Bakker, Sarah Aaltje, U. of California, Santa Cruz, CA - To aid research on 'Ancient Moderns: Claiming Middle Eastern Christian Identity in the Netherlands,' supervised by Dr. Melissa L. Caldwell
SARAH AALTJE BAKKER, then a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, California, received a grant in May 2009, to aid research on 'Ancient Moderns: Claiming Middle Eastern Christian Identity in the Netherlands,' supervised by Dr. Melissa L. Caldwell. This dissertation research examines debates among Syriac Orthodox Christians living in the Netherlands about how to be religiously, culturally, and ethnically distinct despite the narrative binary of Christian Europe and the Muslim Middle East that dominates the secular discourse of Dutch multiculturalism. This ethnographically based project focuses on Dutch-Syriac efforts to cultivate a distinct moral identity that encompasses both their religious commitment to an ancient, sacred past -- as well as their political aspirations to achieve recognition as an indigenous ethnic group in the Middle East -- through international diasporic activism. This identity is crafted and contested through the practice of liturgical song (the focal point of Syriac religious observance and cultural performance), and then deployed via political advocacy and activism in a broader global field. In this study, musical expression and moral identity emerge as distinct yet entangled threads from Syriac Orthodox Christian engagements with the Dutch multiculturalism debates and with international geopolitical conversations about secularism, political identity, and religious identity. Even as they negotiate persistent marginalization and misrecognition, Middle Eastern Christians unsettle the racial and religious categories undergirding the popular narrative of Judeo-Christian secular Europe, defining new conceptions of religious difference within a plural Europe.
Verinis, James Peter, Binghamton U., Binghamton, NY - To aid research on 'New Immigrant Farmers and the Globalization of the Greek Countryside,' supervised by Dr. Thomas M. Wilson
JAMES PETER VERINIS, then a student at Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York, was granted funding in October 2009, to aid research on 'New Immigrant Farmers and the Globalization of the Greek Countryside,' supervised by Dr. Thomas M. Wilson. Though Greek agriculture has served as the picture of rural underdevelopment in Europe, rural Greece is undergoing significant transformations. Immigrants play a diversity of socio-economic roles in farming communities experiencing a new global migratory context. They help define what agricultural [dis]incentives, environmental stewardship, social fabric, and territorial occupation mean in the countryside. With locals they co-manage tensions stemming from European rural development programs and global commodity markets. Scholarship largely reifies the conclusion that immigrants are merely transient, exploited laborers. In conjunction with macroeconomic analyses of rural 'stagnation,' such characterizations misrepresent current realities and undermine alternative potential forms of rural development in Greece. Fieldwork in rural villages in Laconia Prefecture of the Peloponnese, primarily in communities of olive growers, has served to undermine such misrepresentations. Participatory farming amongst Greek and non-Greek agriculturalists, in conjunction with related forms of ethnographic data gathered from various stakeholders, sheds light on a context allowing for immigrant integration and rural development as well as for xenophobia and 'resistance' to global capitalism. Contemporary globalized countrysides along the borders of Europe beg such fieldwork in order to evaluate current and potential paths based on new conceptual frameworks set by their new range of residents.
Mahmud, Lilith, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Seeking Sisterhood: Elite Constructions of Gender in the Italian Freemasonry,' supervised by Dr. Michael F. Herzfeld
LILITH MAHMUD, then a student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was awarded funding in June 2005 to aid research on 'Seeking Sisterhood: Elite Constructions of Gender in the Italian Freemasonry,' supervised by Dr. Michael F. Herzfeld. This project examined the making of gender in elite circles through the ethnographic study of Masonic Lodges in Italy. Through participant observation and in-depth interviews, the grantee studied the everyday lives of upper-class men and women members of four different Masonic Orders, providing an ethnographic account of this (in)famous esoteric organization -formerly a secret society for men only- that continues to operate in Italy among widespread conspiracy theories. Paying close attention to performances of intellectualism and 'high' culture, exclusionary politics, and both esoteric and social activities throughout the research, this study examined the role of secrecy in the establishment of relative power within an elite group, and the gendering of particular forms of femininities and masculinities among the upper classes of society. Findings emerging from research undertaken under this grant highlight the complexity and contingency of gender as a category, and the significance of cultural and social capital, in addition to financial resources, for the making of European elites.
