See also the best cultural anthropology dissertations of 2011, 2010, and 2009.
Again, this year, I did a key term search in Dissertation Abstracts International to find dissertations completed in 2012 that address topics related to the anthropologyworks mission and heart.
I searched for anthropology dissertations related to human rights, justice, migration, gender, health, violence, conflict, environment, and energy. As someone commented last year, this post could be called “Best cultural anthropology dissertation abstracts” since I do not read every dissertation listed. It’s true — I choose my favorites on the basis of their abstracts, assuming that an abstract does have something to do with the body of the dissertation.
So, here are my 64 picks for 2012: cultural anthropology dissertations, mainly in the U.S., that address issues that I think are really important. I am sorry that I cannot provide a more global list, since so many excellent and important dissertations are written outside the U.S./Canada. Maybe others will address this gap?
All the best to my readers, and Happy New Year 2013!
- Living in Limbo with Hope: The Case of Sudanese refugees in Cairo, by Gamal Adam. York University. Advisor Daniel A. Yon. This dissertation, about Sudanese refugees in Cairo, highlights the resilience and hope that distinguish refugees’ lives. The research has resulted in three key findings. First, the refugees have adopted a resource pooling strategy, which includes living in larger households, exempting the newcomers from rent and purchase of food for some time, and ensuring that the individuals who have more resources contribute more. Second, the traditional gender roles have changed and in some cases reversed, many spouses have separated, and children have lost the rights of play and education. Third, refugees are hopeful in celebrating events and setting plans for a better future despite the turbulent experiences they have gone through; most of them are resilient people who encourage each other and are rejuvenated by speeches delivered during various events which they celebrate.
- Documenting and Contextualizing Pjiekakjoo (Tlahuica) Knowledges through a Collaborative Research Project, by Elda Miriam Aldasoro Maya. University of Washington. Advisors: Eugene Hunn and Stevan Harrell. People in Pjiekakjoo (Tlahuica), Mexico, have managed to adapt to the globalized world. They have developed a deep knowledge-practice-belief system, Contemporary Indigenous Knowledges (CIK), that is part of the biocultural diversity of the region in which they live. I describe the economic, social and political context of the Pjiekakjoo, to contextualize the Pjiekakjoo CIK, including information on their land tenure struggles, their fight against illegal logging and policies governing the Zempoala Lagoons National Park that is part of their territory. The collaborative research is influenced by the ideas of Paolo Freire and, as a translational work, it draws on the New Rationality proposed by Boaventura De Sousa Santos that appeals for cognitive justice.
- Career Women in Contemporary Japan: Pursuing Identities, Fashioning Lives, by Anne Stefanie Aronsson. Yale University. Advisor William Wright Kelly. This dissertation explores what motivates Japanese women to pursue professional careers in today’s neoliberal economy and how they reconfigure notions of selfhood while doing so. I ask why and how it is that one-fourth of women stay on a career track, often against considerable odds, while the other three-fourths drop out of the workforce. I draw from interviews gathered during fieldwork in Tokyo between 2007 and 2010 with 120 professional women ranging in age from early twenties to mid-nineties. I organize these interviews along two main axes: the generation when each woman entered the workforce, and the work sector she entered. I look at five work sectors – finance, industry, entrepreneurship, government, and academia – that attract women because of the new career prospects that emerge as the sectors’ institutional policies change.
- “If ih noh beat mi, ih noh lov mi” [If he doesn’t beat me, he doesn’t love me]: An ethnographic investigation of intimate partner violence in western Belize, by Melissa A. Beske. Tulane University, advisor Shansan Du. I examine the cultural underpinnings which normalize gender-based intimate partner violence (IPV) in western Belize and efforts of local activists to diminish the problem. I use multiple methods to investigate why women in heterosexual dyads have come to begrudgingly accept or even justify abuse by their male partners with discourses that conflate “love” and “violence.” Joining forces with former NGO colleagues, I initiated a sustainable survivor assistance program. Continuing to incorporate new members since my time in the field, the group now offers occupational and educational assistance to survivors leaving abusive relationships, and the shelter has expanded as well and thus remains a vital resource for women across Belize and surrounding countries.
- Infected Kin: AIDS, Orphan Care and the Family in Lesotho, by Mary Ellen Block. University of Michigan, Advisor: Elisha Renne. This interdisciplinary dissertation in anthropology and social work examines the intersections of HIV/AIDS and kinship and its impact on orphan care and the family in rural Lesotho. It is based on fieldwork in the rural district of Mokhotlong, Lesotho. I find that HIV is a fundamentally a kinship disease and therefore: interventions for AIDS orphans need to include caregiver support; the household should be considered as a salient unit of analysis, evaluation and intervention; and biomedical or biocultural interventions for HIV/AIDS that need to incorporate the underlying theoretical framework of HIV as a kinship disease in order to be effective.
- The Value of Diversity: Culture, Cohesion, and Competitiveness in the Making of EU-Europe, by Katharina Bodirsky. City University of New York. Advisor: David Harvey. I examine a way of governing through “culture” as a means to reflect on the making of a “non-national” state form, EU-Europe, and its implications for social inequalities. The study focuses on relations between the EU and the city of Berlin and critically examines the development of a policy common sense that emphasizes the potential value of cultural diversity for economic competitiveness. Such value, assumed by policy-makers, can be realized by combining support to the creative and cultural industries with an approach to immigrant integration that respects individual cultural diversity, ensures equality of opportunity, and fosters intercultural dialogue. The study moves outwards” onto relations of EU accession established with Turkey.
- After Trafficking: Naming Violence against Child Laborers in West Africa, by Liza Buchbinder. University of California, San Francisco with the University of California, Berkeley. Advisor Sharon Kaufman. Following the end of the Cold War, Togo underwent a series of economic and political crises that led to non-governmental organizations and evangelical Christians assuming the role of governance. Within this climate of economic decline emerged a human rights discourse on child trafficking. This ethnography of child labor migration in the Togolese village of Yonda is a counter-narrative to the discourse around the national campaign against trafficking–a campaign that claims that hundreds of thousands of children are working in slave-like conditions across West Africa. Findings call question the human rights explanation that the root causes of trafficking are poverty, criminality and self interest.
- “Para que cambiemos” / “So we can (ex)change”: Economic activism and socio-cultural change in the barter systems of Medellin, Colombia, by Brian J. Burke. The University of Arizona. Advisor: James B. Greenberg. I examine the work of alternative economies activists who have spent the last 18 years constructing barter systems and local currencies in Medellín, Colombia. Through barter, these activists hope to spark an ethical re-evaluation of production, exchange, and consumption, and to create an economy that serves Medellín’s middle-class professionals, rural peasants, urban workers, students and the chronically under-employed. They also see barter as an important social and political project to repair a social fabric torn by decades of violence and economic exploitation. For these activists barter is a counter to capitalism, violence, and social fragmentation; it is a new proposal rooted in cooperation, collective well-being, and the development of local capacities.
