Krause, Dr. Elizabeth Louise, U. of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA; and Bressan, Dr. Massimo, U. of Florence, Florence, Italy - To aid collaborative research on 'Tight Knit: Familistic Encounters in a Transnational Fast Fashion District'
Preliminary abstract: The intensely globalized Province of Prato serves as an ethnographic laboratory for investigating the conditions of fast fashion. Here, a historic textile district known for its MADE IN ITALY 'brand' has earned the distinction of having Europe's largest Chinese community. Most of these transnational migrants produce low-cost items for the fast-fashion industry. Historically, the success of the MADE IN ITALY 'brand' was attributed to small family firms lauded for their flexibility for meeting work demands. Less celebrated is the long history of an informal economy characterized by family arrangements tied to unwritten contracts, clandestine work, and old-world sensibilities of reciprocity. Many of these longstanding practices persist, yet the status quo has changed. Workers have intensified their ways of being flexible, and the state has deepened its mechanisms of control. Primary targets are transnational family firms and workers. What family arrangements does this economy require, repel, or generate? How do family members cope with über-flexible lives? Finally, what cultural logics and values emerge from encounters between fast-fashion workers and state institutions? Substantive contributions to anthropology are made in two primary areas: economic anthropology and critical embodiment studies. An innovative encounter ethnography approach locates places where fast-fashion workers and state institutions encounter one another. Collaboration occurs at all levels of the project: research design, data collection, data analysis, training, writing, and policy-making. A training component focuses on developing systematic approaches to qualitative data analysis to enhance the relevance of anthropology for graduate students interested in addressing social challenges in transnational encounter zones.
Balasescu, Alexandru, U. of California, Irvine, CA - To aid research on 'Democratic Inclusivity and the Commodification of Islamic Dress in France: Unveiling Modernity in the New Europe?,' supervised by Dr. William Maurer
ALEXANDRU BALASESCU, while a student at the University of California in Berkeley, California, received funding in May 2002 to aid research on democratic inclusivity and the commodification of Islamic dress in France, under the supervision of Dr. William Maurer. Conducting 10 months of fieldwork in Paris and 2 months in Tehran, Balasescu sought to identify characteristics of the commodification of 'Islamic' clothing as fashion and to explore its social implications. Data collection resulted in 40 hours of recorded interviews, 6 unrecorded interviews, participant observation in fashion design and sales in both Paris and Tehran, and bibliographic and archival study in Paris, the Artdeco Library, the Yves Saint Laurent Center for Research, and the Center of Study of Intellectual Property at the Paris Chamber of Commerce. Participant observation included, but was not limited to, assisting in designing and creating clothing, participating in sales at fashion salons, and assisting at photo sessions for fashion journals. The interviews focused on fashion professionals and their clients. Access was sometimes problematic, revealing the secretive character of this industry and pointing to the issues of intellectual property involved in the creation of new kinds of fashionable value.
Balasescu, Alec H. 2005. The Veil and Fashion Catwalks in Paris. ISIM Review 15:20.
Balasescu, Alec H. 2005. After Authors: Sign(ify)ing Fashion from Paris to Tehran. Journal of Material Culture 10(3):289-310.
Balasescu, Alec. 2005. L?Etat Esthetique: La Republique Islamique d?Iran et la Question de la Mode. L?Ara: Association Rhone D. Anthropologie, 55: 20-24.
Balasescu, Alexandru. 2007. Paris Chic, Tehran Thrills: Aesthetic Bodies, Political Subjects. Zeta Book Series in Anthropology and Sociology.
