Luthra, Aman, Johns Hopkins U., Baltimore, MD - To aid research on 'Modernity's Garb(age): A Political Ecology of Municipal Solid Waste in Delhi,' supervised by Dr. Erica Schoenberger
AMAN LUTHRA, then a student at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, received a grant in April 2012 to aid research on 'Modernity's Garb(age): A Political Ecology of Municipal Solid Waste in Delhi,' supervised by Dr. Erica Schoenberger. Cities hold a promise of modernity, even as their underbellies (particularly garbage and its management) expose the ideological and material contradictions therein. Using the lens of garbage, this study explores relations within and between classes, the state, and private capital in the process of urbanization in Delhi. This research relies on: a year-long period of field research involving participant observation at an NGO, an association of waste pickers, and at various industry and events; semi-structured interviews and group discussions with a range of informants including waste pickers, activists, academics, government officials, and waste industry representatives; and a survey of households eliciting their attitudes towards waste management practices. Using the concepts of capital, labor, value, and ideology as focal points, this research will expose the underlying interests that produce and maintain certain conceptual binaries-public/private, formal/informal, waste/resource, property/commons-that are fundamental to struggles over waste.
Henig, Dr. David, U. of Kent, Canterbury, UK - To aid research on 'Indigenous Modernity in the Pamirs: Re-evaluating Traditional Environmental Knowledge in Post-Soviet Tajikistan'
Preliminary abstract: The aim of the project is to examine power and its transformations in the post-Soviet Tajik Pamir region impacted by the disruptive history of the region over the past two centuries and local constructions of this history; present day influences of Soviet hegemony and other trans-regional actors; and changes in political ecology in part emerging from these. The research is sited within two agropastoral Pamir mountain communities in Tajikistan undergoing tremendous changes and diversification in response to macro-societal transformations following the collapse of the Soviet Union and, more recently, environmental changes. The project investigates how people of the Tajik Pamirs creatively re-evaluate and employ traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) to attend to pervasive socio-economic and political changes and increasing environmental threats, focussing on ongoing negotiations between social actors over the politics and practice of TEK that indigenous communities produce, re-produce, call upon, and enact to address their day-to-day needs while coping with economic poverty, political marginality, and property regime transformations emerging from the pervasive post-Soviet transformation and issues such as land erosion, water access, and weather predictability. The project advances theoretical debates on post-socialist change by integrating the largely omitted political ecology and study of TEK in the context of Soviet and post-Soviet agrarian changes into the analytical framework of these changes. It thereby investigates how re-evaluation of TEK becomes at times a way for indigenous communities in the Pamirs to construct their modernity after the collapse of Soviet political cosmologies.
Chua, Emily Huiching, U. of California, Berkeley, CA - To aid research on ''Culture Can Solve Problems': Communitarian Media Ethics and the Cultural Ambitions of Television Production in China,' supervised by Dr. Aihwa Ong
EMILY H. CHUA, then a student at the University of California, Berkeley, California, received a grant in April 2009, to aid research on ''Culture Can Solve Problems': Communitarian Media Ethics and the Cultural Ambitions of Television Production in China,' supervised by Dr. Aihwa Ong. As economic reform transforms China's mass media from a formidable Party-propaganda apparatus into a teeming culture industry, how are state-employed media producers responding to the changing political and economic conditions of their work? In the early twentieth century, Chinese journalists saw themselves as intellectual-activists who gave voice to the conscience of society and guided the country towards self-improvement. During the Mao era, the Communist Party's claim to exclusive ideological leadership turned the mass media into a mouthpiece of the Party-state. The end of Mao's revolutionary project and the rise of Deng's market-based approach have left China's media producers struggling to redefine the nature of their work. On the one hand, commercialization depoliticizes the media, allowing it to operate more like a forum of society than an instrument of the state. On the other hand, media producers are themselves now at the mercy of commercial forces. In the struggle for economic survival, they cannot afford to play the social critic they aspire to be. Political propaganda comes to be replaced by consumer entertainment instead, and society's conscience remains in need of a voice. From this situation spring the many new and difficult ethical problems with which China's idealistic and energetic young media producers now grapple.
