Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • THE MARITAL STATE: PERSONAL STATUS LAWS, DISCOURSES OF REFORM, AND SECULARISM IN LEBANON

    Author:
    Raja Abillama
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Talal Asad
    Abstract:

    An important aspect of the modern Lebanese state is the arrangement of personal status laws, which consigns matters of marriage and its consequences to the several Islamic, Christian, and Jewish religious authorities. With the absence of civil jurisdictions, some individuals choose to get married under the civil laws of countries, such as France, Cyprus, and Turkey. Recurrent attempts to make civil marriage in Lebanon legal have proven to be controversial and ended ultimately in failure. The problem of marriage has accompanied the system of personal status since the formation of the Lebanese state under French Mandate after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. This dissertation aims to offer an account of what is at stake in marriage. Based on ethnographic and archival research in Lebanon, it analyzes the terms of the controversies over legal reform, opinions about civil marriage, as well as the decisions of the Maronite Catholic, Sunni Islamic, and civil courts in matters of personal status. It argues that at stake in marriage is the very assumption upon which the modern Lebanese state rests, namely, that Lebanon consists essentially of a variety of religious communities each possessing a distinctive personal status. The formal articulation of that status is the several religious personal status jurisdictions that oversee marriage. This assumption gives rise to a specific configuration whereby marriage, religious communities, and the state, are interconnected. Rather than adopt a perspective that sees in the problem of marriage an opposition between secularism and religion, this study seeks its conditions in tensions internal to the secular itself, in the ambiguities between moral autonomy and religious belonging, freedom and equality, religion and law.

  • PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES: THE PRODUCTION OF A NORMATIVE CULTURAL LOGIC OF INEQUALITY THROUGH CHOICE

    Author:
    Ujvil Aggarwal
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Ruth Gilmore
    Abstract:

    "Public Education in the United States: The Production of a Normative Cultural Logic of Inequality Through Choice" is a historically informed ethnography that examines how choice emerged in the post-Brown v. Board of Education era as a key principle of reform and management in public education and became central to how rights, freedom, and citizenship were structured, constrained, and imagined. Scholarship within education studies has identified choice as a predicament of neoliberalism as privatization. Yet as my research examines, the inequalities associated with privatization mechanisms like charter schools are an exaggerated indexical representation of a much deeper and older problem. My research extends the historical trajectory through which we understand neoliberal restructuring and traces the ideological and material contours of a post-Brown realignment between the state, the structuring of rights, and the market--a realignment that extends beyond the realm of the private. This dissertation is based on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in New York City's Community School District (CSD) 3, one of the most racially and economically diverse districts in the nation's largest school system. CSD 3 is also one of the most segregated districts in New York City and one of the districts that provides the most choice-based programs and policies. In my ethnography, I examine the ways that low-income and middle-income parents navigate and negotiate selecting a public non-charter elementary school for their child. I trace how situated claims to universal rights as choices facilitate the continuance of a tiered citizenship and the production of what I term a "normative cultural logic of inequality." My research interrogates how this logic narrates inequality in education as resulting from "bad" yet "fair" choices that are qualified by a lack of individual initiative, informed decisions, and capacities of parental care. My findings suggest that rather than these explanations, the differential accumulation of living in what Ruth Wilson Gilmore has termed the "forgotten" or "abandoned places" of a racial state are central to understanding how similar desires---of wanting the very best for one's child---result in very different outcomes.

  • Model Favela: Youth and Second Nature in Rio de Janeiro

    Author:
    Alessandro Angelini
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    David Harvey
    Abstract:

