Bernstein, Anna, New York U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Transformations in Siberian Buddhism: Mobility, Visuality, and Piety in Buryat Worlds,' supervised by Dr. Bruce M. Grant
ANNA BERNSTEIN, then a student at New York University, New York, New York, received funding in May 2007 to aid 'Transformations in Siberian Buddhism: Mobility, Visuality, and Piety in Buryat Worlds,' supervised by Dr. Bruce M. Grant. This project explores the renovation of Siberian Buryat Buddhist practices through transnational, post-Soviet ties. It brings together field and archival study to bear upon three fields of inquiry: 1) the ethnography of Siberia; 2) cosmopolitan, transnational religious forms; and 3) material culture. In contrast to some scholars who have seen Buryats purely as 'native,' 'indigenous,' or even as a 'fourth-world' people, many Buryats have long viewed themselves as cosmopolitans who consider Buddhism as one of the most prominent markers of southern Siberia's expansive histories since its arrival in approximately the eighteenth century. Many today ask: Should Buryat Buddhism be understood as adhering to a 'Tibetan model,' one most recently advanced through pilgrimages by monks and well-funded lay persons to Tibetan monasteries in India? Or, as nationalists argue, should it downplay its international ties to assert itself as a truly independent 'national' religion? This project argues that the ways in which Buryats transform older cosmopolitanisms into contemporary socio-religious movements are key for understanding new geopolitical forms of consciousness, as long-held Eurasian ties are now being revived in the wake of Soviet rule. Based on twelve months of field research, this project tracks these issues ethnographically through a study of two Buryat monastic and lay religious communities located in Russia and in India. The focus on material culture engages specific case studies of how various material objects -- such as relics of famous monks, auspicious images found on rocks, and ritual implements buried underground during Soviet times -- are reinterpreted to create new sacred geographies, historiographies, and modes of religiosity.
Bernstein, Anya. 2011. The Post-Soviet Treasure Hunt: Time, Space, and Necropolitics in Siberian Buddhism. Comparative Studies in Society and History 53(3):623-653.
Seale-Feldman, Aidan Sara, U. of California, Los Angleles, CA - To aid research on 'Adolescent 'Mass Hysteria' in Rural Nepal: Subjectivity, Experience, and Social Change,' supervised by Dr. C. Jason Throop
Preliminary abstract: In the wake of economic and political instability, high rates of unemployment and outmigration and the decade-long violence of the 'People's War,' increasing cases of 'mass hysteria,' also known as 'chhopne rog,' among adolescents have been reported in government schools throughout Nepal. Investigating the phenomenon of mass 'chhopne rog,' which affects mainly female adolescents in rural Nepal, this study traces connections between new forces of social change which have taken shape in the post-conflict period, and the psychocultural dimensions of people's lives. Why are adolescent girls disproportionally afflicted by 'chhopne rog' and how might this be connected to relations of power? What is the public discourse on 'mass hysteria' in Nepal, and how do families, healers, and psychiatrists understand, explain, and treat this illness? What is the nature of the experience of 'chhopne rog' for people themselves, and how does it relate to the sociocultural and economic conditions in which they live their lives? Through a phenomenological, person-centered approach to ethnographic research, this study contributes towards understanding the ways in which subjectivity, an individual's intimate, affective, emotional life-- thoughts, desires, hopes, fears or dreams-- takes form in particular historical, political, economic, and sociocultural contexts.
