The Japan Times published an op-ed by Hirokazu Miyazaki, professor of anthropology at Cornell University and director of its Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies: “One hundred years ago this month, the U.S. Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917. The law was intended to keep out broad categories of immigrants, including those who were illiterate, indigent or mentally ill. It also barred entry to people from wide swaths of Asia and the Pacific. Japanese and Filipinos were exempted, but seven years later President Warren Harding pushed through an even stiffer measure, the Immigration Act of 1924, which extended the restrictions to citizens of Japan. The Japanese government protested, as did many American citizens and civil society groups. When it became clear there was little chance of changing the minds of the president or Congress, a man named Sidney Gulick decided to turn his attention to the next generation.” And thus began the exchange of dolls between Japan and the U.S.
reflection on racism in the U.S.
The latest piece on U.S. public radio by Barbara J. King, emerita professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, is a reflection on her visit to the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. “As I walked along, I experienced moments of emotion. Yet I was also aware, acutely so, that for some people also visiting the museum that afternoon, a ‘highly personal moment’ would be rooted in experiences I could never truly fathom. For decades, I taught College of William and Mary students about race and racism from the point of view of anthropology — explaining that race is not a biologically meaningful category, and sharing the American Anthropological Association’s statement that ‘the racial’ worldview was invented to assign some groups to perpetual low status, while others were permitted access to privilege, power, and wealth.” A white American, she concludes by commenting that teaching important facts is not the same as living them.
Here are my 50 cultural anthropology dissertation selections for 2016. As in past years, my search was based on Dissertation Abstracts International, an electronic database available through my university library which consists of almost 100 percent U.S. dissertations. As always, I rely only on the abstract of each dissertation as the basis for my selection. I have taken the liberty of trimming long abstracts so that all entries are roughly the same length. My apologies to the authors for any possible offenses created by my editing.
The search terms I used reflect the focus of the anthropologyworks blog: food, resources, and livelihoods; power and politics; health; conflict and violence; population dynamics; stratification including race, class, gender, and age; activism, programs and policies; and the importance of cultural anthropology in describing and analyzing the complexity of these topics within particular and changing contexts – local, regional, and global.
The selected dissertations of 2016 offer a rich array of topics and approaches. Health-related research predominates. Other recurrent subjects are politics and power, migration, rights, and the effects of policies and programs. Cities are a notably frequent site, while several studies are based on multi-sited research.
Congratulations to writers of these 50 dissertation. Best wishes to you all.
Altun, Murat. Of conspiracies and men: The politics of evil in Turkey. University of Minnesota.Advisor: Hoon Song.
This ethnographic study documents the belief in conspiracy theories in Turkey, a growing conviction that an insider evil agent is stirring the harmony and unity of society. It is based on fieldwork in Northeastern Turkey, where belief in conspiracy theories are prevalent and a folk festival of evil power expulsion is celebrated. I ask: what are the cultural and historical roots of believing in conspiracy theories? The ethnography sheds light on the increasing references to conspiratorial powers in Turkish politics by drawing attention to the conspiratorial thinking in Trabzon, one of the strong voter bases of the governing Justice and Development Party. Kalandar, from its costumes and reenactments to its relation to historical religious conversions and state violence, provides a lens for its participants to interpret the concept of a nation that they imagine to be in constant defense of “insider conspiratorial” threats.
Ananda, Kitana. Politics after a ceasefire: Suffering, protest, and belonging in Sri Lanka’s Tamil Diaspora. Columbia University. Advisor: Daniel, E. Valentine.
This multi-sited ethnographic study concerns the cultural formations of moral and political community among Tamils displaced by three decades of war and political violence in Sri Lanka. Through field research among Tamils in Toronto, Canada, and Tamil Nadu, India, I inquire into the histories, discourses, and practices of diasporic activism at the end of war between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Tamils abroad were mobilized to protest the war, culminating in months of spectacular mass demonstrations in metropolitan cities around the world. Participant-observation among activists and their families in diaspora neighborhoods and refugee camps, public events and actions, semi-structured interviews, media analysis, and archival work, reveal how “diaspora” has become a capacious site of political becoming for the identification and mobilization of Tamils within, across, and beyond-nation states and their borders.
