Prasse-Freeman, Elliott Edward, Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'Resistance to Rights? Political Ontologies and Modes of Governmentality in a Rapidly Evolving Burma,' supervised by Dr. Erik Harms
Preliminary abstract: While Burmese dissident elites and external observers have typically characterized Burmese societal opposition to Burma's long-ruling military-state in terms of people fighting for their rights, my preliminary research suggests that many Burmese social movement actors mobilizing to address issues pertaining to health, education, clean water, etc often have used different idioms to motivate their appeals and actions. While these uses may merely reflect instrumentally strategic choices, my research also suggests that some Burmese actors ascribe entirely different meanings to the concept of 'rights'. Instead of rights securing inalienable standards which citizens can expect by dint of their membership in the polity, 'rights' in Burmese language is often synonymous with opportunities, suggesting that rights are not perceived as existing without opportunities to realize them. Fieldwork with an NGO that defends social movement leaders and particularly marginalized groups will allow me to identify a range of Burmese experiences with power. I will explore how social actors ground political claims and mobilize for them, even whilst lacking rights to anchor and sustain such collective actions, asking: How are claims made, and on what alternative political values are they based? Given the current changes occurring in the Burmese state, understanding the values that ground the Burmese 'politics of the daily' are potentially theoretically productive. Indeed, as state elites have declared an intention to both create a 'rights' regime and 'governmentalize' Burma into a nascent welfare-state regulating population groups, social movements may be implicitly suggesting that formal 'rights' do not exist unless the system is changed such that rights can actually be realized.
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
AMIR HAMPEL, then a graduate student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded funding in October 2012 to aid research on 'Changing Selves in a Transforming Society: How Shy Chinese Learn the Virtues of Self Assertion,' supervised by Dr. Richard A. Shweder. Over the past few years, psychological discourses have permeated popular media and daily life in China. The current research has discovered that psychologists and other actors use psychology to critique Chinese culture's perceived effacing of the individual, while establishing communication and self-actualization as important values. These values are influencing how young Chinese people evaluate themselves, and are leading many of them on projects to remodel their personalities and their lives. Participation in personal growth seminars in Beijing and analysis of self-help literature has revealed much about who people wish to become. Many ambitious young professionals are eager to use the tools of self-help to develop confident, resolute, and extroverted personalities. These characteristics are presented as effective tools for achieving material success, but they are also felt to signal health and potent vitality. In a middle class exploring widening horizons, under the pressures of intensely competitive labor and marriage markets, the longing to be a stronger person fuses with a desire to realize one's dreams. By cultivating the confident and extroverted personalities they idealize, people hope to attract attention and financial opportunity; at the same time, they are also searching for a way past psychological limitations, to personal fulfillment and self-actualization.
Chen, Junjie, U. of Illinois, Urbana, IL - To aid research on 'When the State Claims the Intimate: Population Control and Constructions of Rural Identity in China,' supervised by Dr. Alma Gottlieb
JUNJIE CHEN, then a student at University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, received funding in June 2004 to aid research on 'When the State Claims the Intimate: Population Control and Constructions of Rural Identity in China,' supervised by Dr. Alma Gottlieb. This dissertation fieldwork project explores how a prolonged series of discursive constructions of peasants as 'backward' subjects by the Chinese government has served to legitimize the state's sustained intrusion into the seemingly private event of reproduction in rural China, and in turn how rural residents respond to and interpret this intrusion. The fieldwork was conducted in and around a multi-ethnic Manchu-Han village in northeastern China from July 2004 to August 2005. Data was collected mainly through intensive interviews, participant observation, and household surveys. Reading villagers' subjective experiences of reproduction against the state's hegemonic claims in shaping rural lives, this project aims to chart how rural citizens think about, talk about, and manage their fertility strategies and habits in the face of the state's continuing claims on their most intimate practices. In so doing, this project further explores complex situations and predicaments that both Manchu and Han peasants have faced, and continue to face, due to the state's sustained intrusion into the private event of reproduction at the intersection of gender, class, ethnicity, and urban-rural spaces over the past three decades.
Wang, Jing, Rice U., Houston, TX - To aid research on 'Reimagining the Silk Road: Muslim Minorities at the Limits of Multiculturalism in Xi'an, China,' supervised by Dr. Dominic Boyer
Preliminary abstract: This project focuses on the Chinese state's ongoing promotion of domestic multiculturalist policies through exploring the way it mobilizes cosmopolitan imaginaries of the 'New Silk Road.' Particularly, I will look at how these emerging imaginaries and forms of multicultural governance intersect with the new ways the Chinese government recognizes and locates as relevant its Muslim minorities in the city of Xi'an, which is strategically branded as the starting point of the New Silk Road. Despite their relatively small population size (compared to the Han Chinese), Muslims in Xi'an have become hailed by Chinese political and cultural elites as the embodiment of the city's complex mosaic of Islamic culture. However, it remains unclear the extent to which the official discourse of multiculturalist cosmopolitanism really supports ethno-religious diversity at both the local and national scales, given Beijing's growing nationalist aspirations and its anti-separatist campaigns on the national borders. On the micro level, my project also attends to how local Muslim subjects construct their own cultural expressions and actively navigate the state interventions in their lives as well as the constraints of authoritarian forms of recognition. Through careful analysis of official statements and media reports, close observations of institutional structures and practices, and sustained interactions with my Muslim informants in Xi'an, this project ultimately asks: what are the limits of the recognition of diversity in a globally ambitious authoritarian state that is trying to simultaneously be economically liberal and politically unified? My ultimate aim is to contribute to ongoing anthropological engagements with the politics of recognition in both liberal and authoritarian states.
