Achilli, Dr. Luigi, European U. Institute, Florence, Italy - To aid workshop on 'Rethinking Political Agency in the Middle East: Engaging Political Anthropology,' 2016, Florence, in collaboration with Dr. Antonio De Lauri
Preliminary abstract: This workshop intends to bring ethnographic research in the Middle East into conversation with anthropological debate on political agency. In so doing, our first aim is to bring together a group of junior and more established scholars who have been seeking, in diverse ethnographic sites and in hitherto isolated fashion, to bring the theoretical insights of recent anthropological work on political agency to bear on the study of political change in contemporary Middle East. Our second aim in holding this workshop is to bring together scholars whose research in the Middle East has sought to develop alternative ways of thinking about political action and political subjectivity, and whose work has thereby come to envisage forms of agency that cannot be fully explained by traditional analytics such as 'pouvoir-savoir' and sovereignty. We believe the time is ripe to set up an organic and ground based political anthropology of the Middle East so as to test and expand existing accounts of political agency that have sought to go beyond the limitations of the Foucault-Agamben canon.
Shreeniwas, Dr. Sudha, U. of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC - To aid research on 'Traditions in Transformation, New Reproductive Technologies, and Gender Bias'
DR. SUDHA SHREENIWAS, of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, North Carolina, was awarded a grant in June 2003 to aid research on new reproductive technologies and gender bias among members of two castes in India. Shreeniwas examined two hypotheses: (1) Social changes that enhance the productive roles of men more than those of women, together with the rise of patrilineality and dowry systems among formerly matrilineal-matrilocal communities, will increase families' preference for sons. (2) The motivations and means adopted to achieve newly emergent gender-biased reproductive goals will be similar to those operating in places where such goals have been long-standing. Shreeniwas studied members of the Nair caste or community in Kerala state and compared them with members of the Jat caste or community in peri-urban Delhi. The results supported the first hypothesis and partially supported the second. Patrilineal descent, residence, and inheritance, along with dowry practices, had become widespread in Kerala. These trends appeared to be associated with a verbalized preference for sons, although there was little evidence of prenatal sex selection among Nairs. The Jat community had long been patrilineal, with dowry, seclusion and educational limitations for females, strong son preference, and widespread prenatal sex selection. The main similarities between Nairs' and Jats' reasons for son preference were concerns about dowries and women's upbringing. The main differences were encouragement of education and paid work among Nair women and a 'memory of matriliny' that protected them from the worst forms of gender bias. Thus, despite high contraceptive use and low fertility, use of sex selection technology was almost nonexistent among Nairs.
Mullard, Jordan C., London School of Economics, London, UK - To aid research on 'Where the Water Flows: Suffering, Illness, and Human Rights in Rajasthan India,' supervised by Dr. Christopher J. Fuller
JORDAN C. MULLARD, then a student at London School of Economics, London, England, was awarded a grant in March 2005 to aid research on 'Where the Water Flows: Suffering, Illness, and Human Rights in Rajasthan India,' supervised by Dr. Christopher J. Fuller. This research is a study of caste, class, and religion. Particularly, how all are utilized as strategies for social mobility for India's low castes. Research was carried out in a village containing a high class, yet low (untouchable) caste, ruling elite in Rajasthan State. The ethnographic data is divided into four key institutional arenas: caste and the village, economics and class, public sector and politics, and religion. Relations within and between these arenas are articulated through social networks comprising of both achieved (class) and ascribed (caste) status distinctions. These can overlap to form open networks but can also close into enduring groups. Findings indicate that change is characterised, in the village, by the networks undergoing a process of dialectical expansion and contraction resulting from contradictions presented by visible upward social mobility. Explicitly, it is the malleability of the said dichotomous relationship between caste and class, popular in both political discourse and in some village social relations, that provides the form and texture to the process of change. These antagonistic and contradictory unions represent the way in which social mobility in India, as never before, is perhaps challenging the basis of the naturalisation of hierarchy upon which the society has rested.
Keimig, Rose Kay, Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'Growing Old in China's New Nursing Homes,' supervised by Dr. Marcia Inhorn
ROSE K. KEIMIG, then a graduate student at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, was awarded a grant in April 2012 to aid 'Growing Old in China's New Nursing Homes,' supervised by Dr. Marcia Inhorn. The greying of Chinese society is a pressing issue as models predict the population of people over age 60 will more than double by 2050, accounting for 30 percent of the total population. A combination of reduced family support due to the one child policy and reduced state support due to massive privatization of social services has increased the demand for private eldercare facilities and prompted twelve months of anthropological research on aging and caregiving in Kunming, China. During that time, interviews and participant observation were conducted with caregivers, elders, and their families in nursing homes, hospitals, and public spaces. Results from the research indicate that living in a nursing home is 'the choice when you have no choice.' The main reasons for institutionalization include illness, disability, the busyness of adult children, and a complex interaction between parental and filial love. Data also suggest that rather than weakening familial bonds, in many cases nursing homes serve as a way to maintain, or even strengthen, familial bonds in a society where needs are becoming ever more differentiated and individualized. Issues of charity, euthanasia, religion, and volunteerism also arose during interviews and conversations and point to other areas of changing moralities.
