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
Preliminary abstact: Midnight arrests, plotting villains, benevolent heroes and devoted consorts. These descriptions not only pertain to the latest Tamil blockbuster; they apply to the history of spectacular politics in the Indian state of Tamilnadu, where for the past forty-five years, the successive Chief Ministers and many other high-level elected officials have been former members of the Tamil film industry. What accounts for the particularity of Tamil politics? How can one understand a politics delivered via spectacle? I will test my hypothesis that narrative tropes of morality are amplified, distorted or transformed through spectacle to grant varying degrees of legitimacy to political power, through an examination of image regimes in their manifestation as campaign images as they are produced and consumed, specifically at a local rather than state level. Using the city of Madurai as a fieldwork site, I will look at how visual and devotional forms of spectacle situate local politicians within their party's hierarchy of power, the ways in which narrative tropes of morality are infused in campaign imagery, and follow the path of concept, design, and production of imagery on the street and at political rallies. This will entail ethnographic study with local party members, graphic designers for advertising companies, and the painters, printers, and laborers who physically create or campaign imagery. Further, I will investigate the analytic utility of the streetscape where cinema and politics are fused by documenting the changing imagery at three main intersections in Madurai as images are assembled, transformed, and removed throughout local and state elections.
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.
Gibbings, Sheri Lynn, U. of Toronto, ON, Canada - To aid research on 'Building a Street, Building a Nation: Architecture, Urban Space, and National Belonging on Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta, Indonesia,' supervised by Dr. Tania Murray Li
SHERI GIBBINGS, then a student at University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, received funding in October 2006 to investigate 'Building a Street, Building a Nation: Architecture, Urban Space and National Belonging on Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta, Indonesia,' supervised by Dr. Tania Li. This research examines street vendors and their relationship to the state in three sites of conflict, which are differently invested with meaning. Research activities included participant observation, interviews, and archival research among street vendors, their organizations, as well with government officials. Ethnographic fieldwork was carried out for sixteen months between 2006 and 2008. Findings reveal that the street vendors, on one hand, stand for failed modernity but on the other hand, they comment upon and critique the fantasy of modernity and development that pervades city planning. Street vendors have also become increasingly a site of government concern, which has made them the object of an increasing number of projects to control, discipline, and monitor their activities. Findings indicate that street vendors are involved in a larger set of contestations: political battles over urban planning; debates over modernity; and the struggle to solidify budding radical politics.
Bentley, Dr. Gillian R., U. College London, London, United Kingdom; and Dr. Farid U. Ahamed, Chittagong U., Chittagong, Bangladesh - To aid collaborative research on 'Influences on Male Migrant/Nonmigrant Bangladeshi: Female Body Shape Preferences'
Yan, Dr. Yunxiang, U. of California, Los Angeles, CA - To aid research on 'McDonald's in Beijing: A Local Ethnography of Cross-Cultural Consumption and Global Change'
DR. YUNXIANG YAN, of the University of California in Los Angeles, California, received funding in May 2002 to aid research on McDonald's restaurants in Beijing, China. Through an ethnographic account of the consumption of McDonald's food and associated cultural symbols, Yan examined local transformations of Americana and the sociocultural effects of global capitalism in Beijing, engaging in current anthropological debates over transnationalism and cultural globalization. Fieldwork was carried out between September 2003 and February 2004 in Beijing and Shanghai. Yan was able to gather substantial data through participant observation and interviews and to test the main hypotheses derived from previous field research. Important documentary data were collected with the help of research assistants; these data were intended to enable Yan to situate the case study in a wider sociopolitical context.
Saria, Vaibhav, Johns Hopkins U., Baltimore, MD - To aid research on 'The Lives of Orgasms: Sex, Intimacy and Carnality among the Hijras in Rural Orissa,' supervised by Dr. Veena Das
VAIBHAV SARIA, then a student at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, received funding in October 2010 to aid research on 'The Lives of Orgasms: Sex, Intimacy and Carnality among the Hijras in Rural Orissa,' supervised by Dr. Veena Das. The grantee conducted fieldwork in rural Orissa in the districts of Bhadrak and Kalahandi among the hijras, investigating the various ways in which same-sex intimacy and desire is imagined outside the city, and what were the freedom and restraints offered to this population now labeled as a sexual minority, by the globalizing of categories, narratives and desire through the AIDS International. The grantee collected narratives not only of desire, love, sex, intimacy, seduction, and flirtation to see how actions, aspirations and failures of the hijra are organized, but also collected data related to their work -- which involves, begging, prostitution, dancing and singing -- to see how the relationship between poverty and sexual desire are configured and how the carnality of both gain expression in the hijra body. These questions were studied by conducting fieldwork on different various sites -- a local NGO, mosques, the natal family in which some hijra reside, and in trains and train stations. The grantee participated in religious festivals and accompanied hijras as they performed on the occasions of birth and marriage and also as they were recruited to act in music videos and films. The grantee collected narratives about fields where sexual relations occur for pleasure and money, outside the ordered domains of family and village, and was thus able to systematically investigate the relationship between poverty and sexual desire. Given the agenda of a global program to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has brought anal sex into such scrutiny while also trying to legitimize its existence, this research addresses the contradictions that redraw the erogenous zones of the hijra through the traffic between global categories and locally embedded practices.