- The Other Side of Hunger: Everyday Experiences of Mexican and Central American Migrant Women with Food Insecurity in Santa Barbara County, by Megan A. Carney. University of California, Santa Barbara. Advisor: Susan C. Stonich. I examine food insecurity in the context of displacement and transnational migration of women from Mexico and Central America to the U.S. Ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the coastal region of Santa Barbara, California, contributes to several arguments. I analyze the everyday forms of structural violence that shape the experience of migrant women, in terms of food, health, and bodies, and I critique interventions to food insecurity and “diet-related health problems” implemented by state and nonprofit agencies. I argue that migrant women navigate power differentials rooted in distinctions of race, class, gender, and legal status while also negotiating and performing new modes of citizenship.
- The Aftermath of Aid: Medical Insecurity in the Northern Somali Region of Ethiopia, by Lauren Carruth. The University of Arizona. Advisor: Mark A. Nichter. I explore the effects of recurrent, temporary medical humanitarian operations through ethnographic research in communities, clinical facilities, nongovernmental aid organizations, and governmental bureaucracies in the northern Somali Region of Ethiopia. Findings are: medical humanitarian aid alters subjective experiences and expectations of biomedicine, spirit possession, health, and healing; new labor relations emerge to cope with recurrent aid and enable temporary work with international NGOs; racialized narratives have emerged in the interstices of aid that warn of malpractice and abuse by non-Somali Ethiopian clinicians; and health and humanitarian interventions have altered local notions and practices of citizenship. Medical aid opens spaces in which relations of care-giving, trust, and responsive governance structures can develop.
- Hurricane Preparedness of Community-Dwelling Dementia Caregivers in South Florida, by Janelle J. Christensen. University of South Florida. Advisor: Heide Castaneda. This dissertation explores how informal caregivers for people with dementia (PWD), who are community dwelling (not in nursing homes) prepare and plan for disasters. The research site is a hurricane-prone region of Florida. An underlying assumption is that caregivers for PWD have to plan and anticipate problems that are unique to their role, but there is little or no literature on disaster planning for the frail elderly and their caregivers. This work documents how caregivers talk about disaster planning and what they say they will do if a hurricane strikes. Findings reveal gaps in the county run Special Needs Shelter services available in Florida for people with dementia.
- Learning to be Chinese: The Cultural Politics of Chinese Ethnic Schooling and Diaspora Construction in Contemporary Korea, by Eun-Ju Chung. Harvard University. Advisors: James Watson and Michael Herzfeld. I examine the diaspora construction of the overseas Chinese in South Korea, focusing on education and how it relates to and reflects identities and subjectivities. The Chinese in Korea, or Korean huaqiaos, retain Chinese (Taiwanese) nationality despite over one hundred years of settlement in Korea. They opt for full-time Chinese ethnic schooling with exclusively Taiwanese-administered curriculum and support. In contrasts to previous discussions arguing for the nation-making role of state-sponsored mass education through transmitting national culture and language in a Chinese high school in Seoul, Korea, I observed that ethnic schooling worked to connect the Chinese in Korea as a community by letting them share similar social, legal, and cultural conditions.
- After Disasters: The Persistence of Insecurity in Sri Lanka, by Vivian Yoonhyong Choi. University of California at Davis. Advisors: Smriti Srinivas and Joe Dumit. My dissertation is a critical ethnography of disasters. It weaves together the “ends” of disasters through nation-building and reconstruction in a post-tsunami and post-war context, tracing the social, technological, and institutional negotiations and tensions ushered in at the end of the war and post-tsunami reconstruction. I highlight a shift in governance and management that treats both natural disasters and terrorist attacks as inevitable threats to national security. I describe experiences of people living amidst the tsunami and war and the shift in governance. I show how these techniques of governance lead to increased securitization and militarization.
- Exploring Models of Economic Inequality and the Impact on Mental and Physical Health Outcomes in Rural Eastern Province, Zambia, by Steven M. Cole. The University of Arizona. Advisor, Ivy Pike. Structural adjustment measures adopted during the early 1990s considerably altered the rural landscape throughout Zambia. Households responded and continue to respond in a variety of ways, often under highly inequitable terms. Poverty rates, food insecurity, and income inequality all remain high in Zambia, particularly in rural areas. Using a biocultural and livelihoods approach, I examine complexities that condition livelihoods in a rural area of Eastern Province, Zambia, including 1) the relationship between food insecurity and adult mental health; 2) piecework (casual labor) as a coping strategy and indicator of household vulnerability to food insecurity; and 3) the association between relative deprivation and adult physical health.
- Filling the Cracks: An Ethnography of Health and Social Service Advocacy at a Neighborhood-based Michigan NGO, by Heidi J. Connealy. Michigan State University. Advisor: Linda M. Hunt. I analyze the work of a Michigan based NGO that provides health and social service advocacy and assistance to low income individuals. Smith Street Center (SSC) is funded by several agencies to promote public health and social services, administer programs and provide assistance to low income neighborhood residents. I document the SSC’s work of providing health advocacy and assistance for the neighborhood it serves. I situate the SSC’s work within the context of public health and social service distribution and investigate the experiences of low income, sick, and vulnerable people participating in its services. Findings show that the political-economic climate that promotes privatization and decreased public services leaves many already marginalized people without necessary healthcare, food and housing.
- Gender, Ethnicity, Infrastructure, and the Use of Financial Institutions in Kalimantan Barat, Indonesia, by Christina Pomianek Dames. University of Missouri-Columbia. Advisor: Mary Shenk. The rapid spread of formal financial institutions is underway in the province of Kalimantan Barat, in Indonesian Borneo. Banks are becoming increasingly available to people who, until recently, had no alternative. Credit unions are at the center of an indigenous Dayak empowerment movement. Rotating savings and credit associations and local cooperatives also remain important. However, not everyone has chosen to use these formal and informal institutions. I examine factors that influence people’s decisions to use these financial institutions, including gender, ethnicity, geographic location and development of the physical infrastructure. Results indicate that men are more likely to use banks than women because they are more educated, and Dayaks are more likely to use credit unions than member of other ethnic groups.
