Zharkevich, Ina, U. of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'Generation, Gender and Change in the Maoist Base Areas of Nepal during the Conflict and its Aftermath,' supervised by Dr. David Gellner
INA ZHARKEVICH, then a student at University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, received funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Generation, Gender and Change in the Maoist Base Areas of Nepal during the Conflict and its Aftermath,' supervised by Dr. David Gellner. The fieldwork was carried out in the village of Thabang, hailed as the capital of the Maoist base areas during the war. The findings of the fieldwork suggest that the 'people's war' has reconfigured key hierarchies along which Nepali society was organized - that of caste, gender and generation. However, the old hierarchies were subverted not only due to the spread of Maoist ideology, but also due to the processes engendered by the situation of war -- the exodus of able-bodied men who either joined the Maoists or migrated abroad, the concurrent feminization of villages, and inevitable change in the gender and generational structure of society. While the 'people's war' had a clear generational dimension, these were predominantly unmarried youth who joined the rebels -- pointing towards the importance of the moral economy of marriage and kinship for understanding the Maoist mobilization campaign and broader social processes during the war. The fact that such practices as beef-eating and inter-caste commensality, considered as a serious transgression in the once Hindu Kingdom of Nepal, endure in post-conflict environment testifies that the 'people's war' undermined Hindu ideology as the basis of the moral order in Nepal and introduced new ideas about morality grounded in the Maoist discourse of equality and progress.
Askew, Dr. Marc Richard, Victoria U., Melbourne, Australia - To aid research on 'Neighborhood in a Time of Danger: Buddhist and Muslim Villagers amidst Thailand's Southern Insurgency'
DR. MARC R. ASKEW, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia, received funding in October 2006 to aid research on 'Neighborhood in a Time of Danger: Buddhist and Muslim Villagers Amidst Thailand's Southern Insurgency.' Set in the environment of the ongoing violence afflicting the Muslim-majority border areas of southern Thailand, this ethnographic research explored webs of relationships, personal stories, and shared rumor in a group of neighboring Buddhist and Muslim villages in adjoining districts of the provinces of Songkhla and Pattani. Involving ten months' fieldwork, and building upon networks of informants from a previous pilot study, the project investigated local values about neighborhood, social and ethno-religious difference, and sought to determine how village leaders negotiate pressures imposed both by mysterious local insurgents as well as Thai state authorities. The researcher found that in the absence of effective state protection, villagers have draw on a range of networks and traditional social modes to maximize safety and manage relationships, patterns that reveal much about the relative strength of society and weakness of the state in Thailand. The research in the villages of this area highlights that in this strange 'war zone,' though people are dogged with suspicions of mysterious enemies and sometimes prone to vent their frustrations about the dangers surrounding them in terms of ethnic stereotypes, they still remain committed to affirming values and relationships of co-existence in a multi-ethnic space.
Askew, Marc. 2007. Landscapes of Fear, Horizons of Trust: Villagers Dealing with Danger in Thailand’s Insurgent South. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 40(1):59-86.
Starr, Julie Elisabeth, U. of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA - To aid research on 'Cultivating the Ideal Body in China: Race, Suzhi, and Beauty in Contemporary Shanghai,' supervised by Dr. John R. Shepherd
JULIE STARR, then a graduate student at University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, was awarded funding in October 2011 to aid research on 'Cultivating the Ideal Body in China: Race, Suzhi, and Beauty in Contemporary Shanghai,'supervised by Dr. John R. Shepherd. Drawing on ten months of fieldwork in Shanghai, China, this research compares how Han Chinese and white Western professional women-all living in Shanghai and all between the ages of 25-35-understand, discuss, and moralize the pursuit of better bodies. Through examining daily practices and discussions about eating, working out, and going to beauty salons it illustrates and compares how these women view self, gender, and race as constituted in and through their bodies. In general, the findings of this research suggest that gender, race, and social status were much more bodily for the Chinese women and yet less essentialized: bodies and selves were assumed to be constantly changing and thus daily modifications were not seen to endanger a unique or authentic bodily-self. Furthermore, for the Chinese women, bodies were a legitimate site to work on the self in order to improve one's social standing. Whereas for the Western women, there was tremendous tension between seeing bodies as part of 'who one is' and denying that bodies have any relevance to one's social position. This research argues that the attitudes of these women toward body modification practices reveal important differences in their understandings of power, nature, and social change.
