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.
Walker, Dr. Andrew, Australian National U., Canberra, Australia - To aid research on 'Indigenous Hydrological Knowledge and Dry-Season Agriculture in Upland Catchments of Northern Thailand'
DR. ANDREW WALKER, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, received funding in December 2002 to aid research on 'Indigenous Hydrological Knowledge and Dry-Season Agriculture in Upland Catchments of Northern Thailand.' The objective of this project was to investigate the role of 'indigenous hydrological knowledge' in relation to agricultural decision-making in the dry season in upland areas of northern Thailand. Research was undertaken in two villages in Samoeng district in Chiang Mai province. Overall, there appear to be relatively few local 'indicators' used to estimate the likely supply of water during the dry season. The key indicators are the obvious ones, the level of water in the main water sources. The most important assessments about water supply appear to be made in the early months of the dry season, but often after decisions about cropping have already been made. Local knowledge about hydrological issues appears to be strongly influenced by prevailing state discourse. State agencies regularly assert (using a range of methods, including roadside signs) that reductions in forest cover are the principle cause of hydrological imbalance (dry season water shortage and wet season flooding). These views are regularly repeated in local discussions. The research indicates that dry season agricultural activity is primarily driven by economic factors. Decision-making about the extent of cropping and the choice of crops is influenced primarily by assessments of likely yield and financial return. These assessments are based principally on crop performance in previous years. New crops are initially adopted by innovators and are then adopted more widely if they prove to be successful. Availability of credit is also an important factor.
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.
Guffin, Matthew Bascom, U. of California, Davis, CA - To aid research on 'Space and Identity Formation among Programmers in Hyderabad's Urbanizing Periphery,' supervised by Dr. Smriti Srinivas
BASCOM GUFFIN, then a student at the University of California, Davis, California, was granted funding in October 2009, to aid research on 'Space and Identity Formation among Programmers in Hyderabad's Urbanizing Periphery,' supervised by Dr. Smriti Srinivas. The grantee conducted fieldwork with infotech professionals living and working in the western periphery of Hyderabad. The grantee stayed in a gated community to track how rituals and celebrations, daily interactions, and an active email list helped to create a strong sense of community. Visiting informant's apartments and workplaces, research documented how new spaces of work built by multinational and Indian IT companies have created a new sense of comfortable living. The grantee participated in dance and aerobics classes, played soccer, and went to nightclubs, examining the gender dynamics inherent in the body cultures of each space. Traveling in the city and talking with commuters provided a sense of traffic culture in Hyderabad where order is maintained chiefly by concrete constraints like speed bumps, medians, and the relative size and speed of oncoming vehicles. The grantee also accompanied informants to view under-construction apartments and saw how their aspirations were placed in negotiation with the concrete realities of these spaces-in-formation. Preliminary findings reveal that a new kind of society is rising in this periphery, one that valorizes individual socioeconomic and geographic mobility and affirms individual aspirations in part through the construction and use of new concrete spaces.
Butt, Wagas Hameed, U. of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA - To aid research on 'Antagonism, Intimacy, and Tolerance: The Morality of Religious Syncretism among Christian Minorities in Lahore, Pakistan,' supervised by Dr. Steven M. Parish
Preliminary abstract: Anthropological work has focused attention on the role of tolerance and antagonism between religious groups in bringing about religious syncretism. In contemporary Pakistan, antagonism between Christians and Muslims has arisen out of Islamic reforms of the political and legal system, violent attacks, and caste discrimination. However, residing as neighbors, both groups share a number of spaces, giving them intimate knowledge about each other's lives and religious traditions. Yet, it is Christians who draw upon the Islamic traditions of their neighbors. Thus, my project investigates how experiences of both antagonism and intimacy with the Muslim majority and its religious traditions lead to a form of Christianity that has appropriated Islam. Focusing on assessments Christians make of their own religion and community, as well as that of the majority, my research explores the social and subjective dimensions of religious syncretism. This approach refines the anthropology of religious syncretism, which has kept these approaches separate. Examining interactions Christians have with the Muslims in both formal and informal contexts, my project also contributes to discussions of religious pluralism in nation-states where groups differentiated by religion occupy unequal positions of sociopolitical power and the governance and tolerance of religious difference are critical political issues.
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.
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.).