- Race, “Face,” and American Indian Nations: Native American Identity in Southern New England, by Denene Anne-Marguerite De Quintal. The University of Chicago. Advisor: Raymond D. Fogelson. My dissertation examines how Native Americans in southern New England contend with claims they are not “real Indians” because of their loss of cultural knowledge and the prevalence of Native Americans with African American ancestry in the area. I examine the concept of “race,” focusing on the “one drop rule;” and ideologies about Native American identity, including “blood quantum.” I document how members of the Pequot, Narragansett, and Wampanoag tribes understand what it means to be Native American and how these ideas challenge what it means to be legally, politically, and socially Native American. I also examine anthropology’s historical and present relationship with Native Americans.
- Mi familia progresa: Motherhood, Citizenship, and Conditional Cash Transfers in Guatemala, by Rachel Dotson. Indiana University. Advisor: Ilana Gershon. Mi Familia Progresa (Mifapro), Guatemala’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, was introduced in 2008 by President Álvaro Colom’s administration. The program uses conditional cash transfers to reduce poverty reduction through human capital development. This model, promoted by institutions such as the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, and has spread throughout Latin America since the mid-1990s. Mifapro and other CCTs transfer cash to poor mothers on the condition that they comply with specific “co-responsibilities,”generally related to their children’s health and education. I examine the implementation of Mi Familia Progresa in an Ixil community in the Guatemalan highlands. The thesis is structured around three concepts — responsibility, transparency, and participation — that are present in the CCT model.
- The Culture of Mental Health in a Changing Oaxaca, by Whitney L. Duncan. University of California, San Diego. Advisor: Janis H. Jenkins. This dissertation examines the causes and consequences of the recent growth in Euroamerican mental health practice in Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s poorest and most ethnically diverse states with a thriving tradition of indigenous medicine. I explore how and why mental health services have grown so dramatically; what they consist of; what discourses they promote; for what problems they are being utilized; and what impacts they are having in the region. I argue that Oaxaca is experiencing a shift in its culture of mental health, one in which globalizing conceptions and practices are taking hold and aimpacting understandings of illness, self, and social relations, and I argue that mental health professionals themselves are integral to these broader shifts. Community members do not merely absorb these globalizing concepts; rather, they actively engage with and alter them.
- Living an Uncertain Future: An Ethnography of Displacement, Health, Psychosocial Well-being and the Search for Durable Solutions among Iraqi Refugees in Egypt, by Nadia Rose El-Shaarawi. Case Western Reserve University. Advisor: Eileen Anderson-Fye. This dissertation examines the effects of prolonged urban displacement on the self-identified health and psycho-social well-being of Iraqi refugees in Egypt. II consider how refugees seek to mitigate the effects of displacement through interactions with institutions and policies. I focus on the process of seeking third-country resettlement and the implications and effects of this process for psycho-social well-being. A key finding is the conceptualization of asylum in Egypt in terms of instability, an uncertain or insecure context in which one’s life trajectory has been disrupted. Drawing on Iraqi refugees’ accounts, I argue that instability is a main cause of suffering and affliction, which is described by Iraqis in terms of their hala nufsia, or psychological situation.
- The Making of the Sperm Donor: Constructing Science, Managing Identity in five US Cryobanks, by Ayeshah Emon. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Advisors: Claire Wendland and Linda Hogle. Through an ethnography of five U.S. cryobanks, I examine the social construct of the sperm donor as a pastiche of several voices, images, and narratives drawn together at the interstices of science, technology, commerce, law, politics, and morality. Whereas protection from disease and liability may serve the interest of recipients, donor-born offspring and cryobanks, and strengthen the case for the identification of the donor, some donors may not want to be identified because anonymity allows them freedom from an uncertain future. My study shows that the donor’s identity is never truly known. Recipients may learn more or less about a donor depending upon how much they want to know and how much they are willing to spend for information.
- Opportunistic Infections: The Governance of HIV/AIDS in China, by Elsa Lai Fan. University of California, Irvine. Advisor: Tom Boellstorff. This ethnography examines HIV testing as an intervention to prevent and control the HIV/AIDS epidemic in China, and the intended and unintended impacts that result from this response. I attend to three main questions in this ethnography: Why MSM? That is, why the focus on MSM in the HIV/AIDS response, and how has this population come to dominate the public (health) imaginary?; Why HIV testing as an intervention, and why is this method presumed to be crucial to containing the spread?; and Why community-based organizations (CBOs), and what role do they play in facilitating testing as part of the overall HIV/AIDS response in China?
- Building Moldova, Being Moldovan: Discursive and Institutional Entanglements of ‘Development,’ ‘Citizenship,’ and ‘Cultural Propriety’ by Patricia L. Fogarty. Emory University. Advisor: Debra Vidali. Moldova is one of many new, multiethnic, sovereign states struggling to maintain its borders and generate enough loyalty to keep its population from rebelling, or at least keep its citizens from increasingly drifting away to richer countries. This work investigates contemporary common experiences of Moldovans, more narrowly asking how a “citizen” identity is constructed, as opposed to an ethnic or ethno-national identity. The central questions guiding this dissertation are: What processes guide the creation of a “cohesive society”? How is social cohesion related to shared cultural experiences? How are Moldovans navigating the transition of their lives from one type of state and citizenship to another?
- The Flows of Sovereignty: Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam and the Ethnography of the Paraguayan Nation-state, by Christine Folch. City University of New York. Advisor: Marc Edelman. I explore the social and political nature of energy to show how the development and management of the hydroelectric resources of Itaipú Binational dam, co-owned by Brazil and Paraguay, have shaped the formation of the Paraguayan nation-state and regional state formation in the 20 th and 21st centuries. The political, economic, and social structures and processes that emanate from Itaipú — “hydroelectric statecraft” — have resulted in a “hydrostate” model similar to but with important distinctions from petrostate formations. These findings have implications beyond the energy politics of South America but for the development of renewable energy resources worldwide and global water management.
- Governing Masculinity: How Structures Shape the Lives and Health of Dislocated Men in Post-Doi Moi Vietnam, by Le Minh Giang. Columbia University. Advisor: Richard G. Parker. I explore the challenges that three groups of dislocated Vietnamese men face as they struggle to build their manhood and to establish (or reject) aspects of culturally prescribed masculinities in post-Doi Moi Vietnam: men who were migrant laborers from a rural setting, men who were among the first methadone patients in the country, and men who sold sex to other men in Hanoi. I focus on their experiences with three structures, namely the market-bound socialist state, the fledgling capitalist market, and the patriarchal family, that together shape these men’s everyday life struggles, their ethics of the self and ultimately their lives and health.