Balasescu, Alexandru. 2007. Haute Couture in Tehran: Two Faces of an Emerging Fashion Scene. Fashion Theory: Journal of Dress, Body, and Culture 11(2-3):299-317
Verkaaik, Dr. Oskar, U. of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands - To aid workshop on 'Religion and Sexuality in Post-Colonial Europe: Between Categorization and Transcendence,' 2009, Amsterdam
'Religion and Sexuality in Post-Colonial Europe: Between Categorization and Transcendence'
January 29-30, 2009, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Organizer: Oskar Verkaaik (University of Amsterdam)
On the one hand, religion and sexuality are core markers in identity politics and the culturalization of citizenship, especially, but not only, in Europe today; on the other hand, religion and sexuality have the potential to transcend these very normative and cultural boundaries. This workshop explored this paradox in an ethnographic, sociological and historical way. Two main themes of the workshop were the construction of discourses on religion and sexuality in today?s new nationalisms, and the way groups of people appropriate and experience sexuality and religion against the background of the nationalist
projects. The discussions centered on how religion and sexuality are at the heart of postcolonial processes of 'othering' and sources of the authentic, subjective and sublime. The discussion focused partly on secularization and its religious -- more precisely, Christian -- genealogy. Participants explored the notion of a secular sexuality as public norm and as a
source of authenticity for both pious believers and secularists. These 'sexular' practices of self-understanding and authentification are experienced through the body. Therefore, the body became an important concept participants used to think with in their debates about the intersection of religion and sexuality.
Marchesi, Milena, U. of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA - To aid research on 'Remaking Subjects: Cultural Politics, Practices, and Technologies of Fertility in Italy,' supervised by Dr. Elizabeth Louise Krause
MILENA MARCHESI, then a student at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, received funding in April 2006 to aid research on 'Remaking Subjects: Cultural Politics, Practices, and Technologies of Fertility in Italy,' supervised by Dr. Elizabeth L. Krause. Through multi-sited research that included participant observation and volunteering in a family planning clinic, feminist organizations, immigrant associations, and the training of cultural mediators, the grantee traced the intensifying politics and discourses of reproduction in contemporary Italy, which include anxieties over immigration and over low fertility rates among native Italian women. This dissertation project aimed to answer the following question: How do contested and contradictory politics of reproduction materialize and contribute to remaking new and old reproductive subjects in Italy? Participant observation and interviews with Italian native women and immigrant women engaged in cultural mediation and immigrant activism shed light on the intersections of the projects of 'integration' of difference. The reordering of social reproduction in contemporary Italy engenders resistance among those who recognize themselves as targets of re/integration and its inevitable corollary of exclusion: most obviously immigrants, but also those who do not fit into the heteronormative and reproductive family model. In foregrounding the narratives and practices of those identified as a threat to cohesive social reproduction, this research sheds light on the effects of political attempts at coherence-making.
Colleran, Heidi, U. College London, London, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'Kin and Social Influences on Reproductive Norms and Decision-Making in Rural Poland,' supervised by Dr. Ruth Mace
HEIDI COLLERAN, then a student at University College London, London, United Kingdom, was awarded a grant in May 2010, to aid research on 'Kin and Social Influences on Reproductive Norms and Decision-Making in Rural Poland,' supervised by Dr. Ruth Mace. Women reproduce within complex socio-economic and cultural contexts; as a result reproductive outcomes are influenced both by the people we rely on for social support and wider societal norms. Explaining the 'demographic transition' from high to low fertility -- a common population-level feature across the developed world -- is problematic for evolutionists, who must explain how 'evolved psychologies' can lead to such apparently maladaptive behavior. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, this project tested two evolutionary theories proposed to explain the transition to low fertility in an area of rural Poland where fertility and contraceptive use are strikingly varied, and where the traditions of small-scale subsistence farming are being eroded by 'modernization.' By examining both group- and individual-level variation in a wide variety of dimensions, this project explores how mechanisms for fertility control are learned and diffused among individuals, and ultimately whether reproduction is strategic or influenced. The grantee evaluates whether kin or non-kin disproportionately influence reproductive outcomes, and whether changes in social networks or socioeconomic factors provide the impetus for fertility change. The project builds on theoretical and empirical research on reproductive decision-making by both evolutionary and sociocultural anthropologists, incorporating the work of other social scientists in demography, sociology, social psychology and economics.