    This ethnographic study of the conflicting social lives of representations of the city centers around the creators of a 4,000-square-foot three-dimensional mockup of Rio constructed with painted bricks, mortar, and detritus. For over fifteen years, teenage boys have enacted a role-playing game within this miniature urban world known as Morrinho, or "Little Hill," on the forested edge of their hillside squatter settlement, or favela. By manipulating and ventriloquizing thousands of inch-tall figurines representing residents, drug lords, police, DJs, politicians, prostitutes--a panoply of social figures--they produce a subversive and ludic perspective on urban reality. The game occupies the same physical ground as competing models: since Morrinho's inception, Rio's elite military police battalion have used the community that gave rise to Morrinho as a "live" training ground, and the municipal urban development agencies have implemented a patchwork of engineering projects and social programs aimed at incorporating this favela into formal property markets. These state initiatives hinge on rendering space and people legible to modes of rule through the use of maps, statistics, and tactical knowledge. Amid these changes in infrastructure and security, Morrinho has become valorized as an alternative form of knowing the city. Its creators have traveled internationally as artists, building replicas of their model in collaboration with youth in new urban contexts. Participants define Morrinho as a space of autonomous reflection on the city, and the mimetic relationship of their form of play to systems of power and the production of space does not reproduce these processes as a copy, but rather stages it on its own terms. This dissertation thus argues that maps, models, and narratives do not simply describe an external reality but actively participate in remaking the spaces of the city.

  • Claiming Space, Redefining Politics: Urban Protest and Grassroots Power in Bolivia

    Author:
    Carwil Bjork-James
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Marc Edelman
    Abstract:

    This dissertation analyzes the role of space-claiming protests by primarily left grassroots social movements in Bolivia's current political transformation. Space claiming includes mass protests that physically control or symbolically claim urban space through occupations of plazas and roads, sit-ins, blockades, and other measures. As a theoretical construct, space claiming brings together tactics of collective action and meanings of public spaces, and looks at the consequences of their interaction. This dissertation is based on ethnographic engagement and oral interviews with protest participants and their state interlocutors during twelve months of fieldwork and archival research. By using detailed ethnographic evidence--of social life as experienced through the human body, the meanings attached to places, and social movement practices--it explains how grassroots movements exerted leverage upon the state through pivotal protest events. This study shows that the political import of these protests arises from their interruption of commercially important flows and appropriation of meaning-laden spaces in cities like Cochabamba and Sucre. Social movements used spatial meanings, protest symbols and rhetoric to build an imagined community of interest and sovereignty, which claims the right to direct the political course of the state. The presence of indigenous bodies, symbols, and politics in these spaces challenged and inverted their longstanding exclusion from power. The largest mobilizations exercised control over aspects of daily life that would otherwise be organized by the state. These interruptions of commerce and circulation, and the collective gatherings that directed them posed an alternate possibility of sovereignty. This put the existing order into question, forcing shifts in political life to resolve the temporary crises. At the same time, the practices of disruption were added to the routines of political practice, making future officeholders even less able to maneuver independently of the grassroots base. This dissertation explains why and how space-claiming protests work as political tools, and the ways that practices of cooperation, coordination, and decisionmaking within protest have become models for Bolivia's political culture. In doing so, it contributes to the study of social protest in Latin America, the theory of social movement practice, and the geographic study of political protest.

  • THE POLITICAL ETHICS OF INTIMACY IN AMERICAN EVANGELISM

    Author:
    Sophie Bjork-James
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Leith Mullings
    Abstract:

    The Political Ethics of Intimacy is an ethnographic study of how conservative evangelical ethics are cultivated within religious communities and become linked to political projects. Based on fourteen months of participant observation research in evangelical churches and Bible study groups in Colorado Springs, I argue that evangelical ethical life is modeled on hierarchical relationships defined by gender and symbolized in the patriarchal family. As the heterosexual nuclear family has become both the central metaphor structuring evangelical ethics and the site where lived evangelicalism is practiced, issues perceived as threatening this family structure are seen as threatening to evangelical ethical life. Thus, abortion and gay rights receive continuing political concern by evangelicals, while issues not framed as directly affecting the family receive less political concern. I show how the familial ideals that shape white evangelical ethical and political life are tied to a racial history of seeing the normative, patriarchal family as the moral foundation of the nation, ideas that shaped resistance to racial equality in the United States from debates about abolition to the Civil Rights Movement.