Levine, Dr. Nancy E., U. of California, Los Angeles, CA - To aid research on 'Displacement and Resettlement: New Lives for Tibetan Pastoralists in Gansu Province'
Preliminary abstract: This project is the first phase of what is expected to be a long-term study of Tibetan pastoralist settlement in western China. Over the last half-century, this population has experienced a succession of radical social and economic reforms, the latest of which involves government-initiated transfers of many households to newly built towns. This study will investigate the consequences of sedentarization and other recent changes associated with modernization and urbanization at the household level. It will do so by comparing households in three types of circumstances: those that have surrendered their land, abandoned pastoralism, and resettled, those that have subdivided, establishing satellite households in town in order to pursue new economic opportunities and better education for their children, and those that have maintained their traditional rural livelihoods as animal herders. The study will focus on five dimensions of change, including: (1) economic management and patterns of decision-making (2) interpersonal relationships between family members; (3) relations with extended kin and larger social networks; (4) patterns of children's schooling; and (5) perceived well-being and the utilization of health services. Also examined will be factors entering into decisions about resettlement. The findings from this project should aid understanding how households adapt to change and the circumstances that facilitate adjustments to urban living and adaptations to a rapidly changing economy. The study thus should have broad significance, given the ever-increasing numbers of displacements, relocations, and rural-urban migrations throughout a globalizing world.
Hampel, Amir, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Changing Selves in a Transforming Society: How Shy Chinese Learn the Virtues of Self Assertion,' supervised by Dr. Richard Allan Shweder
Preliminary abstract: Recent reports from China suggest that shy and reserved behavior, which used to be accepted and even encouraged, is increasingly regarded as an undesirable obstacle to personal advancement. Books, websites, and seminars teaching people how to become more assertive and outgoing have become extremely popular. Relating new norms of behavior to changes in economic, social, and moral life, I will study how shy students and alumni from universities in Beijing understand themselves and the social world and how self-confidence training groups and psychological education classes in schools promote the virtues of self-assertion. In a society built around enduring social bonds, shy and reserved behavior was interpreted as an intelligently cautious and commendably selfless social strategy. However, following the collapse of traditional society and the communist economy, individuals have been largely disentangled from collective ties to the family and the work unit. In the new market economy, people are forced to compete for their livelihoods, and new opportunities for consumption and modes of interaction force people to define their style and their social identity and to pursue their desires. To understand these social changes, this study will examine how Chinese people are learning that shyness and reserve are problematic.
Chattaraj, Durba, Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'Between the City and the Sea:Transport and Connectivity in West Bengal,' supervised by Dr. Thomas Blom Hansen
DR. PARTH R. CHAUHAN, Stone Age Institute, Gosport, Indiana, received a grant in October 2006 to aid research on 'Palaeoanthropological Surveys and GIS Mapping in the Narmada Basin, Central India.' Due to future extensive submergence from large-dams in the Narmada Basin, the project's goal was to carry out a systematic survey for palaeoanthropological occurrences in stratified contexts and also create multi-layer GIS maps of known and new find-spots, sites, and localities, and associated stratigraphic sections in relation to geological formations of the valley. The field strategy involved locating, mapping and documenting as many sites as possible within an area of 60 sq-km, between the Tawa and Sher tributaries. Using multidisciplinary data, the research team constructed models of land-use patterns during the Paleolithic. For example, the Early Acheulean and Late Acheulean and Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic are geographically separate, despite shared raw material preference and locations (fine-grained Vindhyan quartzite). Additional work involved preliminary test-excavations or test-trenching at promising sites to understand the stratigraphic context of the associated material (e.g. lithics, fossils, geological features) and absolute dating possibilities. The most significant discoveries include: 1) high density of artifacts at Dhansi (the oldest-known site in the Basin and possibly in India); 2) Late Acheulean artifacts associated with an extensive paleochannel; 3) rare stratified Early Acheulean occurrences; 4) and the most complete Late Pleistocene elephant recovered in buried context.
Zhu, Jiangang, Chinese U. of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, P.R. China - To aid research on 'Shanghai Lilong Neighborhood: An Ethnography of Civil Associations and Social Movements,' supervised by Dr. Joseph Bosco
JIANGANG ZHU, while a student at Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, P.R. China, was awarded a grant in August 2001 to aid research on 'Shanghai Lilong Nieghborhood: An Ethnography of Civil Associations and Social Movements,' supervised by Dr. Joseph Bosco. This research explored the civil associations and community movements in a lilong neighborhood in Shanghai since the 1980s. The central question was how these civil associations and social movements interact with neighborhood residents and with the local government in Shanghai. In order to answer this question, a neighborhood named Pingming Village was selected for ethnographic fieldwork.
Data was collected by doing volunteer work for the neighborhood committee, by participating in several community movements against the local government or real estate developers, and by becoming involved in several voluntary organizations. In one case, residents protested against a skyscraper that would hide the sunlight from older buildings. Residents protested to the developer, complained to the local government, and organized themselves to defend their rights. Though the study of protest movements in China is a sensitive issue, community issues at the local level are not seen as political but as 'social' problems. Long-term residence in the community permitted research on these movements, and leaders were glad to provide materials and to be interviewed to publicize their struggle. The research showed how state power penetrated into neighborhood life and how resistance in the community was intertwined with this state penetration. Some of the movements successfully fought state bureaus, but only by depoliticizing their actions and allying themselves with other state bureaus. Because of the limits imposed by state hegemony, these associations and collective actions cannot build an independent civil society. However, they weave relations of trust, create networks of engagement, and improve the norm of reciprocity. When democratization is on the agenda these civil associations and movements may provide the social capital for this transformation.