Nunez Vega, Jorge Oswaldo, U. of California, Davis, CA - To aid research on 'Financial Nationalism: Imagining Catalonia through the Banking System,' supervised by Dr. Alan Klima
JORGE NUÑEZ, then a student at University of California, Davis, California, was awarded a grant in April 2011 to aid research on 'Financial Nationalism: Imagining Catalonia through the Banking System,' supervised by Dr. Alan Klima. This ethnography is about the ethics and aesthetics of personal savings in Catalonia with a focus on investment and speculation. It documents the allocation of public debt amongst citizens, the purchase of toxic assets by ill-advised bank customers, and the everyday life of non-professional online traders. At the same time, it is a study of money cultures based on notions of citizenship, consumption, and technology. Its hypothesis suggests that after the housing bubble, a sizeable number of low and middle-income savers became a ready-made source of liquidity for both the Catalan government and the Spanish stock exchange system. This happened through the retailing of billions of Euros in patriotic bonds, preferred shares and subordinated debt, and financial derivatives to everyday citizens, triggering a cultural conflict between preexisting local moralities of savings and emerging global notions of investment and speculation. The main argument the study develops emerges out of a dialogue with individual savers about the morality of money. However, it also takes into account the point of view of several other key actors in the word of finance such as bankers, account managers, brokers, traders, public servants, consumer associations, financial journalists, public relation experts, activists, politicians, and online forum users.
Osterweil, Michal, U. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC - To aid research on 'Theoretical Practice and the Remaking of the Political: An Ethnography of Italy's 'movimento dei movimenti',' supervised by Dr. Arturo Escobar
MICHAL OSTERWEIL, then a student at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, received funding in October 2006 to aid research on 'Theoretical Practice and the Remaking of the Political: An Ethnography of Italy's 'Movimento dei Movimenti',' supervised by Dr. Arturo Escobar. This dissertation research investigates the sites, practices, and technologies whereby new or different imaginaries and understandings of politics (and movements' roles within politics) are created, contested, and modified within Italian activist networks. These networks are comprised of individuals, collectives, and larger organizations directly or discursively affiliated with, and/or inspired by the cultural politics of the Zapatistas, as well as the broader 'global justice movement.' The research included ongoing participant observation in movement spaces -- mostly social and media centers in Bologna and Milan -- as well as several large protests and meetings throughout Italy, as well as in Germany and Mexico, and more informal spaces including cafes, bookfairs and bookstores, piazzas and home-kitchens where theoretico-political discourses and narratives were developed, debated, elaborated, and employed. In addition, the research was based on semi-structured and life-history interviews, as well as textual analysis of hundreds of movement texts ranging from books and journals to Internet discussions. By placing these theoretical and narrative practices at the center of sustained ethnographic attention, this project offers important insights on the political effects of movements; the messy relationship between knowledge-production and social change, as well as the utility of an anthropological approach in apprehending these.
Rakopoulos, Theodoros, U. of London, London, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'Anti-Mafia Livelihoods: Work and Social Change in Sicilian Agrarian Cooperatives,' supervised by Dr. Victoria Goddard
THEODOROS RAKOPOULOS, then a student at University of London, London, United Kingdom, received funding in October 2008 to aid research on 'Anti-Mafia Livelihoods: Work and Social Change in Sicilian Agrarian Cooperatives,' supervised by Dr. Victoria Goddard. The grantee conducted ethnographic fieldwork amongst people working in cooperatives that make use of assets the State confiscated from 'the mafia' in Alto Belice (western Sicily). Research focuses on the livelihoods of people connected to the 'antimafia' microoeconomy based in these cooperatives. Paying attention to local moralities of labor and politics, the grantee conducted participant observation in workers' everyday life to understand the range of accounts regarding 'antimafia' values, how they connect to social relations, and the extent to which they reflect or contradict legalistic discourses promoted within 'civil society.' Attentive to networks supporting this micro-economy, the project analyzes people's entanglements with the authorities (often patronage-based), discussing how State functionaries contribute to consolidating an 'antimafia gift-economy.' Specifically, research participants organize production relations across reciprocity chains connected to the State's 'gift:' the confiscated assets offered to them. The work presents an ethnographic account of responses to social changes triggered by State intervention in redistributing resources on claims to 'legality' basis. Investigating what mafiosi activity implies, the research contributes a dynamic, relational analysis of mafia/antimafia. Tracing people's discourses and experiences, the research locates 'mafia' in everyday activity and explores contradictions that confront individuals and collectives regarding claims to legality and commitments to moralities of kinship and friendship.