Harvard U., Cambridge, MA, Mohammadi-Doostdar, Alireza, PI - To aid research on 'Sciences of the Strange and the Sociality of Science in Iran,' supervised by Dr. Steven Charles Caton
ALIREZA MOHAMMADI-DOOSTDAR, then a student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, received a grant in April 2009 to aid research on 'Sciences of the Strange and the Sociality of Science in Iran,' supervised by Dr. Steven C. Caton. The dissertation research examines the emergence of the category of the 'supernatural' (mavara or metajizik) in Iran as a domain of potential knowledge (speculative, visionary, or empirical) and practical manipulation (through mystical experience or technical procedure). It focuses on the articulation of various discourses -- philosophical, theological, jurisprudential, mystical, occult, and modern scientific -- in middle class Iranians' encounters with the supernatural. Specifically, it examines these encounters as marked by various forms of doubt, uncertainty, and hesitation, which individuals attempt to bridge or resolve by drawing on multiple discourses and forms of reasoning in an ad-hoc fashion. Such uncertainties appear in a range of encounters with the supernatural -- such as attempts to explain apparent communications with souls, make sense of supposed spirit possession, and sift true magic from charlatanism. The different ways in which people resolve their hesitations -- or continue to dwell within them -- are animated by divergent social and political stakes that precipitate realignments among science, religion, and the supernatural.
Mehari, Asmeret Ghebreigziabiher, U. of Florida, Gainesville, FL - To aid research on 'Decolonizing the Pedagogy of Archaeology in East Africa,' supervised by Dr. Peter R. Schmidt
ASMERET G. MEHARI, then a student at University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, received funding in October 2009 to aid research on 'Decolonizing the Pedagogy of Archaeology in East Africa,' supervised by Dr. Peter R. Schmidt. This dissertation research explores the nature of archaeology in postcolonial East Africa using Tanzania and Uganda as case studies. Its main focus is analyzing the history and development of practicing and teaching archaeology by African scholars. Particularly, it examines what constitutes local archaeological research and how emerging local professionals contribute towards decolonizing archaeology in the region, meaning creating archaeological practices and pedagogies that are liberated and locally relevant. The methods for collecting relevant information include in-depth interviews with archaeologists, students, local communities, and antiquities and museum officials; archival research at university libraries, museums, and national research clearance institutions; participant observation -attending field schools and class-room based lectures, occasionally delivering lectures to undergraduate students, and living with local communities who reside around archaeological sites. Research findings show that most archaeological research is performed under collaborative projects that are mainly run by European-descendant Africanist scholars. Local Ugandan and Tanzanian scholars are most likely to have a profound influence on decolonizing archaeology through their own self-initiated and administrated projects. The contributions of local scholars vary but predominantly their efforts have been directed to the final product of archaeological research - primarily in the rewritings of African history.
Stamos, Peter, Andrew, U. of California, Davis, CA - To aid research on 'Hominin Locomotion from a Developmental Perspective: A Comparative Analysis of the Dikika Child's Knee,' supervised by Dr. Timothy D. Weaver
Preliminary abstract: Walking upright is a hallmark of our lineage, and learning how and why this unique behavior evolved is of utmost importance for understanding human origins. In this study, we will look at the evolution of bipedal locomotion from a developmental and comparative perspective by studying how the knee joints of apes and humans grow in response to the stresses and strains of locomotion. With this understanding, we will then analyze the knee joints of the oldest juvenile skeleton of a human ancestor ever discovered, the 3.3 million-year-old Dikika Child. This will allow us to investigate when our ancestors came out of the trees and planted their feet firmly on the ground, and at what age ancient children learned to walk.