Rinck, Jacob Emanuel, Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'Political Competition in Nepal's Tarai: Between Regionalism, Labor Migration, and Patronage,' supervised by Dr. Kalyanakrishnan Sivaramakrishnan
Preliminary abstract: How does patronage-based politics operate in 21st century state formation? This study of everyday politics in southern Nepal asks how patronage as cultural form is refashioned in its engagement with changing economic opportunities, even as renewed development efforts preach its end. Remittances from short-term labor migration to Malaysia and the Gulf now account for close to a third of Nepal's GDP. Most of the migrants are from rural backgrounds, where until recently unequal agrarian relations and elite control over developmental resources formed the basis for political authority, even after Nepal's democratic transition in 1990. How do the new flows of money change the ways in which people imagine and engage these modes of politics, and how do political elites respond? This project uses the competition between established political elites and their lower class, lower-caste challengers as empirical ground for pursuing this question. During 18 months of multi-sited ethnographic research between Kathmandu and a district in the southern plains, I will trace how national level politicians, their constituents, and other political actors, including aid donors and development projects, connect through their historically informed aspirations and everyday politics. Thus, my study foregrounds intertwined processes of contesting meanings and making alliances within, across, and against formal state institutions. Through this anthropology of politics, it clarifies the relationship between everyday politics, contending modernities, and the imagination of material resources, and conceptualizes state formation as continuous process of mutual disruptions.
Lohokare, Madhura, Syracuse U., Syracuse, NY - To aid engaged activities on 'Seeking Just Spaces: Conversations on City, Masculinity and Gender,' 2016, India
Preliminary abstract: My engagement project aims to initiate conversations and discussions around how cities shape the lives and gendered identities of women and men and how processes of social exclusion operate through the spaces of the city. To this end my project will conduct day-long workshops on the themes of urban space, gender and masculinity with a wide range of audience including Marathi (native language spoken in Pune)college students, university students, academic scholars and interested publics affiliated to art and culture forums and book reading clubs in the city. I aim to experiment with different kinds of contents for these workshops, including group exercises, films, field trips, reflective writing, reading fiction, poetry and non-fiction. My engagement project will also work towards enabling a group of young researchers from a low caste, working class neighborhood in the city, to undertake a short neighborhood mapping exercise, which will hopefully help in generating a sense of value about their 'place' in the city and create confidence in their ability to produce knowledge about the city for these youth. My larger aim is to facilitate the entry of critical academic insights on urban space and gender in public discourse and to create a much wider 'publics' with whom my research themes would be able to resonate.
Hota, Pinky, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'From Forest to Nation: Tribal Youth's Participation in Hindu Nationalism,' supervised by Dr. Richard Schweder
PINKY HOTA, then a student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded funding at May 2007 to aid research on 'From Forest to Nation: Tribal Youth's Participation in Hindu Nationalism,' supervised by Dr. Richard Schweder. This dissertation analyzes the ways in which a violent Hindu nationalist pedagogy has spread in the tribal majority district of Kandhamal in Orissa, India. In so doing, it describes processes through which Hindu nationalist ideologues prescribe an ethical framework of piety and violence against Christian Others in the region, which when followed, index the 'good Hindu' status of tribal communities. The dissertation demonstrates that tribal participants follow such an ethical framework, not just to perform their Hindu morality, but to manage and channel their experiences of marginalization in their everyday lives marked by social and state abandonment. It argues that Kandha participation in Hindu nationalist piety and violence cannot be explained merely by the social, material, and historical forces that structure the lives of Kandha tribals. Rather, it posits that an affective framework is essential in analyzing the participation of Kandha tribals, as these forces impact the affective experiences of communities in ways that exceed the mere sum of their individual effects. Further, it points to the formation of a new subaltern sociopolitical identity in contemporary India, as tribal subalterns transition from 'victims' to violent aggressors through participation in hegemonic nationalist politics.
Welker, Dr. Marina A., Cornell U., Ithaca, NY - To aid research on 'Kretek Capitalism: An Ethnography of PT Sampoerna and Clove Cigarettes in Indonesia'
Preliminary abstract: Indonesia is renowned for its low regulation and high consumption of cigarettes, and for the fact that most smokers consume clove cigarettes (kretek). I propose to carry out a year of ethnographic research on PT Sampoerna, Indonesia's largest kretek producer. A Chinese migrant founded Sampoerna in 1913, and the company was predominantly familyowned and -operated until Philip Morris International (PMI) acquired it in 2005. The acquisition was part of a PMI strategy to expand its presence in 'emerging markets' in the wake of dramatic declines in cigarette consumption among higher income countries. Through close ethnographic study of the making, marketing, distribution, and consumption of
Sampoerna's kretek, my research will address the subjective experiences and moral and cultural narratives and practices individual (farmers, factory workers, managers, consumers) and collective actors (company, union, government, NGOs) draw on to interpret, justify, and contest how Sampoerna inflicts harms and confers benefits. This multi-dimensional study of Sampoerna will build on and contribute to four domains: (1) theory on corporations, understood as a set of processes and relations rather than as reified entities; (2) commodity chain scholarship, by illuminating how companies get made alongside commodities; (3) tobacco scholarship, by examining neglected arenas of production and distribution in the global South; and (4) scholarship on Indonesia, where kretek are ubiquitous features of social life whose economic, political, health, and moral consequences are subject to polarized depictions.