Reese, Jill Marie, U. College London, London, UK - To aid research on 'Spectacular Politics & the Image: Narrative, Morality and Power in the Tamil Public Sphere,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Pinney
JILL REESE, then a student at University College London, London, United Kingdom, was awarded a grant in October 2012 to aid research on 'Spectacular Politics and the Image: Narrative, Morality and Power in the Tamil Public Sphere,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Pinney. Situated in Madurai, Tamilnadu, India, this project sought to examine the relationship of spectacularity to political efficacy, the nature and circulation of narrative tropes of morality employed by image regimes, and the utility of a 'streetscape' as ethnographic location to illuminate the spatio-temporal dimensions of a politico-media assemblage. Data gleaned during fieldwork reveals the centrality of patronage and hierarchies of power as demonstrated through spectacle (images as well as affective displays of public devotion) and mobilized through materials (goods promised in campaigns, illicit payments for votes, materials presented at ceremonies, and the opulence of religious, civic, and political functions). Eighteen months of fieldwork affirmed the preeminence of imagery to political parties and their successes despite continuous tensions between ambivalence and anxiety about images, but also revealed the importance of the materiality of politics to electoral success. It is essential for parties to create a coherent narrative through the image regime, but that need not necessarily be moralistic. Additionally, the utilization of multiple 'streetscapes' within Madurai as ethnographic locations is imperative because public spaces-especially those around significant statues of past leaders-situate popular discourses as they are revealed and contested through imagery and events such as religious festivals, political demonstrations, and caste and civic celebrations, and it is for this reason that political parties employ these spaces.
Grant, Jenna Meredith, U.of Iowa, Iowa City, IA - To aid research on 'Seeing and Believing: The Cultural Politics of Medical Imaging in Cambodia,' supervised by Dr. Erica Stephanie Prussing
JENNA M. GRANT, then a student at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, received funding in October 2009, to aid research on 'Seeing and Believing: The Cultural Politics of Medical Imaging in Cambodia,' supervised by Dr. Erica Stephanie Prussing. This research project examined the cultural politics of ultrasound in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Wenner-Gren Foundation supported the second year of research, from January to October 2010. Fieldwork in diagnostic imaging wards and non-clinical settings sought to understand how ultrasound is valued by different actors, as well as economic, aesthetic, and social contexts of its use. Archival research in Phnom Penh and France examined histories of imaging technologies and modes of visualizing medical knowledge in late colonial and postcolonial times. As a visualizing technology, ultrasound appeals to notions of medical expertise -- within both biomedicine and traditional Cambodian medicine -- as the ability to 'see clearly.' In contemporary practice, ultrasound materializes a range of struggles: patients hoping to find modern, trustworthy care encountered doctors trying to make more money; doctors trying to provide skilled care encountered patients wanting a particular kind of clear and pleasing image; family members used ultrasound images to critique a pregnant woman's self-care; hospital administrators lobbied health ministers and foreign corporations for donations of imaging equipment; monks identified wronged ancestors as the reason a scan failed to reveal a problem. As a prominent clinical commodity in a pluralistic and privatizing health system, ultrasound is retracing and redefining social relations of medicine in Phnom Penh.
Bridges, Sarah Ann, Case Western Reserve U., Cleveland, OH - To aid research on 'Challenged Lives: The Experience of Disability in a Himalayan Buddhist and Muslim Community,' supervised by Dr. Charlotte Ikels
SARAH ANN BRIDGES, then a student at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, received funding in May 2007 to aid research on 'Challenged Lives: The Experience of Disability in a Himalayan Buddhist and Muslim Community,' supervised by Dr. Charlotte Ikels. This study examines the subjective experience of disability, focusing on the interaction between the physical and social domains of experience and how they are shaped by local cultural constructions of disability. Research took place over a period of twelve months in Ladakh, India. The research consisted of three overlapping phases including an in-depth study of a local disability organization, a village study, and a series of interviews with a variety of other people about the topic of disability. Extensive participant observation and interviews were conducted during all phases. This research will explore how norms, values and customs interact with characteristics of the natural and man-made environment, to shape experiences of disability. Analysis of the role of religion in Ladakhi culture will serve as a way of demonstrating this interaction. Further aims of the study are to examine variations in experiences of disability, challenge contemporary thinking in disability studies and the anthropology of the body, and to explore how more holistic approaches can benefit both theoretical and applied approaches to disability issues.