Mahmud, Lilith. 2012. 'The World is a Forest of Symbols': Italian Freemasonry and the Practice of Discretion. American Ethnologist 39(2):425-438.
Cole, Dr. Jennifer, U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'Not Peasants into Frenchmen but Frenchmen into Globals? Malagasy Marriage Migrants in France'
DR. JENNIFER COLE, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded funding in May 2010 to aid research on 'Not Peasants into Frenchmen but Frenchmen into Globals? Malagasy Marriage Migrants in France.' This research explored the complex dynamics of bi-national, cross-cultural marriage between women from the African island of Madagascar and men in rural and semi-rural areas of southwestern France. It has long been noted that one category of French citizens who did not benefit from the rapid modernization and accumulation of wealth that took place in mid-twentieth century France were peasants. Instead, these men found themselves comparatively 'left behind' in rural areas as their female peers moved to the cities and larger towns. However, since at least the 1980s, and accelerating in the 1990s, these men and have sometimes married women from Madagascar. The research examined how such marriages, and the complex networks of exchange and kinship created in their wake, contribute to new patterns of exclusion and belonging both in France and Madagascar. In contrast to most research on migration to France, which focuses on the question of Islam and is conducted in the peri-urban areas, this research focused on a distinctive pattern of migration into the countryside. It examined how couples and their family members engage in the translation of social, cultural and material forms of value between Madagascar and France.
Nicewonger, Todd Evans, Columbia U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Intellectuals, Material Culture, & Flemish Fashion Design as an Economy of Innovation,' supervised by Dr. Lambros Comitas
TODD E. NICEWONGER, then a student at Columbia University, New York, New York, received funding in July 2007 to support research on 'Intellectuals, Material Culture & Flemish Fashion as an Economy of Innovation,' supervised by Dr. Lambros Comitas. The project was conducted at a Fashion Design Academy where the grantee examined the social organization of the institution and the communicative practices used among student designers. Building on contemporary research into the cultural production of aesthetics, embodiment, and apprenticeship, this study investigated how certain virtues associated with an avant-garde movement in fashion converged into what eventually became recognized as the Flemish fashion aesthetic. This effort was characterized by novel modes of production and ideas about what it means to be a 'good and creative' fashion designer. Fundamental to these beliefs were social ideals arguing that fashion mediates the re-orientation of knowledge and stimulates new ways of imagining lived reality. As such, artisans are believed to embody an intellectual responsibility: one that can craft embodied notions of doubt, joy, and-central to this investigation-possibility. By illuminating how notions of the future are imagined, translated into design concepts, and then technically produced, this study conceptualizes the creative practice of design as hope.
Field, Amy Leigh, New York U., New York, NY - To aid research on 'Capital, Creatures, and Care: Farm Animal Protection Law and Human-Animal Relationships in Eastern Germany,' supervised by Dr. Sally Engle Merry
Preliminary abstract: Animal protection regulations have produced tremendous change in practices of farm animal care in Germany. Since the nineteenth century, urbanization has created a base of consumers who are distant from the work of animal care, yet desire its reform. Farmers are the targets of this pressure, and local agricultural officials must oversee the implementation of these reforms. Eastern Germany, unlike Western Germany, has only had these laws since the Berlin Wall fell. This project investigates how the introduction of animal protection law shapes human relationships with farm animals in eastern Germany. It will be conducted in Thuringia, an eastern German state which is the site of an intense new focus on reforming animal farming. With methodologies including participant-observation, life history interviews, document analysis, and analysis of discourse practices in both formal and informal sites of interaction between farmers, consumers, officials, and animals, I ask how farmers and officials understand the new laws, mobilizing their understandings of animals' needs, and those of the consuming public. My analysis takes neither humans nor animals for granted as categories, but instead investigates the mechanisms by which participants talk about and imagine the contradictory nature of animals as both commodities and living beings.
