Gaikwad, Namrata, U. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN - To aid research on 'Men against Matrilineage: Contestations Around Gender Politics in Shillong, India,' supervised by Dr. Jean Langford
NAMRATA GAIKWAD, then a student at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, was awarded a grant in October 2010 to aid research on 'Men against Matrilineage: Contestations around Gender Politics in Shillong, India,' supervised by Dr. Jean Langford. During Summer 2011, a second-phase of research was conducted (through participant observation, discussions and interviews) both in the urban center of Shillong but also extended to semi-urban and rural settings in the state of Meghalaya. The data collected provided unique insights into the ways in which dynamics around gender and kinship intersect with conceptualizations of modernity, futurity, and personhood among Khasi village-folk. These discussions threw new light on the research previously conducted in Shillong and enabled a reframing of problems as had been articulated by more educated and well-to-do people. Consequently, it facilitated a sharpening of research questions and a fresh approach to the same theoretical problems encountered in the city. The research also followed relatives of people from the village, who now live in Shillong, in order to track their continued, yet somewhat realigned kinship relations and responsibilities (in all their gendered dimensions). It highlighted an interesting urban-rural schism with the 'nongkyndongs' (Khasi for 'villagers' or 'country bumpkins') both reflecting on what they felt was a false divide created by urbanites but also simultaneously owning their difference and purported lack of class and cultural capital in the name of something more genuinely Khasi.
Basnet, Govinda B., U. of Georgia, Athens, GA - To aid research on 'The Struggle for Water Rights in Contested Commons: Changing Institutional Landscapes in Upper Mustang, Nepal,' supervised by Dr. Robert E. Rhoades
GOVINDA B BASNET, a student at the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia received funding in July 2005 to aid research on 'The Struggle for Water Rights in Contested Commons: Changing Institutional Landscapes in Upper Mustang, Nepal,' supervised by Dr. Robert E Rhoades. The research aimed at investigating how the struggle for water rights modifies the institutional landscape of agricultural resource management in a water scarce region of upper Mustang in Nepal. By integrating comparative and historical methods the research project investigated the dynamics of struggle for water rights in irrigation systems in six villages of upper Mustang through a fieldwork that lasted from October 2004 through July 2006. The project was designed to investigate the dynamics of struggle both within a village, and between villages sharing and not sharing water sources. The initial result form the field research shows that access to water is linked to impartible inheritance system, labor contribution, and types and growth stages of crop. Ownership claim is validated through exercising political power, narratives of local legends, and resorting to customary or state laws as appropriate. Struggle to be a part of decision making bodies for water management has ushered in changes in social institutions: In this arid region, water served not only as a bone of contention but also as a sticking glue to hold a society together.
Walker, Christopher, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'The Social Life of Open-Source Software in Tibet,' supervised by Dr. John D. Kelly
CHRISTOPHER E. WALKER, while a student at the University of Chicago, was awarded a grant in August 2003 to research the social conditions of Tibetan language software development, under the supervision of Dr. John D. Kelly. Central to the research was a study of the Tibetan block of 'Unicode,' the de facto standard for encoding the world's natural languages in computer systems. More than a decade ago, Tibet University in Lhasa (China) played a central role in this emergent and powerful standard. This feat has been celebrated by the Chinese press, which often highlights any state support of science and technology within minority areas. Curiously, however, the study of more recent technical proposals and computer projects involving Tibetan language reveal that China has mixed reactions to the very standard it helped create. Contrary to the philosophy of Unicode, namely that every language should have only one set of codes, China has recently used the 'private use area' of Unicode to define a second, competing standard for Tibetan. The official reasons given for creating two standards for Tibetan language are mainly technical and pragmatic. A deeper analysis has revealed that economic pressure, educational background, and the social environment play a pivotal role in the development of Tibetan information technology in China.