Yu, Xiao J., York U., Toronto, ON, Canada - To aid research on 'The Ethnic Law and the Making of Ethnic Identities in China,' supervised by Dr. Susan G. Drummond
XIAO YU, then a student at York University, Toronto, Canada, received funding in June 2005 to aid research on 'The Ethnic Law and the Making of Ethnic Identities in China,' supervised by Dr. Susan G. Drummond. This research contributes a legal ethnography of the social life of China's minzu law, with a focus on its role in identity making. Based on the fieldwork in Xiangxi, a multi-ethnic hinterland of South-central China, it provides a remedy to contemporary writings of China's ethnicities that pay little heed to the role of the minzu law in ethnicities. It also challenges the legal Orientalist discourse that simplistically depicts the Chinese minzu law as imposed by the State as a sham or merely 'law on paper' that is too impotent to have any power. The dissertation demonstrates that legibility and balancing act as teleologies were consistently invoked in the minzu law applications, while two strategies -- ethnicization of the regional, and regionalization of the ethnic -- were constantly embedded in the processes of negotiating identities. To the extent that local ethnoscape and ethnic identities were profoundly transformed by the law's applications in Xiangxi and elsewhere in China, it argues that such a seemingly impotent law has in fact made undeniable important socio-legal deeds, which in turn has made the law itself into a self-referencing, autopoietic legal subsystem that mandates to standardize the country's ethnicities and to perpetuate its legally sanctioned ethnic identities.
Shin, Layoung, Binghamton U., Binghamton, NY - To aid research on ''Performing Like a Star': Pop Culture and Sexuality among Young Women in Neoliberal South Korea,' supervised by Dr. Deborah Elliston
LAYOUNG SHIN, then a graduate student at Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York, received a grant in April 2012 to aid research on ''Performing Like a Star:' Pop Culture and Sexuality among Young Women in Neoliberal South Korea,' supervised by Dr. Deborah Elliston. This research was conducted primarily among 'fan-cospers'-young women in their teens and twenties who are iban (queer-identified) and perform for one another as pop music singers (fan-costume-play, or 'fan-cos'). Research included participant observation and semi-structured interviews at fan-cosper events, hangout places, dance-practice rooms, and LGBT organization gatherings in Seoul. The field research found that young female iban culture has been constructed, popularized, and decreased over the last ten years as Korean society has undergone neoliberalization. It found that job insecurity, low income, lack of secondary education on the one hand, and commercializing pop culture industry and the necessity of consumption on the other, made a significant negative impact on young women's daily lives as well as the effort required to participation in fan-cos and iban community more difficult and challenging. Furthermore, rising public awareness of iban identity (due in part to LGBT activism as well as greater media exposure) has increased the risk of 'outing' and kept fan-cospers from seeking public recognition and popularity. As a result, the fan-cosper community has grown increasing isolated and hated, even by other LGBT subjects. These findings reveal hierarchies within LGBT communities and a bias against young female ibans that do not follow gender conformity and make their existence visible.
Michaels, Ben Justin, Indiana U., Bloomington, IN - To aid research on 'Team Tibet: Soccer as the Performance of Human Rights in the Transnational Tibetan Exile Community,' supervised by Dr. Marvin Sterling
BEN J. MICHAELS, then a student at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, received a grant in May 2010 to aid research on 'Team Tibet: Soccer as the Performance of Human Rights in the Transnational Tibetan Exile Community,' supervised by Dr. Marvin Sterling. For this phase of research, ethnographic fieldwork was carried out in Dharamsala/Mcleod Ganj, India, which is the seat of the Tibetan Government in Exile and the major hub of Tibetan exile life. 2011 became a historic year for the transnational Tibetan exile community as the Dalai Lama announced his retirement from political life and handed over leadership of the Tibetan Government in Exile to an elected prime minister. This marked the next major step in the materialization of his long-envisioned process of Tibetan democratization and emboldened a new generation of politically active Tibetans to embrace their democratic right to disagree with their leaders. Acknowledging dissent as an essential element of the democratic process, this study examines the social mechanisms by which dissenting opinions are either muted at the local level or propagated and allowed to evolve into transnational social movements able to transcend spatial and political boundaries. At the same time, this research highlights some of the generational gaps in social and political views as young Tibetans, raised and educated in exile, use the emergence of new and globally accessible communicative media to express and circulate new ideas throughout the Tibetan world.