Nygaard-Christensen, Dr. Maj, U. of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark - To aid research on 'Policy in the Thick of Politics: Democracy Promotion in Timor-Leste'
DR. MAJ NYGAARD-CHRISTENSEN, University of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark, was awarded a grant in October 2011 to aid research on 'Policy in the Thick of Politics: Democracy Promotion in Timor-Leste.' Based on fieldwork carried out during the latter phase of the UN mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), this project focuses on the social and material practices of 'democracy promoters'-a collective reference to foreign political advisors, experts, and observers. Since its separation from Indonesia in 1999, Timor-Leste has regularly been described as a 'laboratory of democracy'-a reference to international experiments with new approaches to state-building and externally guided democratization-in connection with the half-island's transition to independence. The starting point of this project however, has been that democracy promotion projects are not implemented in 'laboratories' or vacuums, but in the thick of local political life. The fieldwork focused on democracy promotion as a political as well as material practice, highlighting the messy effects of the massive presence of international advisors in Dili, the capital city. In continuation of this, the project has pointed to the humanitarian intervention as a materical and political, rather than external presence, which has transformed the urban and political space of the new nation. Engaging the commonplace notion of interventions as external and impartial in relation to the political settings intervened upon, the fieldwork thus contributed to the outline of an approach to the study of interventions as an integrated part of political dynamics in post-conflict nations.
Kim, Dohye, U. of Illinois, Urbana, IL - To aid research on ''I am a Half Retiree, but Soon to be Pure': South Korean Retiree Migration to the Philippines,' supervised by Dr. Nancy Abelmann
Preliminary abstract: I propose to conduct an ethnography of early retirement. My study focuses on the journeys of South Korean retirees to the Philippines necessitated by South Korea's lack of national and corporate welfare and opened by the Filipino authorities' promotion of retiree migration. Most South Korean retirees in the Philippines, now largely in their 50s and early 60s, forcibly left their jobs in the post-Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s and are too young and financially insecure to become, what they call 'pure retirees,' those who can stop working entirely. Thus, they have started small businesses in the Philippines, hoping that they will bring them sudden wealth, as was the case with so many in South Korea in the 1970s, thanks to loose regulation and widespread corruption. Rather than assuming retirement as a one-time life event, only applicable to those who have sufficient financial capacity (i.e., middle classes in advanced economies), my research questions how people with lack of national and corporate welfare in late-industrialized countries, such as South Korea struggle to achieve the goal of becoming retirees through new ideas of retirement in another country. In addition, I pay attention to South Korean retirees' nostalgic longing as a potential catalyst to cross the border, and the ways in which the Philippines is constructed as a hopeful site. Through the lens of 'retirement,' my research seeks to explore paradoxes integral to the process of flexible labor -- two seemingly different tendencies: promoting retiree migration while also making retirement a difficult, almost unattainable goal for people to achieve.