Reisnour, Nicole Joanna, Cornell U., Ithaca, NY - To aid research on 'Sounding the Immaterial: The Sonic Politics of Adat and Agama in Post-Authoritarian Bali,' supervised by Dr. Martin Fellows Hatch
NICOLE J. REISNOUR, then a student at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, received a grant in April 2013 to aid research on 'Sounding the Immaterial: The Sonic Politics of Adat and Agama in Post-Authoritarian Bali,' supervised by Dr. Martin F. Hatch. When the newly independent Republic of Indonesia made adherence to a monotheistic faith a requirement for all of its citizens, the Balinese were placed in the residual category 'peoples who do not yet have a religion' and were slated for missionization. Local reformers then set to work trying to convince the government that their people's worship practices conformed to authoritative representations of religion. Although Balinese Hinduism achieved state recognition in 1958, the larger effort to modernize Balinese religiosity has persisted to the present day. This research analyzes the ongoing reform movement in Bali as it is waged and grappled with through the medium of sound. By ringing bells, delivering sermons, orally interpreting texts, and setting up automated systems to play amplified prayers, Balinese Hindus use sound to represent and interact with invisible agents. At the same time, the entangled signifying and affective capacities of religious sounds and other sensuous things are resources that they draw upon in fashioning themselves as moral persons and imagining novel forms of ethical cultivation. The present study proposes ethnographic investigation of the aural semiotics of divine presence as a means of analyzing how religious reform intervenes and is lived at the level of the self.
Gross, Victoria Gabrielle, Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Articulating Honor, Authoring the Past: Political Statements among the Devendra Kula Velallars of Tamil Nadu,' supervised by Dr. E. Valentine Daniel
VICTORIA G. GROSS, then a student at Columbia University, New York, New York, was awarded a grant in April 2012 to aid research on 'Articulating Honor, Authoring the Past: Political Statements among the Devendra Kula Velallars of Tamil Nadu,' supervised by Dr. E. Valentine Daniel. The Devendra Kula Velallar community-a Dalit caste long subjected to violent subjugation in the Tamil region of India-is in the midst of a multivalent socio-political movement. Devendras, who are known to others as Pallars, are in the process of claiming a higher status for themselves. They articulate their claim by adopting a more aristocratic caste title, performatively asserting dominance during caste-centered functions and in everyday moments of bodily comportment, writing and distributing documents about their history, and engaging in conspicuous consumption indicative of a high class position. In opposition to most approaches to Dalit assertion, which employ the discourses of human rights and distributive justice and foreground the oppression of India's untouchables, Devendras refuse victimization. Instead they focus on their position in the distant past, which, they claim, was very high. Some even claim that the Devendras are, in fact, the descendants of the ancient kings of the Tamil region. Such claims are not voiced without opposition. The Thevar community, which used to dominate Southern Tamil Nadu, is staunchly opposed to the Devendras, and intercaste violence between the two communities is increasingly common. This study tracks both the Devendras' upward mobility and the Thevar backlash that it elicits.
Buswala, Bhawani, Brown U., Providence, RI - To aid research on 'Untouchable Butchers: Caste, Gender, and Occupation in India,' supervised by Dr. Lina Fruzzetti
BHAWANI BUSWALA, then a student at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, received a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'Untouchable Butchers: Caste, Gender, and Occupation in India,' supervised by Dr. Lina Fruzzetti. The social life of caste in contemporary India creates precarious conditions for the 'untouchables' to carry out their everyday lives. They continue to negotiate different caste practices, varying from daily subtle discriminations to extreme forms of physical violence. Focusing on a butcher caste in north India, this dissertation project examines how a low caste negotiates its untouchable status through everyday practices. A caste's relation with its conventional occupation in a changing politico-economic context is analyzed through different symbolic and material values attached to the occupation, contests around these values, and practical implications of these on daily conduct and community relations. Changing occupational possibilities for the women of this caste are examined for their role in status negotiations. Inter-caste relations with reference to similar ranking lower status castes are also examined to understand the collaborating and competing conditions that shape the local socio-political relations. Taking untouchable occupation as a site for caste and gender formations, and based on ethnographic data collected through participant observations and informal interviews, this project studies how everyday struggles by the untouchables create possibilities for resisting caste marginality, the forms and the limits of these struggles, and how they may relate to broader political actions.