Li, Jin, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Reassembling Religion: Tibetan Buddhism in Post-Communist China,' supervised by Dr. Erik Mueggler
Preliminary abstract: Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, Tibetan and Chinese Buddhists have formed a new network centered in a Nyingma monastery in eastern Tibet, called Larung. This encounter invites us to examine the formation and transformation of religious subjectivity: Why have Tibetan monks included Han Chinese in their revival of Buddhism? Why have so many urban Chinese abandoned the secularist worldview cultivated by the state to convert to Tibetan Buddhism? I address the questions by looking into a tradition in the Nyingma sect, known as gter, or ¡°excavation of hidden treasures.¡± In 1986, the founder of Larung, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, discovered as a ¡°hidden treasure¡± an old gazetteer about Mount Wutai, a Chinese Buddhist mountain sacred to both Tibetans and Chinese. In his eyes, this object was a revelation that Padmasambhava, the Indian master who introduced tantric Buddhism to Tibet, buried treasures to allow Tibetan monks to reconstruct ties with the Chinese. This episode shows how treasure hunting articulates the regimes of landscape, materiality, human wayfaring and religious interpretation. It reveals the two theoretical explorations of my research: First, the research takes issue with the anthropological convention that looks at the religious domain with a panoptic view, and sees the religious domain that has been revived by treasure hunting as an assembly. This assembly gradually comes into being, through encounters between people and things. Second, the research asks how religious subjects are created through their wayfaring encounters with the assembly. This will help engage into Joel Robbins¡¯s (2007) provocative question¡ªHow can anthropology anchored in ¡°continuity thinking¡± explain radical changes in human subjectivity, such as conversion?
Hanna, Bridget Corbett, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Illness in North India: Medicine, Risk, and Experience,' supervised by Dr. Arthur Kleinman
BRIDGET C. HANNA, then a student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was awarded a grant in May 2010 to aid research on 'Illness in North India: Medicine, Risk, and Experience,' supervised by Dr. Arthur Kleinman. The grantee conducted research in north India looking at the effect of controversies over toxic chemical exposure on health experience and health care. The project was based in New Delhi and Bhopal, India, and focused on discourses of health and healing that have followed in the wake of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster. The grantee looked at the experiential, legal, and epidemiological history of attempts to concretize and make sense of the long-term effects of the exposure of half the city to methyl-isocyanate. With archival research, and through extended conversations with patients, doctors, researchers, bureaucrats, and activists, the grantee mapped usage of health care by survivors, and tried to understand the dynamics that structured the provision of health care to the affected group. The project asked: How is environmental illness causality survivor, the healer, and the state? What effect do these perceptions have on the lived experience of the individual, the family, and the city? What are the roles of state and non-state actors in articulating medical frameworks in Bhopal? And what are the implications of the culture of medical anxiety and obfuscation that has characterized the aftermath?
Chatterjee, Moyukh, Emory U., Atlanta, GA - To aid research on 'Legacies of Collective Violence: Survivors, NGOs, and the State in Gujarat, India,' supervised by Dr. Bruce Knauft
MOYUKH CHATTERJEE, then a student at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, received funding in May 2010 to aid research on 'Legacies of Collective Violence: Survivors, NGOs, and the State in Gujarat, India,' supervised by Dr. Bruce Knauft. This project examines how mass violence unfolds across legal institutions of state redress and its implications for survivors and human-rights NGOs struggling for justice in India. Despite numerous official commissions of inquiry, human-rights activism, and civil society efforts, mass violence against minorities -- supported by state officials and militant rightwing organizations -- goes largely unpunished in India. By examining the production, circulation, and interpretation of police and legal documents within different state institutions, and victim and NGO efforts to challenge state impunity, this project examines state writing practices and its effects on legal accountability. Based on eighteen months of fieldwork in lower courts, legal-aid NGOs, and survivors/complainants of the anti-Muslim violence in 2002, this project outlines how law courts obfuscate individual culpability, invalidate victims' testimony, and render sexual and gendered violence against minorities invisible. The study examines the role of legal and police documents in enabling the state apparatus to regulate what can be officially seen and said about public acts of mass violence involving ruling politicians and state officials, and its implications for survivors, human-rights activists, and NGOs fighting for legal justice.
