Weir, James M., City U. of New York, New York, NY - To aid research on 'Popular Social Practices in the Context of Conflict: Chess, Music, and Gardening in Herat, Afghanistan,' supervised by Dr. Vincent Crapanzano
JAMES M. WEIR, then a student at City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, New York, received funding in May 2004 to aid research on 'Popular Social Practices in the Context of Conflict: Chess, Music, and Gardening in Herat, Afghanistan,' supervised by Dr. Vincent Crapanzano. This study presents the life stories of five 'ordinary'Afghans and examines the processes of self-presentation and self-identification in these narratives for what they reveal about the speaker's experience of recent Afghan history. This project queries these life stories at two distinctly different levels. The first is an existential/phenomenological reflection on the process of life narration itself. This is an examination of narrators as they engage their memories to spontaneously create a life story and asks what meanings and patterns emerge from this process of remembering, editing, summarizing and representing a life. The second level of examination explores the individual narrator's relationship to and interpretation of the historical and cultural context of his life. In comments interspersed in the text of the actual interviews and at greater length after each interview, this study considers the dispositions and sensibilities of individual Afghans as they recall and summarize their lives, with particular attention to the expectations and disappointments expressed as they recount their experiences of living through three troubled decades of Afghan history.
Tsigkas, Alexios, New School U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'A Commodity of a Certain Taste: An Ethnography of the Ceylon Tea Industry,' supervised by Dr. Hugh Raffles
Preliminary abstract: While studies have looked at 'taste,' its composition and social effects, in the context of the circulation and consumption of goods, this project seeks to locate taste within the production process of Sri Lanka's national commodity: Ceylon tea is a brand name of immense export value, of historical, financial and symbolic significance to the island. However, while tea enjoys growing global popularity, demand for the high quality but costly Ceylon brew is in decline. While individual stakeholders stand divided on how to address this conundrum, the industry persists in its longstanding practice of laboriously carving and safeguarding a niche-like brand identity around the so-called 'purity' and 'superior taste' of Ceylon tea, despite the fact that the latter remains a widely circulating, mass-produced commodity. This project theorizes taste as a value creating entity, the effects of which are central to the production of commodities, rather than solely to their consumption and in doing so rethinks the commodity form. Furthermore, it posits that the analytic of taste can enrich our knowledge and understanding of the Ceylon tea industry, and by extension contemporary capitalism and the location of Sri Lanka therein. At the same time, it interrogates the very nature of taste making itself as a labor of collaboration and negotiation between different groups of actors. Ethnographic research will integrate the various sites that comprise the Ceylon Tea industry as a whole while attending to the diverse individuals that animate them, extending a novel approach to the study of commodities as ethnographic objects. Fieldwork will be conducted within two tea estates, the Sri Lanka Tea Board, the Colombo Auction House, the Tea Research Institute, as well as a small number of export companies.
Reisnour, Nicole Joanna, Cornell U., Ithaca, NY - To aid research on 'Sounding the Immaterial: The Sonic Politics of Adat and Agama in Post-Authoritarian Bali,' supervised by Dr. Martin Fellows Hatch
NICOLE J. REISNOUR, then a student at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, received a grant in April 2013 to aid research on 'Sounding the Immaterial: The Sonic Politics of Adat and Agama in Post-Authoritarian Bali,' supervised by Dr. Martin F. Hatch. When the newly independent Republic of Indonesia made adherence to a monotheistic faith a requirement for all of its citizens, the Balinese were placed in the residual category 'peoples who do not yet have a religion' and were slated for missionization. Local reformers then set to work trying to convince the government that their people's worship practices conformed to authoritative representations of religion. Although Balinese Hinduism achieved state recognition in 1958, the larger effort to modernize Balinese religiosity has persisted to the present day. This research analyzes the ongoing reform movement in Bali as it is waged and grappled with through the medium of sound. By ringing bells, delivering sermons, orally interpreting texts, and setting up automated systems to play amplified prayers, Balinese Hindus use sound to represent and interact with invisible agents. At the same time, the entangled signifying and affective capacities of religious sounds and other sensuous things are resources that they draw upon in fashioning themselves as moral persons and imagining novel forms of ethical cultivation. The present study proposes ethnographic investigation of the aural semiotics of divine presence as a means of analyzing how religious reform intervenes and is lived at the level of the self.
Chuang, Julia, U. of California, Berkeley, CA - To aid research on 'Scandals of the Absent: Migration, Village, and Homecoming in Rural China,' supervised by Dr. Michael Burawoy
JULIA CHUANG, then a student at University of California, Berkeley, California, was awarded funding in October 2010 to aid research on 'Scandals of the Absent: Migration, Village, and Homecoming in Rural China,' supervised by Dr. Michael Burawoy. As the Chinese state shifts from treating the vast hinterland as a source of deployable labor to seeing it as a site of convertible land, the hinterland becomes a site of exodus. Welfare reforms facilitate rural departures by linking normative forms of mobility to distinct visions of rural modernity. This dissertation compares divergent departures in rural Sichuan -labor migration and marital endogamy in Shixi Town (where land underwrites subsistence) and urban relocation and exogamy in Julong Town (where evictions encroach), and argues that in both sites, the local stigmatization of discrepant mobilities, enacted by wayward Shixi wives and immobile Julong bachelors, enables the extraction of labor and land for development through the respective preservation and erosion of agrarian society.