Schel, Anne Marijke, U. of St. Andrews, Fife, UK - To aid research on 'Effects of Predation Pressure on Black and White Colobine Referential Communication,' supervised by Dr. Klaus Zuberbuehler
SANNE MARIJKE SCHEL, University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, was awarded funding in October 2006 to aid research on 'Effects of Predation Pressure on Black and White Colobine Referential Communication,' supervised by Dr. Klaus Zuberbuehler. This study investigated the effects of predation pressure on alarm call use in Guereza colobus monkeys of Budongo Forest, Uganda. Playback experiments with predator vocalizations and corresponding conspecific monkey alarm reactions were conducted at two sites in the forest, where predation pressures exerted by the monkeys' natural enemies, most importantly leopards and crowned eagles, differed. One objective of the study was to investigate whether Guereza colobines produce predator-specific vocal alarms, and, if so, whether these alarms qualify as referential signals. Results showed that the vocal alarms in response to predator vocalizations differed considerably: playbacks of leopard growls elicited calling bouts consisting of short sequences made of a snort and pairs of roars, while playbacks of eagle shrieks elicited bouts consisting of long sequences made of no snorts but many roars. When these alarm reactions were played back to conspecific monkeys, recipients reacted as if they had detected the predators themselves, even in absence of the eliciting stimulus. This would qualify them as referential signals. Finally, this study showed differences in response rates to the different stimuli between the two sites. It is discussed how these findings might relate to the different predation pressures at the sites.
Franklin, Kathryn Jane, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Poltiical Economy at the Crossroads: Trade and Authority in the Medieval Armenian Highlands, AD 500- 1400,' supervised by Dr. Adam Thomas Smith
KATHRYN J. FRANKLIN, then a student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'Political Economy at the Crossroads: Trade and Economy in the Medieval Armenian Highlands, AD 500-1400,' supervised by Dr. Adam T. Smith. This project investigated the intersection of local political life along the mountain highways of Armenia with regional trade during the late medieval period (AD 900-1400). The project aims to discover how people living in the Armenian highlands at this time imagined themselves in relation to both local history and wider cultural and political phenomena, and how they put such imagined relationships into action through architectural projects that engaged with the material objects carried through the landscape by donkey caravans. To achieve these aims, the project investigated a caravanatun ('caravan house') built by a local merchant-prince in the early 13th century at the site of Arai-Bazarjugh. The excavations revealed the caravanatun to be a rectangular hall divided into vaulted galleries by rows of arches. This large and secure space provided accommodation for human travelers as well as their beasts, which were kept in specially built stable-galleries at the sides of the building. A second phase of the project focused on categorizing the material artifacts found within this building, which includes metal objects, animal bones, and pottery. The ceramic assemblage from the Arai-Bazarjugh caravanatun floors includes cookwares and small bowls, as well as glazed dishes that may have been trade goods on their way to the next town.
Gonzalez Jimenez, Alejandra, U. of Toronto, Toronto, Canada - To aid research on 'Volkswagen de Mexico: The Car as a National Fetish,' supervised by Dr. Valentina Napolitano
ALEJANDRA GONZALEZ, then a student at University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, received funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Volkswagen de Mexico: The Car as a National Fetish,' supervised by Dr. Valentina Napolitano. This dissertation ethnographically examines the socio-cultural reproduction of transnational corporations through the lens of Volkswagen de Mexico. As such, this project traces the different social worlds that are connected to the German car industry through the production and consumption of cars. Since its arrival in Puebla, Mexico, in 1967, Volkswagen de Mexico has been regarded as a key engine of the nation's progress, and for at least three generations, working for this auto-industry has signaled upward mobility and social capital. Historically, car production and driving a car have been considered central elements in the making of modern Mexico. The project draws on sixteen months of fieldwork (2010-12) that consisted of participant observation with Volkswagen workers and employees, engineering students sponsored by Volkswagen de Mexico, as well as Volkswagen car clubs and collectors. Through these worlds, the project elucidates the meanings and tensions, as well as contrasting articulations and visions that are embedded in Volkswagen de Mexico. Broadly, this project seeks to understand the power of transnational corporations to reproduce themselves through state violence and coercion and simultaneously through situated subject formation.