The Berkeley Daily Planet published an opinion piece by William Beeman, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Minnesota. In his view, “…the Trump administration appears to be renewing the possibility of violent confrontation with Iran using a questionable pretext—Iran’s testing of conventional missiles. No one in the U.S. government or the press seems to understand that Iranian ballistic missiles do not fall under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA (the ‘Iran Deal’). The JCPOA has nothing at all to do with conventional weapons, only nuclear technology. The current controversy over Iran’s missile testing has entirely to do with interpretations of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (20 July 2015), which endorsed the JCPOA after it had been ratified. UNSC Resolution 2231 stated flatly that ALL of the previously existing UN sanctions against Iran were terminated…”
view of U.S. politics from Japan
The Japan news reported on a 2016 poll in the U.S. asking how much the United States should be involved in international disputes. Fifty-three percent of Democratic Party supporters responded that the United States should keep its current level of involvement. Republican Party supporters’ views were divided: 40 percent called for reduced involvement, 30 percent for the current level of involvement and 29 percent for increased involvement. The article includes commentary from Yasushi Watanabe of Keio University, who specializes in cultural anthropology and United States studies. He interprets the results as “indicative of the divide within the Republican Party between the interventionist mainstream and the isolationist Trump supporters.”
On January 20th 2017, Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. This was a historic moment for the U.S. in many different ways and depending on your political views you can judge the context around this inauguration, and the 2016 election as a whole, for yourself. But I am not here to do that. What I am here to do is to talk about what I observed on that fateful day. First, however, I would like to tell you a little bit about my background to illuminate the position which I was observing this event from.
I am a South Korean national who came to the United States to attend college in 2008, and I have alternated living in the U.S. and Korea since then. In 2015, I came to Washington, D.C. to pursue a master’s degree in Asian Studies. Although I live in the hub of politics and policy, my interests and passions diverge from what the city is typically known for. I am enthusiastic about studying the transformation of culture in historical contexts. As a result, this post does not intend to analyze politics or policies behind the inauguration; rather, this is my personal observations of the events of that day, from a foreigner’s perspective.Continue reading “the U.S. inauguration 2017 from the ground through foreign eyes”→
Barbara J. King, professor emerita of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, contributed a piece to National Public Radio (U.S.) in which she discusses recent statements made and actions taken by the Trump team, providing a science fact check for each. Topics include climate change, vaccines and autism, human rights, and human evolution.
Paul Stoller, professor of anthropology at West Chester University, published a piece in The Huffington Post, describing some public events organized by anthropologists around the Trump inauguration. He argues that anthropologists and other social scientists have the responsibility not to just produce knowledge but to move it into the public domain, and that this task is especially urgent now as a form of resistance to anti-social policies. [Note: one such event, hosted by Georgetown University, included a cultural anthropologist among the panelists; it has been headlined by Breitbart.com as a session for “instructing students” in “how to resist the Trump presidency” – in other words, it was more like brain washing than consciousness raising in their view. Thanks to Graham Hough-Cornwell of Georgetown for alerting me, via Facebook, to the Breitbart article.]
Foreign Policy published an article reviewing new research on schizophrenia that offers a culturally-informed critique of the bio-psychiatric model. The article mentions the work of Juli McGruder, professor emerita of anthropology and occupational therapy at the University of Puget Sound. Her research in Zanzibar indicates that anyone who violated social norms, including speaking out of turn to hallucinating, is viewed as possessed by a spirit. Rather than stigmatizing them, their communities offer support. Research by Stanford University anthropology professor Tanya Luhrmann points in a similar direction. She and colleagues interviewed voice-hearers in the United States, India, and West Africa. Americans were more likely to hear voices that threatened and belittled, while participants in other countries heard family members, friends, or deities, and engaged in conversations with them. Luhrmann is quoted as saying: “I think the consequence of the American idea that the mind is broken is so horrifying and upsetting for people that they feel assaulted by these voices.”