  • The Value of Diversity: Culture, Cohesion, and Competitiveness in the Making of EU-Europe

    Author:
    Katharina Bodirsky
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    David Harvey
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines a particular 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 term EU-Europe highlights complex and often conflictual relations between European Union (EU), national, and regional governmental levels, and the study focuses on relations between the EU and the city of Berlin. The dissertation critically examines the development of a policy common sense that emphasizes the potential value of cultural diversity for economic competitiveness. Such value, it is 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. Because such interculturalism goes on the EU level hand in hand with a new narrative of EU-Europeanness, the study also "moves outwards" onto relations of EU accession established with Turkey where this has been articulated particularly clearly. The study argues that interculturalist policy constitutes an attempt to overcome challenges to legitimacy and cohesion on EU and city levels by establishing "non-national" modes of belonging and entitlement that work with the neoliberal agenda that has dominantly informed EU-European state-making of the last decades. In selectively embracing cultural diversity, such policy is to turn "culture" from a problem into a resource in the making of "cosmopolitan" places conducive to capital. In Berlin, this has fed into processes of gentrification that serve the generation of rent and effectively void the "right to place" of populations marked through class and culture. In the politics of Turkey's EU accession, the claim that EU-Europeanness is defined through an embrace of diversity has in turn obscured and enabled EU support of the development of a Turkish "competition state." The dissertation furthers our understanding of contemporary "non-national" forms of statehood and of the ways in which these (re)produce inequalities between people and places. It is based on extensive analysis of policy and political documents, interviews with key policy-makers, attendance of policy events, and experience of local politics in Berlin gained during a stay of 12 months.

  • Evolution of Innate Immunity in African Catarrhines

    Author:
    Jessica Brinkworth
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Ekaterina Pechenkina
    Abstract:

    Innate immunity is the first line of host defense against invading pathogens, involves activation of innate immune cells via Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and is a major factor affecting host susceptibility to infectious disease. African catarrhine primates share high genomic identity, yet appear to differ in their susceptibility to bacterial infections (i.e. Gram-negative bacterial sepsis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Mycobacterium). These species are hypothesized to have divergent evolutionary histories of pathogen exposure due to differences in geographic distribution and behaviour. The goals of this research were to 1) clarify if the early innate immune responses of African catarrhine species have functionally diverged, and 2) examine possible associations between these responses and pathogen type, primate evolutionary landscape and disease susceptibility. To examine if African catarrhines have evolved different early innate immune responses to environment-specific pathogens, fresh whole blood from Homo, Pan and Papio was stimulated with TLR2 and TLR4 -detected molecular components from pathogens unevenly distributed across primate evolutionary habitats (i.e. Mycobacterium, Yersinia pestis) for 90 minutes. Immune activation was assessed by quantifying expression of genes associated with the early innate immune response by real-time PCR. This study shows that Homo and Pan blood leukocytes typically mount similar early cytokine and chemokine responses to stimuli, while the more distantly related Papio mounts opposing responses. The divergence of Homo/Pan and Papio cytokine/chemokine induction broadly agrees with observed differences in susceptibility to bacterial diseases, however no association was found between putative pathogen/primate evolutionary environment and gene induction. While early innate immune responses tend to agree with primate evolutionary relationships, there are some notable exceptions to this pattern, including some cytokine responses that are agonist/pathogen-specific (i.e. IL-1β, TNFα, IL-10, IL-6). Taken together, this data suggests a significant divergence between hominoid and baboon early innate immune responses since these species shared a last common ancestor 23-29 million years ago.

  • Identification of Paleopathological Conditions in a Non-Adult Population from Roman Age Sirmium Serbia: A Bioarchaeological and Life History Approach