Zia, Ather, U. of California, Irvine, CA - To aid research on 'Politics of Absence: Women Searching for the Disappeared in Kashmir,' supervised by Dr. Victoria Bernal
ATHER ZIA, then a student at University of California, Irvine, California, was awarded funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Politics of Absence: Women Searching for the Disappeared in Kashmir,' supervised by Dr. Victoria Bernal. Since 1989 Kashmir has been engulfed in an anti-India armed militancy. Approximately 8,000 to 10,000 men have disappeared in the Indian counter-insurgency actions. Kashmiri women have assumed the task of caring for families in the absence of men. They have organized to search for those who have been subjected to enforced disappearance after being arrested by the Indian army. The research explores why some Kashmiri women become activists, what factors sustain their political struggle, and how their work as women redefines notions of activism, and public engagement in a primarily Islamic social context. The resulting dissertation focuses on understanding the questions of agency, affect, ethics, and emotion, memorialization, and mourning, in this kin-based activism.
Smith, Nicholas Russell, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Spatial Conceptions in the Transformation of China's Rapidly Urbanizing Villages,' supervised by Dr. Eve Blau
NICHOLAS R. SMITH, then a student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was awarded a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'Spatial Conceptions in the Transformation of China's Rapidly Urbanizing Villages,' supervised by Dr. Eva Blau. This project explores the rapid transformation of Hailong, a peri-urban village on the outskirts of Chongqing, a booming municipality in China's west. Through a combination of ethnography and spatial analysis, this research has investigated how actors conceive of the village's transformation, how these conceptions are actualized through socio-spatial practices, and how these practices intersect to produce transformation. Preliminary findings have revealed a variety of socio-spatial ontologies used to theorize Hailong's transformation. The dominant ontology, subscribed to by a majority of urban planners and policy makers, defines Hailong in terms of fixed urban and rural categories. By reifying these categories, planners and policy makers limit their options for intervention, leading to practices that fragment and simplify the village. Other actors employ alternatives, such as an ontology of uncertainty, which drives practices that minimize risk through diversity, hybridity, integration, and mobility. These alternative practices thus subvert planners' efforts to create fixity and simplicity, resulting in contestations that erupt with particular intensity in Hailong's village square, at the site of a new residential compound, and in neighborhood common spaces. The contingency and indeterminacy of these spaces makes them crucial nodes in the production of Hailong's still unsettled future.
McConnachie, Kirsten, Queen's U., Belfast, UK - To aid research on 'Governing Exiles: Competing Sites of Law, Justice, and Memory in a Karen Refugee Camp,' supervised by Dr. Kieran McEvoy
KIRSTEN McCONNACHIE, then a student at Queen's University, Belfast, United Kingdom, was awarded a grant in May 2008, to aid research on 'Governing Exiles: Competing Sites of Law, Justice, and Memory in a Karen Refugee Camp,' supervised by Dr. Kieran McEvoy. Refugee camps are often described as sites of 'warehousing', absent jurisdictional oversight and political participation. Such descriptions assume passivity and dependence, though in reality refugees display considerable agency in shaping their lives and society. This research profiles refugee agency by documenting systems of governance within a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border, focusing on the administration of justice. The refugee camp is not a legal vacuum but a densely pluralistic jurisdictional site where multiple actors claim a role in governance including the Royal Thai Government, refugee committees, military groupings, religious leaders and international humanitarian agencies. Importantly, refugees themselves play an active role in camp management. This research examines the practice of refugee justice workers, and the intersection between these structures and other authorities, including non-governmental organizations seeking to enhance access to justice for refugees on the Thai-Burma border. Theoretical frameworks of legal pluralism, governance and sovereignty are used to analyse the distinct society which exists inside the camp boundaries, its norms and beliefs and the institutional and individual messages which contribute to their construction.
Huang, Dr. Shu-min, Iowa State U., Ames, IA; and Rakariyatham, Dr. Pong-In, Chiang Mai U., Chiang Mai, Thailand - To aid collaboration on Chinese diasporic communities in highland northern Thailand: ecology, identity, and transnationalism