Radeva, Mariya Ivanova, City U. of New York, Graduate Center, New York, NY - To aid research on 'Frontiers of Progress, Landscapes of Enchantment: Sustainable Development in Postsocialist Europe,' supervised by Dr. Katherine Verdery
MARIYA I. RADEVA, then a student at City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, New York, received funding in October 2010 to aid research on 'Frontiers of Progress, Landscapes of Enchantment: Sustainable Development in Postsocialist Europe,' supervised by Dr. Katherine Verdery. This dissertation project focused on one territorially exceptional space -- Strandzha Nature Park in Bulgaria -- in order to ask how the creation of 'sustainable' public goods such as nature parks since the 1990s has commodified previously non-commodified objects and how this process is resisted or contested. Data collected through interviews with experts, archival research, and participant observation suggest an uneven temporality of the process, beginning in late socialism and continuing today. Yet a critical transformation of value occurred in the 1990s, when aid from foreign development agencies was made conditional upon nature conservation. Swapping differently valued objects in the then expanding green market altered the macroeconomic terrain. Different mechanisms were used to disburse large amounts of project funding to reform land tenure, build civil society, and preserve the environment. While never a singular force, investing new value in nature has had fascinating effects. A coalition of green NGOs emerged, who vie for legislative power and manifest as a civic social movement. The localities cut out for conservation experienced dramatic change because devalued socialist assets have been revalued as natural and cultural heritage. Such revaluation articulated with the creation of new forms of global intangible commodities in UNESCO's world heritage preservation.
Scaramelli, Caterina, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Swamps Into Wetlands: Water, Conservation Science and Nationhood in Turkey,' supervised by Dr. Stefan Helmreich
Preliminary abstract: How have wetlands, previously 'swamps' to be drained and reclaimed, become sites of ecological value in Turkey, starting with its participation to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in 1994? I argue that Turkish wetlands are becoming 'ecological objects' through which debates unfold about national water conservation practices; arenas in which scientists, birders, and citizens work through the relation of human and non-human phenomena in Turkish 'nature'; and venues through which such actors position regional dynamics within national narratives, international politics, and transnational scientific economies. I will conduct fieldwork in two delta wetlands of 'international importance'-- Gediz on the Aegean Sea, and Kizilirmak on the Mediterranean -- with wetland scientists, ornithologists, residents, visitors, and state officials. I will interview older wetland protection advocates as well, and will conduct archival research to track how wetlands have been operationalized in Turkey's scientific and policy circles. Wetlands are becoming novel sites through which national and transnational differences -- religious, ethnic, gender, economic-- as well as matters of international positioning are now negotiated; whether Turkey looks to Europe, the Middle East, or Asia is very much in the making, I suggest, in the wetlands. My project also complicates the anthropological questions of water's materiality and agency, treating it neither as essential to the material form of water itself nor as obviously the result of the underdetermination of material form. I ask, rather: Who decides what constitutes water in the wetland, and through which forms of knowledge and scientific techniques? Which sociotechnical worlds and infrastructures make it flow and how, and make materiality matter or not?
Jent, Karen Ingeborg, U. of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK - To aid research on 'Growing Organs, Extending Lives: Regenerative Medicine and the Localization of Aging in Scotland,' supervised by Dr. Sarah Franklin
Preliminary abstract: This project explores the work of stem cell scientists in Scotland who are attempting to grow replacement organs in vitro as part of a publicly funded regenerative medicine research initiative. Studying the effects of biological aging, stem cell scientists track the elderly's rising sensitivity to influenza and other pathogenic exposures to a specific gland within the immune system. By localizing aging to the thymus gland, the Scottish laboratory hopes to more pointedly interrupt, and reverse engineer biological aging processes by transplanting laboratory-grown versions of the gland. Focused on this research of artificial thymus growth, my project asks how various notions of aging might be enacted in daily research practices of stem cell scientists. The regrowth of organs seems both to impact and be impacted by growing national concern about an aging population and increasing national emphasis on translational medicine. In Scotland, where the socio-economic challenges of an aging society occupy national concern, translational medicine and applicable science are deemed especially fitting ways to deal with demographic pressures. This project addresses the possibility that ethical emphasis on 'good' or applicable science, as well as anxieties about longevity and health, might be built into organs themselves, manifesting the national preoccupation with healthy aging in the emblematic practice of growing artificial organs in vitro. How might the highly technical and time consuming practices involved in growing organs be shaped by the institutional and national contexts which present aging as degeneration, and stem cell science as an extension of gerontology?