Tahir, Madiha, Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'The Recognition of Risk: Drone Warfare and Strategies of Recognition,' supervised by Dr. Elizabeth Povinelli
Preliminary abstract: In the face of the variable logics of empire--in particular, in the practice of drone attacks on Pakistan's Tribal Areas (FATA)--how do survivors and families of the dead attempt to gain recognition for their loss? What is the relationship between the displacement of all risk onto people living on the political and geographic margins of Pakistan and the forms of recognition open to them in the international discourse of human rights? My dissertation project analyzes how drone affectees deploy artifacts--testimony, photos of dead kin--in tandem with human rights organizations to lay claim to their humanity and dignity. They attempt to resuscitate a data point into a fleshly material body that has been killed. I ask: How do these strategies succeed and fail? What are the vocabularies and discursive techniques through which these artifacts are made and unmade? My project contributes to anthropological literature on violence and the social as well as examining how our world and forms of recognition are being remade as new technologies make it possible to (once again) re-distribute risk across the globe.
Ngo, Anh-Thu Thi, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Constructing / Belonging in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam,' supervised by Dr. Michael Herzfeld
ANH-THU THI NGO, then a student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, received funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Constructing/Belonging in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam,' supervised by Dr. Michael Herzfeld. This research focuses on transformation, adaptation, and belonging in Vietnam's largest metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City (known locally as Saigon). Three fields of interaction -- distinguished broadly as artistic, political and philanthropic activity -- serve as the grounds for an examination of the sociality inherent to self- and world-making in the context of urban growth. Amid both the empowering and obstructing capacities of city life, how do particular agents construct the means for grounding their lives meaningfully? How do the landscapes and social processes around them impinge on these endeavors? In each of the three spheres of inquiry, young Saigonese organize themselves to share information and resources to broaden and enable their creative, civic or charitable aims. The urban environment, which engenders these connections, grounds the ethnographic picture, even as Saigonese increasingly turn to social media platforms to engage one another. These investigations into well-being are framed not as processes that have neat arcs of fulfillment but rather as continual working at
'being-with:' being with oneself in terms of spiritual or moral understanding; being with others in social and political engagement; being with one's environment or cityscape in its multitude and mutations. Through extended conversations and multimedia engagement, this ethnography provides a mosaic of urbanites' attempts to forge futures when collective memories and present realities come together in uncertain manner.
Kaehler, Laura E., City U. of New York, Graduate Center, NY - To aid research on 'Market Translators in Kuala Lumpur: Social Practice in High Finance,' supervised by Dr. Jane C. Schneider
LAURA E. KAEHLER, while a student at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in New York, New York, received funding in July 2001 to aid research on social practice in high finance in Kuala Lumpur, under the supervision of Dr. Jane C. Schneider. Kaehler's findings indicated that in Malaysia, the commodification of risk was a crucial cause of the financial crisis of 1997-98. Risk management practices were also implicated in the uneven distribution of the effects of the crisis across society. At the time of Kaehler's research, the political and financial elite were attempting to inculcate practices of risk management at the family, state, and national levels. However, the governmental calculus and rhetoric of risk aversion, as well as the state-controlled media's focus on manipulation of risk, had served to make the public not more risk averse but less so. 'Stock fever' continued at pre-crisis levels, and market participation had become a key marker of sociability, patronage, and prestige. Increasingly, social life had become regulated by market practice, which meant not just simple market economics but the adoption of a frenzied style of stock-market speculation by unlikely comers from private and public life. Kaehler collected evidence through interviews with government officials, fund managers, and individual investors and through participant observation at a Malaysian hedge fund. Her findings suggested a possible reformulation of anthropologists' arguments regarding the embedding of markets in societies to incorporate the transplanting of Euro-American financial markets into developing countries without grafting roots in local market cultures, even where financial markets were run by locals.
Deutsch, Cheryl Lynn, U. of California, Irvine, CA - To aid research on 'The Traffic of Desire: Economic Growth, Environmental Sustainability, and Transportation Planning in Delhi,' supervised by Dr. Keith Murphy
Preliminary abstract: In a recent decision, Delhi's High Court directly challenged the car culture of India's growing middle class. Striking down a lawsuit brought by car-owners against a new bus system in the capital city, the Court argued: 'A developed country is not one where the poor own cars. It is one where the rich use public transport.' The Court's decision gave a go-ahead to convert over 300 kilometers of vehicle lanes into bus-only corridors along the city's congested road network and reflects a shift in thinking about urban development away from consumer culture and towards environmental sustainability. Transportation planners now face the challenge of implementing this new Bus Rapid Transit system and, with it, re-engineering the car culture of Delhi's middle class. Through one year of ethnographic research with Delhi's transportation planners, this project will bring to light the contestations at work in changing conceptions of development through infrastructures of mobility.