    Author:
    Matthew Brown
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Thomas McGovern
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this dissertation is to assess the status of child health within the context of Late Roman Sirmium, Serbia (ca. 1st - 6th Century CE) through the evaluation of multiple indicators of skeletal stress (porotic hyperostosis, enamel hyperplasia, and infectious disease). Children and other non-adults (infants and adolescents), for a number of reasons, have been "marginalized" within the fields of archaeology and bioarchaeology. Differential preservation, burial bias, incorrect identification children and non-adult bones and culturally focused definitions of children are among some of the reasons often cited for the lack of research specifically targeting these populations. This dissertation attempts to address this issue of marginalization and that of child morbidity and mortality during the Late Roman Period, recognizing that children and other non-adult cohorts represent important segments of archaeological skeletal populations that can add significant information on past human behavior. The research employed by this thesis will take a holistic bioarchaeological approach by incorporating data from a variety of fields and methodologies, including archaeology, historical records, and environmental science. The primary data, however, will come directly from the analysis of non-adult skeletal material recovered from the Late Roman Period Cemetery, St. Sineros on the northeast border of Sirmium. This dissertation will use both qualitative, looking at the life histories of individuals, and quantitative data to reconstruct patterns of health and disease, in addition to Roman cultural practices (i.e. breastfeeding) that often dictated behaviors that directly influence the non-adult the late Roman Period in Sirmium.

  • Making Music in Latino Charlotte: Politics and Community Formation in a Globalizing City

    Author:
    Samuel Byrd
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Ida Susser
    Abstract:

    "Making Music in Latino Charlotte: Politics and Community Formation in a Globalizing City" examines how Latina/o immigrant musicians and their audiences form local communities centered around music-making that link to hemispheric social networks and operate within the context of global flows of capital, labor, and cultural practices. Drawing on ethnographic data collected from 2008-2011, I place musical communities in the context of Charlotte's political economy and document how musicians and audiences create musical community. Residential segregation, class divisions, and tensions around race and ethnicity divide Charlotte's Latin music scene into three districts that loosely correspond to genre categories of regional mexicano, música tropical, and Latin rock. Musical genre distinguishes between different social groups within the Latino population, marking class, ethnic, linguistic, and status difference, but also facilitating collaboration between groups with common experiences. Working musicians labor in the vulnerable context of immigration crackdowns, low-paying, contingent jobs, and varied class-based views on training and professionalism. The study analyzes how musicians engage with politics in their music and personal lives, revealing a relative lack of overt political activism among working musicians, because of their multiple vulnerabilities. Yet, musicians carefully consider political questions through storytelling and meta-discourse about music, and, through the everyday act of making music, recognize themselves as a group having agency. Latino cultural festivals reveal how community organizations market latinidad, drawing musicians and their labor practices into debates about cultural production and consumption. Local musicians draw on the agency they form through making music in Charlotte to engage with the uneven terrain of the global Latin music industry. I analyze what Charlotte`s Latin music scene means for a conceptualization of the city as a center of music-making, for Southern literature, and for the future of Latino music in the US South.

  • "Small Village/Large Hell": Cocaine & Incarceration in Lima, Peru

    Author:
    Stephanie Campos
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Leith Mullings
    Abstract:

    The Establecimiento Penitenciario de Mujueres de Chorrillos (commonly referred to by its previous name, Santa Monica) in Lima, Peru was built in 1952 as a reformatory to hold 300 women but by June 2012 it held over 3,500, many of them serving sentences for drug trafficking. This is the largest female prison in this Andean nation. An intersectional analysis of prisoners' narratives collected during fieldwork conducted from 2008 to 2009 demonstrates two inter-related processes. First, inequality was produced and reproduced inside this prison through the interconnections of race, gender, class and citizenship. Prisoners' daily lives and access to resources were constrained by the same inequalities that led to their incarceration. Multiple divisions among women mirrored national and globalized structural inequalities and citizenship in particular emerged as a dividing force. Santa Monica's stratification system was continuously reproduced as prisoners competed for life dependent resources. Secondly, I show the ways in which women's labor was the linchpin between the transnational cocaine commodity chain and the prison. Santa Monica transformed into a place to "dispose of" low-level workers of the transnational cocaine commodity chain. Because the majority of these workers were women, their labor became the bond between illegal cocaine and the prison. Those who worked as drug couriers and minor retailers were laboring at the riskiest and most visible jobs to police surveillance. They were arrested when they were no longer needed or once they become a threat to the day-to-day operation of trafficking drugs while the (mostly male) middle managers above them remained in the background. Women's labor therefore created a symbiotic relationship between the prison and this chain where each side helped the other grow and expand. Once incarcerated, these women faced a hierarchy that shaped options for survival as they served their sentences.