- Becoming Men in a Modern City: Masculinity, Migration and Globalization in North India, by Harjant S. Gill. American University. Advisor: David Vine. This dissertation explores the formation of contemporary Punjabi Sikh masculinity in North India. Through fifteen months of fieldwork carried out in Chandigarh, the capital city of Punjab, I look at how young Punjabi men belonging to landowning Jat Sikh families develop notions of masculinity and migration. In addition to the traditional gender norm Punjabi men are expected to follow — such as getting an arranged marriage, having kids, and supporting their families — most of the men I interviewed characterized successful masculinity as the ability to migrate abroad and become transnational citizens.
- Cultural Models of Food in Cuban Miami: Roots, Yucas, and Moros, by Katy M. Triplett Groves. The University of Alabama. Advisor: Kathryn S. Oths. I examine Miami Cubans’ knowledge about food with the goal of identifying cultural factors that contribute to variation in this knowledge. There is increasing heterogeneity within the Miami Cuban enclave in terms of social class, ethnicity, and political values, and this research strives to identify how polarizing beliefs about U.S.-Cuba politics may be manifested in the way people talk about and think of food. It explores how diverse foodway experiences may spawn differential knowledge structures within the domain of food. I also explore how cultural knowledge constructs influence food intake and body size. Results indicate that Cubans in Miami highly share knowledge in the domain of food with variation existing along the dimension of healthfulness of food.
- Negotiating Sexuality: Adolescent Initiation Rituals and Cultural Change in Rural Southern Tanzania, by Meghan C. Halley. Case Western Reserve University. Advisor: Jill Korbin. This dissertation examines factors shaping adolescent sexuality within the rapidly changing context of rural Mtwara, Tanzania. Rural Mtwara provides an important context in which to examine adolescent sexuality because the historical isolation of this region has fostered the continued practice of adolescent initiation rituals. Referred to as unyago for girls and jando for boys, these rituals involve instructing youth on adult life, including sexual activity and reproduction. Recent changes in the region, including the discovery of oil and natural gas and the expansion of formal education, are reshaping the cultural environment, introducing new structural influences and challenging existing cultural norms surrounding adolescent sexuality.
- Activism, Sex Work, and Womanhood in North India, by Megan E. Hamm. University of Pittsburgh. Advisor: Joseph Alter. This dissertation is an ethnography of a sex worker activist organization in North India. The NGO Guria Swayam Sevi Sansthan has been working to end brothel-based prostitution in Shivdaspur, a red light area on the outskirts of Varanasi, since 1993. They have used a variety of tactics, including nonviolent protest of the exploitation of sex workers, education programs, and “raid-and-rescue” tactics. I describe the NGO’s activism and how the middle-class founders of the organization conceptualize the women they seek to aid. I argue that Guria-affiliated activists and their middle-class supporters view those who live and work in Shivdaspur through their values, including human rights, respect for women, the importance of civil society, and desirability of a functional, non-corrupt state.
- War and Grief, Faith and Healing in a Tamil Catholic Fishing Village in Northern Sri Lanka, by Kaori Hatsumi. Columbia University. Advisor: E. V. Daniel. Sri Lanka’s thirty-year civil war brought tremendous suffering to the Tamil civilian population in northern Sri Lanka. When the war ended, not a single civilian remained within the Vanni, the former rebel territory, as they had all been killed or displaced. More than one hundred thousand civilians were dead or disappeared and three hundred thousand survivors were held in “transit camps” without freedom of movement. I conducted field research conducted in northern Sri Lanka during the last phase of the civil war. I seek to explain the experience of suffering among a Tamil Catholic fishing community, which, due to the war, had been displaced from its coastal home and was relocated to an internal-refugee camp.
- Finding Hope: Guatemalan War Orphans’ Responses to the Long-term Consequences of Genocide, by Shirley Heying. The University of New Mexico. Advisor: Les Field. The most brutal period of genocide in Guatemala, known as la violencia, from 1978-1983, left tens of thousands of Maya children orphaned. I present results from research I conducted with war orphans who are now adults and who were raised at a permanent residential home for orphaned children in Santa Apolonia, a majority Maya Kaqchikel Highlands town. Comparing 20 war orphans with 20 non-orphan peers from the town of Santa Apolonia, I found that orphans had suffered greater long-term consequences from the genocide. Orphans reported more genocide-related childhood trauma and ongoing effects of that trauma, greater economic challenges in adulthood because of economic loss sustained from the death of parents and property destruction, and more severed familial and community ties, which dramatically shifted their centers of socialization and enculturation during their most formative years of childhood.
- Gestating Subjects: Negotiating Public Health and Pregnancy in Transborder Oaxaca, by Rebecca E. Howes-Mischel. New York University. Advisor: Rayna Rapp. I argue that the care of rural Mexican women’s pregnant bodies illustrates complex negotiations between public health agendas, clinical practices, and community understandings of the terms of modernity, gender, health, and indigeneity circulating in Mexico and transnationally. Oaxacan pregnant women and their bodies are key sites for examining the grounded practices through which the recently-shifting terms of modernity in transborder Mexico are constructed, negotiated, and resisted; a modernity troubled by Oaxaca’s comparatively high maternal mortality rate. I contextualize an argument about the work of the racializing and gendering processes that underpin public health statistics by analyzing pregnant women’s understandings of, and responses to, their encounters with the public health system’s practices of modernity. Women’s statements about “only doing what the doctor tells me to do” reflect indigenous communities’ narratives about “being modern” while “having beliefs” amidst transnational migrations.
- Women’s Religious Discussion Circles in Urban Bangladesh: Enacting, Negotiating and Contesting Piety, by Samia Huq. Brandeis University. Advisor: Sarah Lamb. I explore the lives of educated, urban, Bangladeshi women who come together in religious discussion circles, known as Talim, Tafsir, Islam class, Dars and Quran class, to learn about the Quran and Hadith. The dissertation is based on research on three learning circles in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Set against the backdrop of fear and suspicion amidst secular-leaning educated people whereby personal pursuits of piety are equated with Islamism and fundamentalism, regress and anti-nationalism, I provide detailed accounts of women’s narratives, which counter negative stereotypes and present an insider’s perspective on women’s conscious, deliberate enactment of a piety that is framed as current and modern. The women argue that their pursuit of piety is distinct from religious groups, claiming that their main interest is to reform themselves and invite others to change.
- Women Living Islam in Post-war and Post-socialist Bosnia and Herzegovina, by Emira Ibrahimpasic. The University of New Mexico. Advisors: Carole Nagengast and Louise Lamphere. This is an ethnographic study of what it means to be a Muslim woman in post-war and post-socialist Bosnia and Herzegovina. Almost two decades after the end of inter-ethnic wars that led to the dissolution of socialist Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Bosnia’s inhabitants are undergoing radical social, economic, political, and particularly religious transformations. I examine the underlying reasons and motivations concerning the different ways in which one can practice and live Islam in Sarajevo and Zenica. My study is situated in two women women-centered NGOs, one secular and one religious. I ascertain the role civil society plays in helping women combat the political, economic, and social marginalization that is part of being a woman in today’s Bosnia.