Lustenberger, Sibylle, U. of Berne, Bern, Switzerland - To aid research on 'Kinship and Homosexuality in the Age of Reproductive Technologies: A Perspective on Jewish Israeli society,' supervised by Dr. Edouard Conte
SIBYLLE LUSTENBERGER, then a student at the University of Berne, Bern, Switzerland, was awarded funding in October 2009, to aid research on 'Kinship and Homosexuality in the Age of Reproductive Technologies: A Perspective on Jewish Israeli Society,' supervised by Dr. Edouard Conte. It is argued that kinship relationships define a newborn child's place in society and reproduce collective identities and social relations. But how static are conceptions of kinship and what happens when gays and lesbians claim access to family rights? This research examines the obstacles same-sex couples overcome when becoming parents, and explores how they challenge the structure of Jewish Israeli society. In Judaism, kinship and religion are tightly interwoven, and religious status is transmitted through birth. This is also true in Israel, where family law is informed by Jewish approaches to kinship, and Orthodox authorities control conversion, marriage, and divorce. While Orthodox rabbis oppose same-sex parenthood, gays and lesbians have won partial access to reproductive technologies and recognition for their families in civil courts. Additionally, they bypass domestic restrictions, taking advantage of less restrictive regulations abroad. Against a background of legal incoherence, same-sex couples invest considerable energy to protect their family relations through legal means. Furthermore, they manifest their families' belonging to Jewish Israeli society when converting children born to non-Jewish mothers, and circumcising the boys. By promoting their own conceptions of kinship as legitimately Jewish, this research argues that they undermine the hegemony of Orthodox Judaism in Israel.
Rice, Jenna Dawn, Stanford U., Stanford, CA - To aid research on 'The Sectarian Gift: Piety, Clientelism, and Changing Practices of Giving in Sidon, Lebanon,' supervised by Dr. Sylvia Yanagisako
Preliminary abstract: In Damascus, one is often told that 'no one is homeless; no one goes hungry.' This is reportedly due to informal networks of giving that aid the city's poor. My research will examine Syrians' giving practices in the context of economic liberalization, dramatic population growth, and a growing discourse among the political and religious leadership that attributes poverty to 'the wrong mentality.' This twelve month ethnographic study situated in Syria's capital city will ask: 'What is the range of broader sensibilities -- towards poverty, worthiness, obligation, merit, kinship, and care -- that inform Syrians' giving practices? Does the changing economic, demographic, and discursive context reconfigure Syrians' sensibilities toward giving? If so, how?' Most scholarship on giving in the Middle East focuses on the institutional and Islamic doctrinal dimensions of giving. Rather than presupposing a particular relationship between law and social practice, I will ask about the ways in which Islamic concepts are invoked in relation to giving practices; when they are invoked; and by whom. This project will advance understandings of informal giving in the Middle East under liberalization; further the anthropological tradition of situated studies on gift giving and sociality, and develop an approach to the cultural production of Islam.
Dua, Jatin, Duke U., Durham, NC - To aid research on 'Policing Sovereignty in the Western Indian Ocean,' supervised by Dr. Charles D. Piot
JATIN DUA, then a student at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, was awarded funding in May 2010, to aid research on 'Policing Sovereignty in the Western Indian Ocean,' supervised by Dr. Charles D. Piot. Since 2008, a number of high profile incidents of piracy off the coast of East Africa have resulted in increased global attention to this region, including the deployment of a multi-national naval patrol and attempts to prosecute suspected pirates. Policy makers have attributed this phenomenon to the lack of a strong centralized government in Somalia and called for various forms of intervention on-shore to address piracy's root causes. However, this interpretation of the conflict obscures a longer history of regulation and transgression and piracy's long pedigree in the Western Indian Ocean. This research resituates piracy within histories of the Indian Ocean and longstanding attempts to redefine sovereignty and legality within this oceanic space. This work suggests that maritime piracy may be better understood as a form of capital-intensive armed entrepreneurship and an attempt to secure protection from global poaching, waste dumping, and from the surveillance of regulators. As such, piracy as a system of protection competes with a variety of state and non-state forms of protection in this area. This project investigates the encounters between these overlapping regimes of protection and regulation in the Western Indian Ocean.
Kivland, Chelsey Louise, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Of Bands and Soldiers: Performance, Sovereignty, and Violence in Contemporary Haiti,' supervised by Dr. Stephan Palmie
CHELSEY L. KIVLAND, then a student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, received funding in April 2008 to aid research on 'Of Bands and Soldiers: Performance, Sovereignty, and Violence in Haiti,' supervised by Dr. Stephan Palmie. This ethnography examines the expressive political action of young men involved in both carnival street bands and social service organizations in a slum of Port-au-Prince, in order to show how they imagine and enact a novel model of statehood based on the Haitian ideal of respè, or respect.