Fly, Jessie Kimmel, U. of Georgia, Athens, GA - To aid research on 'Unnatural Disasters: Coping Strategies and the Legacy of Agent Orange in the Mekong Delta,' supervised by Dr. Ted L. Gragson
JESSIE K. FLY, then a student at University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, received funding in October 2007 to aid research on 'Unnatural Disasters: Coping Strategies and the Legacy of Agent Orange in the Mekong Delta,' supervised by Dr. Ted Gragson. Much of the recent literature on strategies for coping with food insecurity emerges from communities with subsistence-based economies and highlights the importance of a diversity of resources, or 'capitals,' from which households can draw to procure food. This research project, conducted over a one-year period from 2007 to 2008, sought to understand how people cope with food insecurity in a rapidly changing natural and economic environment. The research focused on three coastal hamlets in Tra Vinh, Vietnam, that were swept into world shrimp markets in the late 1990s. Now, with aquaculture crops failing, mixed messages from the government about environmental conservation, the rising costs of inputs, and the falling price of shrimp, many households find themselves coping not only with regular seasonal food shortages but also with mounting debt and variable access to the necessary resources to cope with those food shortages. This project used a combination of ethnographic methods, including oral-history interviews, livelihoods surveys, and a weekly food frequency survey that captured data on dietary diversity and household methods of food procurement, in order to document changing coping strategies across space and time.
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.
Billingsley, Krista E., U. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN - To aid research on 'Transitional Justice in Nepal: Endemic Violence and Marginalized Perspectives,' supervised by Dr. Tricia Redeker-Hepner
Preliminary abstract: It has been nearly ten years since Nepal emerged from a decade-long internal armed conflict, during which at least 13,000 people were killed. Following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2006, measures under the framework of transitional justice (TJ) have been implemented to redress human rights violations. The only mechanism that has been implemented, financial reparations targeting Nepalis under the age of 18 who lost one or both of their parents during the conflict, has thus far served to entrench structural inequality. Complicating the 'post-conflict' period, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015 killing more than 5,500 people. Therefore, my study interrogates the meaning of 'post-conflict' in a situation of ongoing structural inequality and in a country recently affected by an earthquake of great magnitude. The proposed research will answer the following questions: How do Nepalis targeted for reparations view the effectiveness of this program relative to their position in Nepali society? How do differences in social distinctions, such as gender, age, Varna/caste and ethnic group (social class), political and religious affiliation, and region of residence shape their ability to access reparations and their perspectives on the Nepali government, justice, reconciliation, the ongoing peace process, and other political dynamics in Nepal? How are concepts of finance capital and law/justice formations articulated by actors involved in processes of TJ in Nepal? What forms of governance are made possible at a global level by the 'post-conflict', and now, the 'post-disaster' context and how do global articulations of these labels engage and intersect with the perspectives of those most affected by Nepal's armed conflict?
Liebman, Adam Daniel, U. of California, Davis, CA - To aid research on 'Turning Trash into Treasure: Waste, Commodity Values, and Environmentalism in Postsocialist China,' supervised by Dr. Li Zhang
Preliminary abstract: This research project examines how waste-product industries in postsocialist China are being transformed by the emergent commodity values of recyclables and the shifting morality associated with practices of 'recycling'. I hypothesize that: (1) despite the large impact of market forces and environmentalism, the values generated through practices of recycling are also significantly shaped by the lasting cultural impacts of China's historical experiment with socialism; and (2) the different values that are generated through practices of 'recycling' are in productive tension, shaping human-human and human-environment relations within the waste-product industry and beyond. To test these hypotheses, I will ask how socialist-era legacies of recycling shape engagements with waste; how environmentalism is utilized and particularized; and how formations of labor, socioeconomic hierarchies, and relations between society and the environment shape and are shaped by the values generated through practices of recycling. Ethnographic fieldwork for this project will be conducted in Kunming, the burgeoning capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province. Over a period of twelve months, I will conduct participant observation at a 'green' recycling company and at a private scrap trading business. I will also conduct extensive interviews with and collect the life histories of three groups of actors: junk buyers incorporated into the recycling company; unincorporated junk buyers; and independent garbage pickers. By examining both the symbolic and economic values generated through recycling waste, this research offers an innovative approach to understanding postsocialist transformations in China by accounting for continuities and hybridity, in addition to ruptures.