- Negotiating Culture As Refugees: A Case Study of Somali Bantu and Burmese Karen, by Anna L. Ireland. State University of New York at Buffalo. Advisor Phillips Stevens. Refugee resettlement policy has become a raising issue in the city of Buffalo, New York. As a city that annually resettles some of the highest numbers of refugees in the country, Buffalo has seen ever increasing numbers of refugees. I examine current policy and how it affects specific incoming groups of refugees. Two major refugee groups, the Somali Bantu and the Burmese Karen have arrived in Buffalo over the last ten years. Despite similarities in their refugee journeys, these groups have had vastly different experiences during their resettlement process. I show how these differences are tied to their cultural identities, both in their home countries and in their journeys as through refugee camps and into a third country. I examine how violence and displacement are collectively internalized by the two groups and how that these interpretations changed the resettlement process.
- Reimagining Islam: Muslim Cultural Citizenship in the Post-9/11 American Public Sphere, by Rabia Kamal. University of Pennsylvania. Advisor: Kathleen D. Hall. I explore how, in the years following the 9/11 attacks, American Muslims have inhabited an ambiguous position as U.S. citizens. From government policy statements to media images, Muslims have been represented as “terrorists.” This has created significant dilemmas for American Muslims who share a deep sense of national identity and a belief in the civic ideals of liberal democracy. This study asks, how are young American Muslims–defined as potential “enemies” in moral and racialized terms–constructing the grounds for political and religious subjectivity? Ethnographic fieldwork in New York City reveals the cultural politics of belonging and identity among second and third generation South Asian American Muslim artists and activists.
- “We Make the State”: Performance, Politick, and Respect in Urban Haiti, by Chelsey Louise Kivland. The University of Chicago. Advisors” Jean Comaroff and Stephan Palmie. This dissertation traces the role street politics and popular performance play in quests for respect among activist or “organized” men (nèg òganize) in contemporary urban Haiti. In particular, I focus on the political action and aspirations of members of street bands in Bel Air, an impoverished neighborhood in downtown Port-au-Prince. Scholars in anthropology and related fields have customarily viewed expressive politics and activist organizing among the poor in Haiti (and elsewhere) as examples of resistance against a powerful, repressive state. My analysis complicates this perspective by revealing the way in which organized men attempt to construct political authority and duty amid widespread perceptions of statelessness-as summarized in the refrain, “We make the state!” (nou fè leta).
- The Uzbek Opposition in Exile: Diaspora and Dissident Politics in the Digital Age, by Sarah Kendzior. Washington University in St. Louis. Advisor: John Bowen. I examine how dissidents exiled from Uzbekistan use the internet to attempt to refute the legitimacy of the Uzbek government, reinterpret Uzbek culture, and resolve their internal conflicts. I argue that contrary to optimistic predictions of social media revolutions in Central Asia, the internet causes as many problems for Uzbek dissidents as it solves. the life histories of five prominent Uzbek dissidents. I show how dissidents reconcile the possibilities the internet provides for collaboration with the dangers of deception, surveillance and slander. The qualities that make the internet so liberating–the ability to join and leave a community at will, to write under multiple identities, to draw an immediate and uncensored reaction, to preserve and resurrect old arguments–make it perilous for groups, like the Uzbek opposition, that are already vulnerable to internal conflict.
- Household Diversification and Children’s Economic Socialization: An Examination of In-Home Businesses Among Urban Mexican Families, by Frances A. Marti. University of California, Los Angeles. Advisor: Elinor Ochs. This dissertation examines the lives and livelihoods of urban Mexican entrepreneurial mothers–women who balance income and children by engaging in multiple small, self-initiated economic activities that allow them the time and flexibility to care for their families. Research is based on interviews and recorded observations of the daily family life of urban families with in-home micro-retail businesses in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. I examine day-to-day economic strategizing, how integration into social networks provides economic and emotional resources as well as creating social and financial responsibility toward others, and how children incorporate themselves into parents’ economic activities and linguistically demonstrate expertise and identity in the domain of the home store. The micro-retail store is an ideal choice for this study because of its physical presence in the home space, its accessibility to child observation, and its relative permanence.
- “You Have to Have Children to be Happy:” Exploring Beliefs About Reproduction with Burmese Refugee Women in the United States, by Kara E. McGinnis. University of South Florida. Advisor : Roberta Baer. As Burmese refugees are increasingly entering the U.S., resettlement agencies focus on immediate needs, and ethnic community-based organizations (ECBOs) fill service gaps through community-driven programs. The Tampa Bay Burmese Council (TBBC) is an ECBO in Tampa, Florida, dedicated to the Burmese community. This research explores the reproductive beliefs of women in the community, with particular attention to differences that arise due to beliefs specific to their ethnic group. Findings include the importance of menses for women’s health, the preference for both male and female children, a lack of knowledge about family planning methods, a tendency to use family planning only after the ideal family composition is reached, and periods of food and activity prohibitions during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
- Cultural Resources, Consultation, and Connections to Place at Grand Canyon National Park, by Jessia Medwied-Savage. Northern Arizona University. Advisor: Miguel Vasquez. Developing relationships based on mutual respect and understanding between federal land management agencies and traditionally associated peoples (tribes) improves management outcomes, decreases costly conflict, and works towards a more just society. This thesis will use critical theories and cultural analysis to examine the relationships between Grand Canyon National Park (the park) and its traditionally associated tribes. Large-scale structural factors intertwine to shape the ongoing relationships between tribes, the place, and the park. This thesis explores American, bureaucratic, and American Indian cultures and the intersections that have the potential to cause conflict.
- Reproductive Politics, Religion and State Governance in the Philippines, by Maria Dulce F. Natividad. Columbia University. Advisor: Carol S. Vance. Reproductive controversies are never only about reproduction and health. They serve as proxies for more fundamental questions about citizenship, the state, national identity, class and gender. In a post-colonial context such as the Philippines, where a particular historical relationship between the Church and the state has developed, policymaking on reproduction, sexuality and health answers to both development goals and religious norms. At the same time, women’s everyday frameworks of (reproductive) meanings are also inextricably bound with state policies and popular culture. My ethnographic study examines the relationship between state governance, religion, reproductive politics, and competing understandings of embodied sexual morality.