“masculinity crisis” in China
NBC News reported on a rising concern among some people in China about a possible “masculinity crisis” and what to do about it. According to Tiantian Zheng, professor of anthropology at the State University of New York at Cortland, the issue of masculinity and the upbringing of boys is being treated as a priority of state level educational policy. She said that possible measures include “the establishment of all boys’ middle schools, the textbook…[‘Little Men’], experts’ psychology clinics and media discourse.”
funding sought from a former colony
According to an article in The Hindu (Chennai), the University of Oxford is seeking financial support from India to establish an endowed chair in honor of social anthropologist M.N. Srinivas, a mid-twentieth century scholar of rural southern India. The centenary of his birthday in 2016 has added impetus to the fundraising efforts.
take that anthro degree and…
…direct an arts company. Claudia Zeiske is the founding director of Deveron Projects, an arts company in the town of Huntly in northeast Scotland. The company, now 21 years old, supports artists from many countries who visit Huntly. The artists live and work in the town, engaging with its buildings, people, schools, and landscape. In turn, they leave their mark on it, in sculptures, drawings, events, songs, and even new paths. In March of this year, Deveron Projects will welcome its first Syrian artist, Manaf Halbouni. A visual artist, he studied in Damascus and Dresden and is now based in Germany. Zeiske sees his arrival as a chance to interact with Syrian refugees in north-east Scotland. She says: “I have quite an interest in Africa and the Middle East…we have so little understanding of the Middle East, culturally there is very little understanding, and perhaps art can help bridge that. Manaf Halbouni is Syrian, but he now lives in Germany – it is not possible to get an artist from Syria directly. We have also linked with the around 100 Syrian refugees now living in Aberdeenshire, but it is very difficult because hardly any of them speak English and I don’t speak Arabic, nor do any people in my team. So in order to link with those people, I try to link with artists from the Middle East. He [Halbouni] is the first one.” To mark the company’s 21st birthday, Zeiske made a film featuring 76 of the artists hosted.Zeiske has (in chronological order) a degree in business administration from the Fachhochschule fuer Wirtschaft in Berlin, and M.Sc. in social anthropology from Freie Universität in Berlin, a bachelor’s in social anthropology from the London School of Economics, and an M.Sc. in social anthropology from University College London.
…become a nonfiction writer. Morvarid Fernandez has published her first book, ‘Seasoned’ for Family and Friends: Contemporary Recipes with an Old World Flavour and Reminiscences and Vignettes of Life in Provincial India. The book contains stories from the author’s life interspersed with recipes of soups, salads, dips, pork, stir-fries, foogath, Iranian Khoresh, and Anglo-Indian Brown Stew. Fernandez has an M.A. degree in anthropology from Pune University.
…become a novelist. Wang Weilian has gained success in the “traditional” mold of writing in an era spearheaded by avant-garde poets and novelists. “As serious writers, we regard literature as the criticism of life, and the seriousness of life as the only rule to judge a great writer,” says Wang. A recent publication, The Sound of Salt Forming, is a collection of 16 short stories by these post-1980s serious writers. Wang’s piece was chosen as the title of the book. Set in northwest China’s Qinghai Province, his story describes the life of two young men who have been good friends since their school days. Wang’s major works include the novels A Man without Fingerprints and The Second Person. Wang has a degree in anthropology and a PhD. In literature from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.
…become a health policy professor. Jessica Mulligan is assistant professor of health policy and management at Providence College, Rhode Island, with specializations in medical anthropology, insurance, managed care, health policy, and ethnography. Her current research project uses life history interviews to explore the health and financial impacts of insurance coverage on the formerly uninsured. She has published journal articles in Medical Anthropology; Medical Anthropology Quarterly; and the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law; as well as a book, Unmanageable Care: An Ethnography of Health Care Privatization in Puerto Rico. She serves on the Expert Advisory Committee of HealthSource RI. Mulligan has a B.A. in Latin American Studies from the George Washington University, an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University.