Widger, Thomas, London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'The Youth Suicide Epidemic in Sri Lanka: Causes, Meanings, Prevention Strategies,' supervised by Dr. Jonathan Parry
THOMAS WIDGER, then a student at London School of Economics, London, England, was awarded a grant in January 2005 to aid research on 'The Youth Suicide Epidemic in Sri Lanka: Causes, Meanings, Prevention Strategies,' supervised by Dr. Jonathan Parry. Suicide in Sri Lanka has been a major health and social problem for the past four decades. The research project examined the social and psychological causes, cultural meanings, and formal and informal preventions strategies of suicidal behaviour amongst the Sinhalese of a small town on the northwest coast of the island. A combination of ethnographic, archival, clinical, and epidemiological methods were used that incorporated both qualitative and quantitative approaches. As a result, deep understanding of the range of contexts and experiences that contribute to and frame suicidal behaviour was established. In particular, romantic relationships and romantic loss, marriage, kinship and domestic stress, Sinhalese emotional disorder, and separation and misfortune were examined. The research will make contributions to the anthropology of suicide and South Asia and also anthropological theory.
Saraf, Ishani, U. of California, Davis, CA - To aid research on ''Scrap-scape': Waste, Trade, and Urban Ecologies in Contemporary Delhi,' supervised by Dr. Smriti Srinivas
Preliminary abstract: In the context of urban reform in Delhi that seeks to remove 'wastes' from its landscape, my project will focus on the little understood practices of waste trade by examining the trade in metal scrap (henceforth scrap). I seek to understand how metal, which had captured the imagination of the developmentalist nation-state of India, is apprehended in the form of scrap. Through multi-sited ethnographic research conducted in 'Junk Market', India's largest metal parts market in Delhi, and Dadri dry port in the National Capital Region where scrap from transnational trade reaches Delhi, I will ask: What are the different meanings of scrap in official discourses and according to those who trade it? What are the diverse circuits of flow and multiple forms of transactions through which scrap is traded? How is scrap made marketable and what is the work of valuation that makes this possible? Through these questions, I study how the diverse activities around the trade in scrap intersect with the increasingly frequent and often abrupt interventions by regulatory institutions. I ask how they affect the livelihoods of those who participate in this landscape of scrap transformation. My hypothesis is that these activities and intersections constitute a specific type of urban ecology that I call the 'scrap-scape' which includes the scrap market, the dry port, and the movement and interaction of people and things to and from and between them that make up its processes. While official and corporate discourses frame the urban landscape as one devoid of certain materials-such as 'wastes'-and people working with them, I adopt an optic constituted by these very people and practices, and the lifeworlds that they inhabit and enact, to understand the shadowy, occluded, and underground terrain of megacities like Delhi.
Lohokare, Madhura, Syracuse U., Syracuse, NY - To aid research on 'Articulating Public Space to the Public Sphere: A Study of Neighborhood Associations in Pune, India,' supervised by Dr. Cecilia Van Hollen
MADHURA LOHOKARE, then a student at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, received a grant in October 2010 to aid research on 'Articulating Public Space to the Public Sphere: A Study of Neighborhood Associations in Pune, India,' supervised by Dr. Cecilia Van Hollen. This research describes the myriad ways in which the working class/urban poor imagine themselves to be a part of the city of Pune in western India and relevance of these ways for questions of citizenship, by focusing on two disparate sites: a working class neighborhood in the old part of the city, and on the collective process of an incipient resistance of slum dwellers of the same city to state-sponsored slum rehabilitation programs. An ethnographic investigation of these sites demonstrates how modes of belonging to and claiming the city are structured by embodied and affective identities rooted in the physical and social spaces of the neighborhood; while a radically different mode of belonging is engendered for slum dwellers as they locate themselves in the city in legal, political, and economic terms, through their explicit struggle to defend their dynamic living spaces. This ethnography illustrates how modes of belonging to the city are linked to questions of citizenship and participation in the public sphere for the urban poor in contemporary urban India.