- A Queer Political Economy of ‘Community’: Gender, Space, and the Transnational Politics of Community for Vietnamese Lesbians (Les) in Saigon, by Nancy N. Newton. University of California, Irvine. Advisor: Victoria Bernal. This is the first ethnographic study of Vietnamese female homosexuality. I examine how the globalization of LGBT rights through non-governmental organizations interfaces with existing This study argues that Vietnamese lesbians (self-identified as les) navigate the contingencies of local and global “invisibility” as a community in Saigon in ways that challenge fundamental structures of the NGO-ization of the global LGBT movement. Many Vietnamese les projects do the work of civil society through what I call a queer political economy of “community,” outside of and in spite of the global LGBT movement. This research captures key political and cultural tensions in the growing global LGBT human rights movement, as it assimilates ever more sectors of the developing world.
- Manufacturing Stealth: Security, Commerce and Culture in Cold War Southern California, by Mihir A. Pandya. The University of Chicago. Advisors” John Comaroff and John Kelly. This dissertation is an historical ethnography of Cold War era stealth airplane projects. For American military planners, these airplanes — machines designed to have a minimal radar signature — held the promise of covert reconnaissance in an era of dominant radar networks. Stealth airplanes also potentially negated a Soviet numerical advantage in conventional forces by offering an option to strike first with a conventional or a nuclear payload. This project attempts to answer the following questions: How were stealth aircraft engineered to be less visible? And how were the design and assembly of these aircraft made socially invisible, or only selectively visible, in order to maintain a strategic advantage? Answering these questions, I argue, requires examining how American cultures of commerce and security merged in the making of large-scale, technologically dependent weapon systems like stealth.
- “We Are Militants and Victims of State Terrorism”: Resistance and Reparations in the Association of Former Political Prisoners of Cordoba, Argentina, by Rebekah Su Park. University of California, Los Angeles. Advisor: Carole H. Browner. Argentine former political prisoners provide a case study about the larger field of transitional justice studies. In this dissertation, I address three debates: What is the end goal of transitional justice? Should post-conflict societies recall memories of past violence? Does human rights leave behind those previously involved in popular (and armed) struggles? To answer these questions, I explain the marginalized status of former political prisoners, investigate the impacts of social and economic discrimination caused by stigmas attached to imprisonment, and analyze the unique role political prisoners play in memorialization efforts. I did fieldwork in Buenos Aires and Córdoba with members of the Asociación de Ex Presos Políticos de Córdoba.
- Intimate Negotiations The Political Economy of Gender, Sex, and Family Among Mexican Immigrants in New York City, by Debra J. Pelto. Advisor: Richard G. Parker. My goals are to explicate the meanings and practices related to gender and sexuality among the transnational population of mid-life heterosexual Mexicans in New York; map ideologies and practices regarding family size and family planning, including histories of negotiation within the context of relationships and couples, embedded within processes of sexual socialization and historical-political-economic structures in the selected population; map experiences with accessing health care services, in the context of this community of low-wage, undocumented, uninsured workers; and explicate the relationships between gender, sexuality, reproduction, parenthood, and labor migration, within the political economy of Mexican migration to New York. The research population consists of Mexican-born women and men in Queens, New York City.
- The World in a Bottle: Gender, Age, and Direct Sales in Costa Rica, by Theresa Preston-Werner. Northwestern University. Advisor: Mary Weismantel. I explore why middle-aged, Costa Rican women (40-60 years old) chose to affiliate with direct-sales organizations and, later, why many distributors remained loyal to their respective companies when only a handful of affiliates ever earned sustainable incomes. I believe that the answers to these two questions lay buried in complex questions of identity and social hierarchy in Costa Rica. To discern local configurations of status, I examined how middle-aged, Costa Rican women valued, exchanged, and wielded various forms of economic, cultural, and emotional capital throughout their direct sales tenure. The arc of my dissertation traces the three activities within direct sales: (1) the consumption of the products, (2) the work of direct sales, and (3) the teaching and performance of self-empowerment within the community of company affiliates.
- Culture, Migration, and Sport: A Bi-National Investigation of Southern Mexican Migrant Communities in Oaxaca, Mexico and Los Angeles, California, by Bernardo Ramirez Rios. The Ohio State University. Advisor: Jeffrey H. Cohen. My dissertation focuses on the relationship of sport and community building. In Los Angeles, California, and Oaxaca, Mexico, the cultural practice of basketball is a productive social tool that is used to enhance community relationships. This research starts with individual identity (micro) and the cultural motivations that relate to communities in Los Angeles and Oaxaca. Results show that basketball in Oaxaca is a rich cultural tradition that has a significant history that pre-dates the “modern” explosion of sport during the last 25 years. Oaxacan basketball is a cultural sport with transnational and global outcomes.
- “Girls Should Come Up” Gender and Schooling in Contemporary Bhutan, by Dolma Choden Roder. Arizona State University. Advisor: James Eder. This dissertation, based on research at a liberal arts college in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan, provides a sense of daily life and experience of schooling in general and for female students in particular. Access to literacy and the opportunities that formal education can provide are comparatively recent for most Bhutanese women. I look at how state-sponsored schooling has shaped gender relations and experiences in Bhutan where non-monastic, co-educational institutions were unknown before the 1960s. I show that school is a gendered context, in which female students are consistently reminded of their “limitations” and their “appropriate place.”I also show how emergent disparities in wealth and opportunity in Bhutan are reflected and reproduced in the experience of schooling and the job market in ways that Bhutanese development policy is not able to address.
- Embodied marginalities: Disability, citizenship, and space in highland Ecuador, by Nicholas A. Rattray. The University of Arizona. Advisor: Susan J. Shaw. This dissertation critically explores the governance of disability, social marginalization, and spatial exclusion in highland Ecuador. Since the 1990s, disabled Ecuadorians have moved from social neglect and physical isolation to wider societal participation, fueled in part by national campaigns aimed at promoting disability rights. Many have joined grassroots organizations through biosocial networks based on the collective identity of shared impairment. However, their incorporation into the labor market, educational systems, and public sphere has been uneven and impeded by underlying spatial and cultural barriers. I conducted fieldwork among people with physical and visual disabilities in the city of Cuenca. I analyze narratives of disablement within the local disabled community, focusing on the consequences of living with embodied differences.
- Interrogating Grenadian Masculinities and Violence Against Women: An Evaluation of the United Nations Partnership for Peace Program, by Rohan Dexter Jeremiah. University of South Florida. Advisor: Nancy Romero-Daza. This dissertation, guided by a feminist perspective and Black Feminist Thought, is an outgrowth of an evaluation study of the Partnership for Peace Program (PFP) in Grenada, West Indies. The PFP is a Caribbean-specific model that was built into a sixteen-week cycle program by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women. Since 2005, the PFP has been geared towards Grenadian men, who have used violence against women to express their masculine identities. PFP focuses on rehabilitating male perpetrators with a goal to protect the human rights of women. This research evaluated the PFP program, using qualitative and quantitative methods to measure the program’s impact based on the behavioral changes that male participants adopted to avoid violence against women. Findings show the impact of the PFP on the lives of PFP men, the women associated with the PFP men, and other PFP stakeholders.