Venkatesan, Dr. Soumhya, U. of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK - To aid research and writing on 'Crafting Discourse: Mat Weaving in Pattamadai, South India' - Richard Carley Hunt Fellowship
DR. SOUMHYA VENKATESAN, of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, was awarded a Richard Carley Hunt Fellowship in December 2002 to aid research and writing on mat weaving and the discourse surrounding the craft in Pattamadai, India. From January 2003 to January 2004, Venkatesan conducted research in South India among Muslim mat weavers, exploring issues relating to Islam and the craft object. She wrote up the results of the research in a manuscript for publication as a monograph, with the working title Transformative Words: 'Craft,' 'Development,' and the Worlds of Indian Artists. Aspects of the research were also to be published in a paper entitled 'Making Gifts Matter,' in a volume edited by Ssorin-Chaikov and Sosnina.
Venkatesan, Soumhya. 2006. Shifting Balances in a 'Craft Community:' The Mat Weavers of Pattamdai, South India. Contributions to Indian Sociology 40(1):63-89.
Venkatesan, Soumhya. 2009. Craft Matters: Artisans, Development and the Indian Nation. Orient Black Swan: New Delhi.
Peche, Linda Ho, U. of Texas, Austin, TX - To aid research on 'Constructing Self and Spirit: Home Altars and the Articulation of Vietnamese American Subjectivities,' supervised by Dr. Pauline Turner Strong
LINDA HO PECHE, then a student at the University of Texas, Austin, Texas, was awarded funding in May 2010, to aid research on 'Constructing Self and Spirit: Home Altars and the Articulation of Vietnamese American Subjectivities,' supervised by Dr. Pauline Turner Strong. This project is about spiritual connection -- how the 'spiritual' is accessed, experienced and/or transformed in the materiality of everyday life for Vietnamese Americans. The context is a community envisioning itself emerging from war and refugee flight as well as grounding itself as truly American. Specifically, this project examines Vietnamese American home altars and shrines as social spaces where cultural, religious and political ideologies are experienced and expressed. It seeks to explore how religious experiences inform and are produced by a kind of 'spirit' of a community, addressed not through some static notion of 'identity' but, instead, as constituted (and continually re-constituted) through expressive practices. With this approach, the 'spirit' and 'spiritualities' of Vietnamese America are fulfilled through experience rather than revealed in a holistic sense. What emerges is a shifting and negotiated spectrum of belief and practice, navigated both through an exploration of different spiritual/spatial landscapes and collective diasporic imaginaries.
Kim, Dr. Eleana Jean, U. of California, Irvine, CA - To aid research and writing on 'Making Peace with Nature: The Greening of the Korean Demilitarized Zone' - Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship
Preliminary abstract; The Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ), the buffer zone that separates the two Koreas, has been uninhabited for more than sixty years, and in that time it has transformed into an accidental ecological haven for rare and endangered species. Ecologists and preservationists in South Korea and internationally have recognized the unique conservation possibilities of the DMZ since the 1960s, yet only in the past decade has active government and NGO attention been concentrated on rebranding of the DMZ as a zone of 'peace and life' rather than a traumatic scar of national division and war. Empirically, my research focuses on the South Korean border area and what I call the DMZ's 'ecological exceptionalism,' which emerges out of the social practices and relations among scientists, ecologists, environmentalists, activists, local residents, bureaucrats, and nonhuman actants, including endangered birds, alien fish, uncultivated flora, and land mines. The monograph and articles I plan to complete analyze how the production of the DMZ's nature also entails the naturalization of the DMZ as a space of social and political exception that takes place in relation to Korean nationalisms and unification politics, global environmentalisms, neoliberal capitalism, and political violence. But beyond deconstructing the DMZ's nature as always already social and political, my work identifies the mutual constitution of hope and nature in contemporary attempts to grapple with planetary futures and the limits of human agency. I argue that political ecology debates over capitalism and conservation must also include issues of global security and militarization and that the politics and poetics of utopian imaginaries are crucial to an anthropological understanding of what many refer to as the Anthropocene.
Aragon, Dr. Lorraine V., East Carolina U., Greenville, NC - To aid research on 'State Policies, Religious Narratives, and Multiculturalism: Addressing the Communal Conflicts of Post-Suharto Indonesia'
DR. LORRAINE V. ARAGON, of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, received a grant in May 2002 to aid ethnographic research on the religiously polarized communal conflicts that began in Indonesia after President Suharto's resignation in 1998. One of Aragon's objectives was to examine how state policies and the activities of state agents interacted with local community networks to foster regional disharmony between ethnic groups that were divided as Muslim and Christian. The most detrimental policies related to migration, ethnoreligious discrimination, bureaucratic corruption, the promotion of cash cropping, and land commodification. A comparison of conflicts in Maluku, central Sulawesi, and Kalimantan indicated that violence became religiously polarized where Christian and Muslim identities heavily overlapped local categories of 'indigenous' versus 'migrant' and did not crosscut significant ethnic boundaries. Aragon also investigated Muslims' and Christians' experiences of the violence and explored their divergent understandings of why the conflict began, who suffered most, and when violence was justified. Mass media also proved to be implicated in the religious polarization and escalation of conflict. Media narratives in a wide variety of formats framed conflicts in terms of a Muslim-Christian 'holy war' or religious aggression, which helped transform local, national, and transnational interpretations and actions.
Aragon, Lorraine V. 2005. Mass Media Fragmentation and Narratives of Violent Action in Sulawesi?s Poso Conflict. Indonesia, Vol. 79:1-55.