Ikeuchi, Suma, Emory U., Atlanta, GA - To aid research on 'Brazilian Birth, Japanese Blood, and Transnational God: Identity and Resilience among Pentecostal Brazilians in Japan,' supervised by Dr. Chikako Ozawa-de Silva
Preliminary abstract: This study engages Brazilian migrants in Japan, both Pentecostal and non-religious, and asks the following question: Can religious networks, practices, and commitments promote a more resilient sense of self by resolving the ambiguity of multiple ethnic identities and national belonging? The majority of Brazilians in Japan hold 'long-term resident' visas, which are available only to Japanese emigrants and their second- and third- generation descendants. Although the legal structure regards them as at least partially Japanese based on descent, the Japanese majority typically does not view them as fully or authentically Japanese. This is because the society tends to define national belonging as the complete convergence of Japanese blood, culture, and language. In this context, many are converting to Pentecostal Christianity in Japan. This project focuses on the religious participation of such converts through the conceptual lens of resilience. The ability to resist stress and overcome adversity, or resilience, is a solid construct in psychological and medical anthropology. I will conduct seven months of fieldwork in Toyota City, Japan. The methods will include participant-observation, questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and open interviews. Particular effort will be made to observe and record emic idioms of resilience, on which later data analysis will be based.
Darmadi, Dadi, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'The Hajj, Reinvented: Pilgrimage, Mobility and Inter-State Organizations in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia,' supervised by Dr. Engseng Ho
DADI DARMADI, while a student at Harvard University, was awarded funding in October 2006 to aid research on 'The Hajj, Reinvented: Pilgrimage, Mobility and Inter-State Organizations in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia,' supervised by Professor Engseng Ho. The grantee conducted twelve months of research on the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in March 2007, working with Indonesian pilgrims, bureaucrats, middlemen and other key actors in the Hajj business -- spiritual guides, tour and travel agents, government officials, leaders and activists of Islamic organizations, and migrant workers. The research was designed to investigate the consequences of state-to-state organization of the Hajj between a country with the largest contingent (over 200,000 pilgrims) and its host. Research was conducted in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and during the pilgrimage itself, and provides an analysis of the burgeoning pilgrimage bureaucracy by emphasizing the actual rather than the ideal workings of state-sponsored Hajj administration. It shows that various groups of middlemen in both countries have a far greater role in shaping the contemporary practice of the Hajj than was previously believed and, while both governments seek to serve and protect pilgrims from organizational failures, the state regulation often becomes a vehicle for private gain at public expense. The social context of bureaucratization and marketization of pilgrimage were examined through a multi-sited ethnography including direct observation, interviews, and participatory research during the Hajj Islamic pilgrimage, and documented by an in-depth study of both state regulations and recent popular Hajj literature. The key aim of this ethnographic research is to provide useful analysis and enlighten anthropological understanding of such major ritual practice as the Hajj and its complex relationships with government and market institutions.
Suhail, Adeem, Emory U., Atlanta, GA - To aid research on 'Dead Dreams and Boys With Pistols: Rethinking Urban Violence in Lyari Town, Pakistan,' supervised by Dr. David Nugent
Preliminary abstract: Within the space of a decade, the township of Lyari transformed from a peaceful neighborhood known to be a bastion of working-class solidarity to an urban war-zone marked by violence between street gangs organized along ethnic lines. This study seeks to answer the question why. Hitherto, anthropological inquiry has either taken an 'objectivist' route that explains urban violence as a by-product of 'larger forces'; or a 'subjectivist' approach that highlights the lived experience of precariousness. However, between the analytical binaries of global/local and space/place are people who constantly innovate and reorganize their lives in response to circumstances that are not of their own making. This research project explores a 'third way' between objectivist and subjectivist approaches. It tests the hypothesis that urban violence can be explained through a close study of the evolution of social organization. It further explores the merits of the claim that evolving social forms mediate between local actors and global forces and constitute the optimal analytic scale through which to understand the recurrent and ubiquitous phenomenon of urban violence in our times.
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.