- Transnational Quests for Healing: Curanderismo in the South Texas Borderlands, by Tanya L. Rodriguez. The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Advisor: Maria Lepowsky. This research examines the historical, cultural and gendered dimensions of the contemporary practice of curanderismo, a religiously inflected form of ethnomedicine, within the South Texas borderlands using San Antonio as a primary research site. This research finds that curanderismo is changing in South Texas through increasing commercialization of folk healing beliefs and practices. Some curanderas/os, female and male healers respectively, are diversifying by going increasingly outside close social ties to solicit clients and increasing their use of a fee-based economic system. Also, individuals are engaging in self-treatment, building idiosyncratic healing techniques without consulting traditional healers, opting instead to procure materials and information from local specialty shops called botánicas or yerberias that specialize in herbs, candles, charms and other goods. Lastly, curanderismo is increasingly being informed by other cultural medical ideologies not only internationally, across the U.S./Mexico border, but also transnationally across the globe.
- Social Collateral: Microcredit Development and the Politics of Interdependency in Paraguay, by Elizabeth C. Schuster. The University of Chicago. Advisors: Jessica R. Cattelino and John L. Comaroff. This dissertation considers the stakes of microcredit poverty-alleviation programs built around instrumentalizing women’s economic obligations as “social collateral”: microcredit group-based loans secured by joint indebtedness. Examining credit, obligation, and development from the vantage of a commercial duty-free zone on Paraguay’s triple-frontier with Argentina and Brazil, I argue that the forms of joint obligation evident in microcredit “social collateral” go beyond this specialized development lending. The prevalence of credit in Paraguay, particularly in the commercially vibrant border city of Ciudad del Este, provides a case of the pervasiveness of a broader credit politics in contemporary capitalism.
- Sherpa Perceptions of Climate Change and Institutional Responses in the Everest region of Nepal, by Pasang Yangjee Sherpa. Washington State University. Advisor : John H. Bodley. This dissertation presents a case of how small scale socio-cultural systems are increasingly interconnected to global geopolitics and global commerce, and yet the voices of the local people remain unheard and their concerns continue to be masked by what elites in the global scale socio-cultural systems deem to be important. I show that Sherpas in Pharak, gateway to Mt. Everest, have firsthand knowledge of the effects of climate change and are knowledgeable about the short term and long term environmental changes that have occurred in their region. I demonstrate that social heterogeneity in Pharak, a popular tourist destination, has an impact on how Sherpas perceive climate change. Depending on the age, gender, occupation and residence in an on-route or off-route village, Sherpa people have varying perceptions of climate change.
- Social Movements and Scientific Forestry: Examining the Community Forestry Movement in Indonesia, by Mia Siscawati. University of Washington. Advisor: Celia Lowe. Drawing from the theories and methods found within political ecology, social movement theory, and feminist science studies, my dissertation project examines the cultural aspects of collaboration between social movements and forestry science in Indonesia. I explore the complex and contradictory position of academic foresters in order to understand their social, political, and scholarly framing of forests, how they mediate their political position and “situated knowledge” with the state, capital, and social movements, and how this positionality has affected the constitution of community-managed forests as an object of knowledge. Furthermore, I investigate the adoption of gendered local knowledge promoted by and circulated within social movements into academic forestry science, and the possible role of alternative forestry science in shaping social movements.
- Maasai and the Tanzanite Trade: New Facets of Livelihood Diversification in Northern Tanzania, by Nicole M. Smith. University of Colorado at Boulder. Advisor: Terrence J. McCabe. Beginning in the early 1990s, Maasai in the northern Tanzanian district of Simanjiro have worked in the nearby area of Mererani–the only place in the world where the gemstone tanzanite is found and mined. Men work as middlemen, buying and selling tanzanite, and women have small businesses selling milk and beadwork. I examine the changes occurring in the context of the tanzanite trade. I reveal both the transformations Maasai themselves perceive to be important and those that I witnessed as an outsider. While I address the economic motivations for and outcomes of working in the tanzanite trade, I also explore how social relations and power structures shape and are impacted by this livelihood strategy. Through this analysis, I conclude that tanzanite trading has unique and widespread implications for households, communities, and society.
- Coffee and the Countryside: Small Farmers and Sustainable Development in Las Segovias de Nicaragua, by Patrick W. Staib. The University of New Mexico. Advisor: Les W. Field. Las Segovias de Nicaragua is a highland tropical region along the Río Coco and the Honduran border in the northern part of the country. Over the past decade and a half, efforts to introduce and establish organic coffee production methods and cooperative organization models have focused on the impoverished rural inhabitants of this region. I engaged in this context to question the viability of organic coffee farming given the legacy of deceit, violence, and natural disasters that have plagued this region since the Spanish Conquest. I conducted ethnographic research with a small-scale coffee farmer community to understand how these innovations are received. Most small-scale coffee farmers in this region were on opposite sides of the Contra War only two decades ago. Today they are members of the same farmer co-ops that work to access secure markets, pre-harvest financing, and development aid.
- Chicanismo in the New Generation: “Youth, Identity, Power” in the 21st Century Borderlands, by Leah S. Stauber. The University of Arizona. Advisors: Julio Cammarota and and Drexel Woodson. This dissertation investigates the awakening into critical consciousness and pursuant social action of Mexican American high school students, youth “activists” and “organizers” in Tucson, Arizona. Building from ethnography conducted across nine years within youth actors’ sites of activism and social justice engagement, this research reveals new complexities in our understanding of “activist” identity and enactments, and contends that understandings of both “activism” and “Chicanismo” must be revisited in the scholarship of youth movements, generally, and Chicana/o social action, specifically.
- In or Out of Bounds?: The Cultural and Political Implications of Palestinian Women’s Soccer in Israel, by Kenda Ranee Stewart. The University of Iowa. Advisors: Virginia R. Dominguez and Michael Chibnik. Banat Sakhnin is the only Palestinian women’s soccer team in the Israeli league. The players, coaches, and manager are Israeli citizens, but represent a minority within the Jewish state. The women who play for Banat Sakhnin face challenges from multiple sides. This dissertation argues that Palestinian women’s access to soccer in Israel is intimately tied to complex and contradictory community and national ideas about Palestinian-ness. Women’s participation in an overtly physical activity puts their bodies on public display to be symbolically constituted as versions of “Palestinians,” “Israelis,” or an amalgamation of both. Soccer’s reputation as a male sport in Israel further complicates women’s access to it as players or as fans.