Gandhi, Ajay, Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'The Banality of Criminality: The Moral Economy of Illegal Behavior in Delhi, India,' supervised by Dr. Thomas Blom Hansen
AJAY GANDHI, then a student at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, received funding in October 2006 to aid research on 'The Banality of Criminality: The Moral Economy of Illegal Behaviour in Delhi, India', supervised by Dr. Thomas Blom Hansen. Fieldwork was conducted over 18 months in India, on the changing urban landscape in Delhi's old city, 'Shahjahanabad.' The project consisted of both archival and ethnographic research, and was divided into three main components. First, the grantee conducted archival research at municipal offices and research libraries, supplemented by interviews with planning officials, politicians and the police. These activities furthered the comprehension of state intervention in this area since Indian independence in 1947, including periods of heavy-handed policing, building demolitions, and displacement of residents, under the rubric of population control and urban beautification. Second, participant observation and interviews were conducted with migrant laborers from the countryside who work in large wholesale bazaars and labour camps. This allowed for an understanding of the informal economic practices and illicit trades prevalent amongst a floating population of the urban poor, as well as forms of popular leisure and consumption that have resulted in the plebianization of urban space. Third, interviews were carried out with lower-middle class and working class Muslims who are long-standing residents of 'slum' enclaves within Delhi's old city. This allowed the grantee to grasp everyday understandings of legitimacy and representation articulated in dealings with municipal authorities and the police, as well as ethical predicaments spawned by urban segregation and community fragmentation.
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.
Perez, Dr. Padmapani Lim, U. of the Philippines, Baguio, Philippines - To aid research and writing on 'Deep-Rooted Hopes, Green Entanglements: Indigenous Peoples' Rights, Nature-Conservation in Indonesia and the Philippines' - Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship
DR. PADMAPANI LIM PEREZ, University of the Philippines, Baguio, Philippines, received a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship in October 2013 to aid research and writing on 'Deep-Rooted Hopes, Green Entanglements: Indigenous Peoples' Rights and Nature-Conservation in Indonesia and the Philippines.' 'Green Entanglements' is a comparative, ethnographic account of nature-conservation projects that seek to involve indigenous peoples. The book manuscript attends to the tricky entanglements of environments, agents of conservation, and indigenous peoples. It makes evident that an imbalance of power is embedded in the implementation of nature-conservation, especially when it comes to shaping the future and controlling the present upon which it is contingent. Agents of conservation draw a division between indigenous peoples required to maintain sustainable life ways, and the rest of the globalizing, modernizing world. This split is deeply embedded in the way agents of conservation think about nature and culture, and is evident in the implementation dynamics of the Mt. Pulag National Park in the Philippines, and the Taman Nasional Sebangau in Indonesia. Both of these protected areas share boundaries, or overlap with, the territories of the Kalanguya of Benguet Province, and the Ngaju Dayak of Central Kalimantan, respectively. The Kalanguya and the Ngaju Dayak describe nature-conservation as a threat to their livelihood and their development aspirations. 'Green Entanglements' unpacks the resulting stalemate between nature-conservations' goals and indigenous peoples' struggles for the recognition of their rights.
Kutty, Omar, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'The Gift of Society: Social Welfare Programs and Political Identity in an Indian Megacity,' supervised by Dr. John L. Comaroff
OMAR KUTTY, then a student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded a grant in April 2005 to aid research on 'The Gift of Society: Social Welfare Programs and Political Identity in an Indian Megacity,' supervised by Dr. John L. Comaroff. While this project was originally designed as a multi-community study, prior to receipt of Wenner-Gren funds it had been decided that it would be more fruitful to focus on the caste of sanitation workers known as the Valmiki Samaj. Because this community is one of the most ostracized and marginalized in Delhi, analysis of the many governmental and non-governmental welfare programs that target the Valmikis provided extremely rich ethnographic data pertaining to the changing policies and culture of welfare provision in contemporary India. Among the data collected under the auspices of the foundation were interviews with members of the internationally recognized NGO, Sulabh International, whose mission is to improve the condition of this community through a business model incorporating pay-and-use toilets which then also act as self-sustaining sources of employment. Other exemplary data pertained to a special governmental financial program that provides business loans specifically to the Valmiki community. Middle Class Resident Welfare Associations, who have recently begun to organize their hitherto informal, local sanitation workers on a business model were also observed. The tentative conclusion reached from this data is that new models of welfare provision are gradually but dramatically changing the nature of labor among the Valmiki community.