…become a professor of sociology. Kirk Dombrowski is John Bruhn Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. According to his university web page, his research focuses on broad interdisciplinary approaches to addiction and its related social and personal harms. He works across sociology, anthropology, psychology and political-economy. He has developed specialized research methods in network analysis and hard-to-reach populations that are highly stigmatized. He teaches undergraduate courses on social and cultural theory, criminology, social psychology, and systems science approaches to the social and behavioral sciences. At the doctoral level he teaches courses in research methods and core-social theory, with a focus on public health and health disparities. He is the Principal Investigator of the UNL Research, Evaluation and Analysis for Community Health Lab, which is currently conducting several NIH-funded projects in locations ranging from Puerto Rico to Alaska. He is also the director of UNL’s Minority Health Disparities Initiative, a project aimed at understanding and addressing health disparities in the Great Plains. Recently, he was selected to join the Education Board at the American Health Council. In that role, he will be sharing his knowledge and expertise on social network analysis in health, rural public health, and drug abuse. Dombrowski has a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Notre Dame, an M.A. in anthropology from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from City University of New York Graduate School and University Center.
working together toward shared goals
An article in The New York Times described an unusual collaboration between an archaeologist and a metal detectorist. Archaeologist Kevin McBride, associate professor at the University of Connecticut and research director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Centerin Connecticut, welcomes visits from Keith Wille who often goes metal detecting in the woods of Connecticut. His findings can help McBride in his work with and for the local Mashantucket Pequot Nation, researching a“history that’s written by the conquered and not by the conqueror” according to tribal spokeswoman Lori A. Potter.
wild primates in increasing danger
Several mainstream media, including The BBC and The Daily Mail, reported on new research indicating the increasing threats to the world’s primates, with 60 percent of species now facing extinction.The global study, involving more than 30 scientists, assessed the conservation status of more than 500 species, including apes, monkeys, lemurs and lorises. The article quotes Jo Setchell, a professor at Durham University, who referred to main threats of “massive habitat loss” and illegal hunting. Further, “Forests are destroyed when primate habitat is converted to industrial agriculture, leaving primates with nowhere to live…primates are hunted for meat and trade, either as pets or as body parts.” Other threats – all driven by human behavior – are forest clearance for livestock and cattle ranching; oil and gas drilling and mining. “The short answer is that we must reduce human domination of the planet, and learn to share space with other species,” Setchell commented. The study also cited poverty and civil unrest as a driving force for hunting – in the poorest parts of the world many people are being driven to hunting primates in order to feed themselves. For others living in high income countries, the message is:“… don’t buy tropical timber, don’t eat palm oil.” The findings are published in the journal Science Advances.
The Apopka Voice (Florida) carried an article about the roots of fear surrounding the date of Friday the 13th. The article includes commentary from Phillips Stevens Jr., associate professor of anthropology at Buffalo University: “Most buildings don’t have a 13th floor, you won’t find 13 people seated a table and some airlines don’t have a 13th row…The taboo comes directly from Biblical stories.” The main story is that of the Last Supper.
The Centre Daily (Pennsylvania) reported on a teach-in on immigrants’ rights held at Penn State University and organized by its Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. One speaker, Linda Rabben, associate research professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland and author of Sanctuary and Asylum: A Social and Political History, said universities are often directed by their lawyers not to use the term “sanctuary.” She referenced a letter signed in December by Penn State President Eric Barron, and more than 400 other university presidents in support of DACA (the policy on deferred action for childhood arrivals), noting that nowhere in the letter was “sanctuary” mentioned. “But just because it isn’t mentioned, doesn’t mean people aren’t going to seek it,” Rabben said.