopolitanism really supports ethno-religious diversity at both the local and national scales, given Beijing's growing nationalist aspirations and its anti-separatist campaigns on the national borders. On the micro level, my project also attends to how local Muslim subjects construct their own cultural expressions and actively navigate the state interventions in their lives as well as the constraints of authoritarian forms of recognition. Through careful analysis of official statements and media reports, close observations of institutional structures and practices, and sustained interactions with my Muslim informants in Xi'an, this project ultimately asks: what are the limits of the recognition of diversity in a globally ambitious authoritarian state that is trying to simultaneously be economically liberal and politically unified? My ultimate aim is to contribute to ongoing anthropological engagements with the politics of recognition in both liberal and authoritarian states.
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.
Wind, Steven, U. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ - To aid research on 'A Reconsideration of Child Labor in the Contexts of Household Economics and Community Norms,' supervised by Dr. Mark A. Nichter
STEVEN WIND, while a student at University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, received funding in January 2003 to aid research on 'A Reconsideration of Child Labor in the Contexts of Household Economics and Community Norms,' supervised by Dr. Mark A. Nichter. The research examined household and community perspectives on child labor in Mysore, India. A sample of households having working children was visited over a one-year period and interviewed on a range of subjects including children's work, health, education, risk, and community problems. Although in some cases children's economic contributions were found to be vital to household survival, the reasons for children's initiation into paid labor often transcended mere economic rationalism with complex roots in community social problems, government policies, and local cultural values. Parents' narratives of why their children had begun working commonly included accounts of poor quality primary education, corporal punishment in classrooms, extended periods of cutting classes, the bad influence of anti-social peers, and the serious illness or death of a breadwinner. Parents and working boys saw risk as inherent in many kinds of work and gave more importance to whether an occupation offered a good future. In the case of girls, cultural moral prescriptions continue to motivate some parents to withdraw their daughters from school at menarche and limit them to work that is done in or near the home, ends at a reasonable hour, and has a safe moral environment. Parents, NODs, and government servants charged with eradicating child labor were in general agreement regarding children's right to attend school rather than work. However, many poor parents were against the government's strong eradication approach unless the families of working children are provided economic aid and other programs to help them survive without their children's income.
Sargent, Adam Carl, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Building Capitalism: The Cultural Politics of Construction in North India,' supervised by Dr. Susan Gal
ADAM C. SARGENT, then a student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, received funding in May 2010 to aid research on 'Building Capitalism: The Cultural Politics of Construction in North India,' supervised by Dr. Susan Gal. Research was conducted for seven months on a residential condominium construction project in Gurgaon, India. The construction industry is held out, by industry organizations, as having the potential to not only develop the necessary infrastructure for India but also to bring a largely rural workforce into modern forms of capitalist employment. That this has not happened is often blamed on an incomplete process of modernization. The persistence of recruitment along kinship, caste and village networks is pointed to as evidence of this failure to modernize. Close observation of work practices and interactions between managers and workers on the site produced a more nuanced approach. Rather than posing a barrier to developing modern workers, kinship and village networks were mobilized to provide the necessary social structure to support modes of flexible employment. Thus family members were preferred hired because their extra-economic relationships meant that they could be more easily put to work when needed and sent home when work on the site was slow. In this way seemingly 'traditional' forms of work organization were actually supporting what are taken to be 'modern' forms of work organization (piece-rate contracts, etc.).