- “Freedom from Camps”: Housing and Power in the Experience of Sri Lankan Long-term Refugees in India, by Sasikumar Balasundaram. University of South Carolina. Advisor: Ann E. Kingsolver. I investigate how long-term refugee camps have been structured in India and their implications on the lives of refugees. Sri Lankan refugees in India are one of the world’s 33 largest protracted refugee situations. While some refugees reside in urban areas, the vast majority live in 114 refugee camps through the state of Tamil Nadu. I focus on the warehouse structure of refugee camps established for the Sri Lankan Tamils in the state of Tamil Nadu. I ask: How does the structure of warehouse refugee camps shape the life choices of refugees and produce multiple marginalities in exile? How do the refugees resist and respond to the structure of warehouse camps in order to carve out new lives for themselves? How has encampment influenced the ways refugees construct an ideal future?
- A Life of Worry: The Cultural Politics and Phenomenology of Anxiety in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, by Allen L. Tran. University of California, San Diego. Advisor: Thomas J. Csordas. This dissertation examines the emerging sources, forms, and subjects of anxiety in post-reform Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Since Vietnam’s neoliberal reforms were initiated in 1986, many Ho Chi Minh City residents have benefited from a vastly increased standard of living yet reported worrying more now than ever before. This stands in marked contrast to a past when, according to many, extreme suffering stunted people’s spirits as much as their bodies. Anxiety has become emblematic of neoliberalism’s opportunities and risks in people’s public and private lives, yet to worry is a key means through which individuals enact forms of personhood based on care, compassion, and filial obligation. Against claims that increased rates of anxiety and anxiety disorders are the products of modernization and the subsequent erosion of social institutions, I conceptualize worry as a cultural practice through which people can both transform themselves into neoliberal subjects and define themselves in terms of sentiment and emotional relatedness that are considered to be traditionally Vietnamese.
- “Not Just a Guy in a Dress”: Transsexual Identity, Embodiment, and Genital Reassignment Surgery in the United States, by Muriel Vernon. University of California, Los Angeles. Advisor: Linda C. Garro. Genital Reassignment Surgery (GRS) is the surgical alteration of genitalia to align transsexuals’ bodies with their chosen gender identities in order to alleviate the persistent discomfort of Gender Identity Disorder (GID). Clinical and psychological evaluations of the outcomes of GRS have focused primarily on the individual benefits of the surgery and on the aesthetic or functional aspects of newly created genitalia. Left out of medical and social science research is attention to the patient’s hopes for social gains and benefits following GRS. This study considers not only the different meanings GRS holds for patients but also explores what GRS is expected to contribute to the everyday experiences of transsexuals. I offer a patient-centered perspective on the meaning of surgical intervention for a socially stigmatized condition. I find that while GRS can provide individual benefits for transsexuals through eliminating body dysphoric feelings through the surgical alignment of the mind with the body, the surgery does not, and cannot, eliminate their social history of transsexual embodiment.
- Ruptured Journeys, Ruptured Lives: Central American Migration, Transnational Violence, and Hope in Southern Mexico, by Wendy A. Vogt. The University of Arizona. Advisor: Linda B. Green. This dissertation examines the processes by which Central American women and men face unprecedented forms of violence and exploitation as they migrate through Mexico. Central Americans are regularly subject to abuse, extortion, rape, kidnapping, dismemberment and death as multiple actors profit off of their bodies, labor and lives. In turn, the political economy of violence and security along the migrant journey permeates into local Mexican communities, creating new tensions and social ruptures. I use a lens of gender in particular to understand how larger processes affect people’s live. I also examine how violence also generates new possibilities for solidarity and political action through social movements around humanitarianism and migrant rights. I examine the emergence of a movement of Catholic-based migrant shelters and a transnational feminist movement of mothers and families of disappeared migrants.
- Practices of Care: Food and the Pursuit of Balance in Rural Yucatan, by Lauren A. Wynne. The University of Chicago. Advisor : Judith B. Farquhar. I examine the relationship between food-centered anxieties and the practice of care in rural Yucatán, Mexico. For rural Yucatec Maya, food production and consumption have long been essential human contributions to the cycles of life that characterize the universe. The twentieth-century decline in agricultural sustainability unhinged food from many of its material and ideological links to local production. This shift has been further complicated by other social changes, including the growth of evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity; access to biomedical care, public education, and mass media; and, above all, the development of a massive regional tourist industry and its reliance on the labor of Yucatec Maya migrants. These transformations have altered human relationships with food and produced fresh anxieties about pleasure, wellbeing, and survival. This dissertation explores these shifting conditions and the ways in which the Yucatec Maya residents of one rural community use a local category of practice, best translated as “care,” to negotiate these anxieties, achieve desired bodily and social states, and maintain valued cultural forms.
A List Of Strong Cultural Anthropology Research Paper Topics
If you are taking a cultural anthropology course, the odds are good that you will need to write a research paper. This means that you also need to create a topic. Students often have difficulty creating a topic for any research paper, not just for something specific like cultural anthropology. As researchers learn more about different cultures and how they developed, there seem to be fewer strong topics available for students to research.
Your cultural anthropology course will look at biological evolution and how language, socialization, and culture developed in parts of the world. Your research paper topic should look at how different groups of people developed into who they are based on where they live and what their biological makeup happens to be. You can look at ancient cultures, like the Aborigines in Australia or newer cultures, like the people living in the United States today.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Marriage, family, and home life:
- Festivals and rituals:
- Deviant behavior:
- The Life Cycle:
Students can research how these institutions have developed in different cultures over the years in a culture of choice. Some cultures have strict beliefs about marriage and family, while others are less so. You can look at what makes the cultures believe what they do.
Cultures needed to develop ways to trade, so your research paper could look at how economies affect social order. You could trace the development of an economy in an ancient culture.
Cultures tend to define themselves by their rituals. You can pick a culture and look at the rituals and what they represent. Or, you could look at one ritual, like a birthday party or a wedding, and look at how different cultures celebrate these milestones.
Criminals and rebels have been parts of society of eons. Why do cultures have rebels and deviants? What happens to them? What cultures celebrate deviant behavior and why?
The human life cycle is similar in all cultures, but not all cultures treat different stages of the life cycle in the same way. What does childhood look like in certain cultures? How are the elderly treated? When should people become parents? Comparing and contrasting life cycles in different cultures could create a strong paper that would be interesting to write. You could look at cultural viewpoints relating to health care at different stages of the life cycle, especially whether or not the elderly are treated with the same care as the younger members of a culture.