Fish, Allison Elizabeth, U. of California, Irvine, CA - To aid research on 'Owning Transnational Yoga: Intellectual and Cultural Property Claims to a Traditional Practice,' supervised by Dr. William Michael Maurer
ALLISON E. FISH, then a student at University of California, Irvine, California, received a grant in April 2006 to aid research on 'Owning Transnational Yoga: Intellectual and Cultural Property Claims to a Traditional Practice,' supervised by Dr. William Maurer. Research related to this project took place primarily in Bangalore, Dehli, and California. What the grantee terms 'transnational yoga' is an example of the rapid transformation that forms of traditional cultural knowledge undergo as they are increasingly offered in commoditized form to consumers in affluent and cosmopolitan markets. The research takes two US federal district court cases, Bikram v. Schreiber-Morrison et al. and Open Source Yoga Unity v. Bikram as a starting point. These suits served as the catalyst triggering open conflict concerning the proprietary nature of yogic knowledge. In researching the resulting dispute, the grantee attends to two sets of reactions. The first is that of the Indian state, which is concerned with what it perceives to be the on-going piracy of its national-cultural heritage. The study focuses upon the state's own claim to yoga and its attempt to protect this claim through the construction of a traditional knowledge digital library. Secondly, the research examines the reactions of select yoga organizations, which have also adopted intellectual property claims. In tracing these relationships the grantee shows how not only yoga, but also other cultural objects (such as intellectual property) are contested and reconfigured. In doing this, the project contributes to a re-examination of the tradition-modernity binary.
Zukosky, Michael L., Temple U., Philadelphia, PA - To aid research on 'Transforming Environmentality: Subjectivity and Development in China's Altai Mountains, 'supervised by Dr. Sydney D. White
MICHAEL L. ZUKOSKY, then a student at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was awarded a grant in May 2004 to aid research on 'Transforming Environmentality: Subjectivity and Development in China's Altai Mountains,' supervised by Dr. Sydney D. White. This research project, through participant observation with Kazakh pastoralists and the collection of various official and expert narratives of grassland science and pastoral development, demonstrated the way that a local political context transformed the efforts of grassland science experts to create viable political subjects. This knowledge did not always contribute to the state's vision of social order, as internally its own incongruities complicated its efforts and as experts interacted with other actors and the improvised political needs of the moment demanded other kinds of solutions. As a point of contrast, this knowledge was successful in creating subjects of 'settlement,' as it linked groups of actors and resources together, but the outcomes differed significantly from what experts had imagined, as pastoralists used 'settlement' in their own ways.
Bajracharya, Sepideh A., Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'A Country of Hearsay and Rumor: Imagining the Nepali Nation Through the Politics of Rumor and Vigilantism,' supervised by Dr. Mary M. Steedly
SEPIDEH BAJRACHARYA, while a student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, received funding in January 2004 to aid research on 'A Country of Hearsay and Rumor: Imagining the Nepali Nation through the Politics of Rumor and Vigilantism,' supervised by Dr. Mary Margaret Steedly. This project asked how the circulation of subterranean discourses (rumors, scandals, conspiracy theories, prophecies) in Kathmandu and its vigilante-run urban neighborhoods enabled a form of political imagining that was specific to what has - since the royal massacre of 2001 - become recognized as a period of political crisis. The study focused on: 1.) actual and imagined links between networks of neighborhood vigilantism and the state; 2.) the techniques and technologies that produced these associations; and 3.) how 'city' and 'neighborhood' became landscapes marked by, and generative of these dealings. It was based on work done in two adjacent Kathmandu neighborhoods affiliated with a gang rumored to have illicit connections to the palace and political elite. Fieldwork consisted of working with, and attending, public events sponsored by members of the gang, and the network of 'patriotic organizations' to which they were linked. Interviews were conducted with residents of the two neighborhoods, political activists, and city/police officials. The use of media and inscription technologies (such as cell phones and invitation cards) was examined to understand how they generated rumor circuits that fed the city's public/political imagination. The study revealed that the face of the criminal and that of the ruler were interchangeable and created through orchestrated and imagined spectacles of legitimacy and rumor. The dissertation will focus on the exchangeability of these legal and illegal structures of rule through rumored associations and public spectacles that allege connections, but do not provide any proof of connection. How does this shape our understanding of 'the political' and its relation to the condition of crisis that foregrounds assumptions about the postcolonial nation?
Bajracharya, Sepideh, 2015, Measures of Violence: Rumor Publics and Politics in the Kathmandu Valley. Journal of Material Culture 20(4):361-378
Sum, Chun Yi, Boston U., Boston, MA - To aid research on 'The New Vanguard of Civil Society: Morality and Civic Consciousness among College Students in China,' supervised by Dr. Robert P. Weller
CHUN YI SUM, then a student at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, received a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'The New Vanguard of Civil Society: Morality and Civic Consciousness among College Students in China,' supervised by Dr. Robert P. Weller. How do campus organizations affect the cultivation of moral personhood and civic consciousness among Chinese college students? How do expressions of individuality, civility, and morality in student organizations illuminate the nature and development of governance and civil society in Communist China? Analyzing students' motivations of participation and their experiences in volunteering and organizational activities in an elite university in southern China, this dissertation examines how extra-curricular interest groups mediate students' identities and relationships with their peers, the society at large, and various levels of school and state authorities. In this informal, voluntary, and less supervised sphere of tertiary education, frequent contestations and negotiations of individuality and social boundaries have driven young people to reflect critically on their roles and responsibilities in the transforming political economy and moral communities. This research argues that associational experience in the Chinese university has unwittingly disempowered and disillusioned well-intentioned youth from enthusiastic anticipation of, and active engagement in, civic affairs and social initiatives. The exposures to campus politics and social injustices have promoted a sense of inadequacy and helplessness, rather than preparing participants for social integrations as the study's interlocutors have initially hoped. This project examines the manifestations of individualism and civility among China's future elites, and discusses peculiarities and development of China's civil and uncivil society in the midst of new opportunities and challenges presented by changing imaginations in national and global modernities.