Weir, James M., City U. of New York, New York, NY - To aid research on 'Popular Social Practices in the Context of Conflict: Chess, Music, and Gardening in Herat, Afghanistan,' supervised by Dr. Vincent Crapanzano
JAMES M. WEIR, then a student at City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, New York, received funding in May 2004 to aid research on 'Popular Social Practices in the Context of Conflict: Chess, Music, and Gardening in Herat, Afghanistan,' supervised by Dr. Vincent Crapanzano. This study presents the life stories of five 'ordinary'Afghans and examines the processes of self-presentation and self-identification in these narratives for what they reveal about the speaker's experience of recent Afghan history. This project queries these life stories at two distinctly different levels. The first is an existential/phenomenological reflection on the process of life narration itself. This is an examination of narrators as they engage their memories to spontaneously create a life story and asks what meanings and patterns emerge from this process of remembering, editing, summarizing and representing a life. The second level of examination explores the individual narrator's relationship to and interpretation of the historical and cultural context of his life. In comments interspersed in the text of the actual interviews and at greater length after each interview, this study considers the dispositions and sensibilities of individual Afghans as they recall and summarize their lives, with particular attention to the expectations and disappointments expressed as they recount their experiences of living through three troubled decades of Afghan history.
Sandesara, Utpal Niranjan, U. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - To aid research on 'Prenatal Kinship and Selective Reproduction: The Process of Sex Selection in an Indian Community,' supervised by Dr. Philippe Bourgois
Preliminary abstract: Over the past three decades, the selective abortion of female fetuses has emerged as a prominent form of gendered violence in northwestern India. While state institutions have attempted to combat the practice, the number of sex-selective abortions has remained constant or risen in most regions during the past twenty years. I propose to explore this situation by conducting twelve months of multi-sited ethnographic research on the process of sex selection in Mahesana, Gujarat. Tracing the process across household, clinical, and governmental settings will allow me to connect the views, experiences, and practices of reproductive-aged women with those of husbands, senior relatives, clinicians, brokers, and government officials, thereby elucidating the gendered power relations that sustain sex selection despite efforts to combat it. My project will empirically link gender-kinship norms with medicalized reproduction and state governance by exploring three key questions: What norms and practices underlie desires for sons over daughters in the present sociohistorical context? How do biomedical practitioners come to participate in sex selection, and how do different clinical actors manage the technical, economic, and moral ambiguities in the process? And how do state policies construct, engage, and impact sex selection as a social crisis? Through a focus on the simultaneous reproduction of individual bodies and the social order, and using the analytic of gendered violence, my project will generate a framework for exploring gender, kinship, and violence in the prenatal period. (This submission requests funding for the second phase [last six months] of the project.)
Lin, Emily Xi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Disability's Star-Children: Autism and the Remaking of Urban China's Moral Order,' supervised by Dr. Stefan Helmreich
Preliminary abstract: This project examines how autism has emerged in contemporary China after 1978, moving from being a disorder with no indigenous counterpart, to a disorder, translated as guduzheng or zibizheng, now fairly ubiquitous in urban China. Through my fieldwork with the help of psychiatrists, nongovernmental organizations, parents and other professional caregivers, Beijing, Handan and Shenzhen, I hope to test out my hypothesis that the a 'moral crisis' is a necessity condition for the successful uptake of a foreign disorder. Beyond the comparative value it holds for the social analysis of autism cross-culturally, my study also intervene in anthropological concerns with human kind-making, the influence of culture on psychopathology, and the use of disease classifications in the production of citizen and nation-state.
Hayat, Maira, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Bureaucracies of Care, Infrastructures of Crime: Water Economies in Postcolonial Pakistan,' supervised by Dr. Kaushik Sundar Rajan
Preliminary abstract: Through ethnographic examination of water theft, I propose to study state-citizen relations, bureaucratic care, conceptions of property, and of the licit in Pakistan. I approach water theft not only in the usual register of law and crime via case law, but also as practice--ways of navigating water infrastructures and flows--and in everyday discourse: allegations, impressions, and rumors. I hypothesize that it is in these micro-practices and the discourses driving, and deriving from them that state sovereignty; citizenship; perceptions of the (im)propriety of property; and the (il)licit are constituted. Contrary to popular perceptions in Pakistan that a growing informal groundwater economy and proliferating water theft represent yet another instance of state and societal failure, I ask if water theft may be better understood as re-writing the social contract. My primary field-site is a part rural, part urban town in the Punjab province, Pakistan's agricultural hub, and home to its densest irrigation infrastructure; it is known among many irrigation bureaucrats as a town with rampant water theft. I will study water infrastructures and the public canal irrigation network here, and conduct ethnographic research at the provincial Irrigation department.