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.
Guffin, Matthew Bascom, U. of California, Davis, CA - To aid research on 'Space and Identity Formation among Programmers in Hyderabad's Urbanizing Periphery,' supervised by Dr. Smriti Srinivas
BASCOM GUFFIN, then a student at the University of California, Davis, California, was granted funding in October 2009, to aid research on 'Space and Identity Formation among Programmers in Hyderabad's Urbanizing Periphery,' supervised by Dr. Smriti Srinivas. The grantee conducted fieldwork with infotech professionals living and working in the western periphery of Hyderabad. The grantee stayed in a gated community to track how rituals and celebrations, daily interactions, and an active email list helped to create a strong sense of community. Visiting informant's apartments and workplaces, research documented how new spaces of work built by multinational and Indian IT companies have created a new sense of comfortable living. The grantee participated in dance and aerobics classes, played soccer, and went to nightclubs, examining the gender dynamics inherent in the body cultures of each space. Traveling in the city and talking with commuters provided a sense of traffic culture in Hyderabad where order is maintained chiefly by concrete constraints like speed bumps, medians, and the relative size and speed of oncoming vehicles. The grantee also accompanied informants to view under-construction apartments and saw how their aspirations were placed in negotiation with the concrete realities of these spaces-in-formation. Preliminary findings reveal that a new kind of society is rising in this periphery, one that valorizes individual socioeconomic and geographic mobility and affirms individual aspirations in part through the construction and use of new concrete spaces.
Can, Samil, Stanford U., Stanford, CA - To aid research on 'Indebted: Cultures of Obligation and Economies of Informality among Muslims in New Delhi,' supervised by Dr. Thomas B. Hansen
Preliminary abstract: Informality in India is a celebrated cultural frame of economic growth, comprising diverse commercial, legal, financial and industrial networks and practices. However, preliminary study on debt disputes among Muslims in Delhi suggests that urban informality have varying moral, ethical and religious framings, or 'cultures of obligation' among different communities of India. Providing a powerful lens on informality in India, debt relations (networks of finding loans/debts and practices of resolving debt disputes) are a classic medium for utilizing and negotiating 'cultures of obligation' and 'narratives of authority'. Inspired by the critical call to 'post-colonialize' economies of urban informality in the global South (Varley 2013), this study on debt and 'cultures of obligation' affirms the dynamic agency of marginalized or subaltern populations in everyday framings of informality, making and re-making markets, rationalities, liberalisms and capitalisms. It questions the conceptual separation of the informal from the formal for maintaining colonial fantasies of an intriguing, flexible, vital, yet continuously 'lacking,' dysfunctional and devastated 'other'. By focusing on how Muslims establish social networks across the city to find debts and how they resolve debt disputes through a range of 'formal' and 'informal' sources and authorities, the project aims to shed light on how dynamic moral framings of economic action within debt networks continuously assemble and disassemble informality and authority through active everyday negotiations of 'obligation' and 'authority.'
Venkatesan, Dr. Soumhya, U. of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK - To aid research and writing on 'Crafting Discourse: Mat Weaving in Pattamadai, South India' - Richard Carley Hunt Fellowship
DR. SOUMHYA VENKATESAN, of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, was awarded a Richard Carley Hunt Fellowship in December 2002 to aid research and writing on mat weaving and the discourse surrounding the craft in Pattamadai, India. From January 2003 to January 2004, Venkatesan conducted research in South India among Muslim mat weavers, exploring issues relating to Islam and the craft object. She wrote up the results of the research in a manuscript for publication as a monograph, with the working title Transformative Words: 'Craft,' 'Development,' and the Worlds of Indian Artists. Aspects of the research were also to be published in a paper entitled 'Making Gifts Matter,' in a volume edited by Ssorin-Chaikov and Sosnina.
Venkatesan, Soumhya. 2006. Shifting Balances in a 'Craft Community:' The Mat Weavers of Pattamdai, South India. Contributions to Indian Sociology 40(1):63-89.
Venkatesan, Soumhya. 2009. Craft Matters: Artisans, Development and the Indian Nation. Orient Black Swan: New Delhi.