Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • THE GREATER ANTILLEAN PLATYRRHINES: BIOGEOGRAPHY AND PALEOBIOLOGY

    Author:
    Siobhan Cooke
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Alfred Rosenberger
    Abstract:

    The Greater Antilles were once home to an endemic radiation of platyrrhine primates including five species, Xenothrix mcgregori from Jamaica, Paralouatta varonai and P. marianae from Cuba, the Hispaniolan species Antillothrix bernensis, and Insulacebus toussaintiana from Haiti. This dissertation seeks to expand our knowledge of this group through the analysis of biogeographical patterns, paleobiology with a particular focus on paleodietary reconstruction, and through the description of new fossil material. To date, much of the scholarship on the Antillean fauna has focused on phylogeny and biogeography. Of particular concern is how and when the Antillean primates entered the Caribbean and to which mainland taxa they might be related. The evidence presented here suggests a Miocene entry by members of at least two platyrrhine clades, though an earlier colonization via the GAARlandia landspan and Caribbean monophyly cannot be excluded. In the 1980s, a nearly complete primate dentition in association with gnathic fragments was recovered from the Tiburon Peninsula of western Haiti. This material represents a new species, Insulacebus toussaintiana, a likely relative of the Jamaican primate, Xenothrix mcgregori. Insulacebus has several unusual anatomical features including small maxillary lateral incisors, a P2 that is small and simplified compared to P4, lower canines that are triangular at the base, mandibular premolars and molars with closely approximated cusps, and polycuspate m3s. The latter two features it shares with Xenothrix. Paleodietary reconstruction for Insulacebus and the other Caribbean forms was best accomplished through the use of landmark-based three-dimensional measures of molar form. The sample included 208 extant platyrrhines from 9 genera and 22 individual extinct platyrrhines representing 15 species from Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, and the Greater Antilles. Principal component and discriminate function analyses of the landmark data found that the morphological variation across the sample corresponded largely to the dietary profiles documented in field studies, and not to the phylogenetic relationships of the taxa. While the landmark-based data could be used to successfully differentiate primates by dietary guild, measures of crown relief based on surface area ratios were much less successful in differentiating primates by diet. In all, the Caribbean forms represent an island radiation showing evidence for dietary flexibility particularly within the general category of frugivory in the species Paralouatta varonai, Antillothrix bernensis, and Insulacebus toussaintiana. The enigmatic Xenothrix mcgregori may have occupied an ecological niche with no modern platyrrhine analogue. As additional fossil evidence accumulates, we will be better able to evaluate their adaptations to the unique Caribbean environment.

  • `YOU OWE IT TO EACH OTHER': RACE & THE PRODUCTION OF KNOWLEDGE IN AIDS CLINICAL TRIALS (ACTs) RECRUITMENT

    Author:
    Rebecca de Guzman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Shirley Lindenbaum
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is based on an ethnographic case study of a public health intervention and research project titled "ACTPOC" (not its real name). ACTPOC's goal was to design, develop, and test a group-based standardized intervention to increase the interest in and enrollment of women and people of color living with HIV/AIDS in AIDS clinical trials (ACTs). Following the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993, recruitment interventions such as ACTPOC draw upon a variety of ideological and material discourses to promote clinical trials participation. According to ACTPOC, the "underrepresentation" of people of color in ACTs results from the social conditions of racism that in turn denies their racial biological ontologies in medication development. ACTPOC designed the group-based educational intervention to remedy the absence of people of color from ACTs, with the hopes that their inclusion would improve drug development and help to mitigate some of the racialized disparities seen in HIV/AIDS. This dissertation explores the contradictions whereby ACTPOC acknowledged the social and institutional barriers that limit women and people of color's access to ACTs at the same that that it depicted race and gender as idioms of essential biomedical difference. Participants' accommodations to and reinterpretations of ACTPOC's efforts to socialize them into biomedical research norms illustrate the contingencies involved in even the most rationalized public health models. This dissertation's ethnographic exploration of ACTPOC demonstrates how public health interventions to recruit people of color into biomedical research, while undertaken in part to reduce health disparities, may unintentionally yield the opposite effects.

  • The New Global Division of Labor: Transnational Surrogacy in India

    Author:
    Daisy Deomampo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Leith Mullings
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the transnational surrogacy industry in India, in which would-be parents travel from around the globe to India in order to obtain assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures such as in vitro fertilization, egg donation, and gestational surrogacy. While processes of human reproduction have become increasingly commodified and disaggregated, a new spatial division of labor has surfaced as laws in different countries facilitate or impede various fertility treatments. In recent years, India has emerged as a global "hub" of transnational surrogacy arrangements, in part because of lower costs but also due to minimal regulatory frameworks for the provision of ARTs. This dissertation details how these variables--the absence of laws governing ARTs in India, the relatively low cost of services, and the transnational clientele--influenced the expansion of ART services in India aimed specifically at global consumers, and the attendant implications for understanding kinship relations within global reproductive networks. Based on thirteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Mumbai, India, this dissertation draws primarily on interviews and participant observation with surrogates, egg donors, commissioning parents, caretakers, and doctors. Across transnational and local socioeconomic hierarchies, how do these varied reproductive actors come together, and how do they understand and articulate their relationships with one another as they collaborate in the creation of babies? In addressing this question, this study focuses on the ways in which previously "inalienable" entities (such as sperm, eggs, and wombs) become alienable in the global reproductive market. In particular, it suggests that actors make sense of this process through concealment or, to use Bourdieu's term, "misrecognition" of the commodification of reproduction and family making. This dissertation argues that this process of misrecognition ultimately obscures broader patterns of stratification, while reinforcing hierarchies of ethnicity, class, gender, and nation, though in unexpected ways. The study illustrates the complexities and contradictions of stratified reproduction, as well as the constellation of relations embedded in transnational surrogacy, through several intersecting theoretical lenses: anthropology of kinship, critical race theory, feminist and urban geography, and theoretical analyses of agency and power.

  • "...Rivalry, Hostility, and Romanità." An Ethnographic Study of AS Roma's Ultras

    Author:
    Mark Dyal
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Michael Blim
    Abstract:

    This is an ethnographic study of Italian Ultras, the organized and ritualized fan organizations associated with professional soccer in Italy. It examines the relationship between their belief and behaviors, paying particular attention to their political behaviors. The study follows 15 months of anthropological fieldwork undertaken in Rome, Italy. Its goal is to assess the role that the Ultras' particular critical understanding of modernity plays in organizing and actualizing their behaviors inside and outside of sporting contexts. Part of my effort in this study is to examine local reactions to national and international issues of globalization and liberalization. In following this line of enquiry, which sets my study apart from recent scholarship on the Ultras, I hope to contribute to a more anthropologically informed discussion of the Ultras as a critical part of politically extreme responses to social and political predicaments of the early-21st Century.

  • Conserving Nature, Transforming Authority: Eviction and Development at the Margins of the State, the Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal

    Author:
    Melis Ece
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Talal Asad
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines two distinct but interrelated processes of displacement experienced by the evictees of the Niokolo-Koba National Park, based on fieldwork  (2004-2005) in the Tambacounda region of South-Eastern Senegal. While the first process concerns centralized mass evictions of the residents of the National Park during the first decade of Independence; the second process concerns multiple decentralized displacements in resettlement areas at the buffer zone, since the implementation of decentralization reforms. Taking as a starting point that eviction is not a punctual event, but a complex process that reflects and transforms relations that lead to loss of property and authority, this project examines how the inhabitants of the National Park have been related and continue to relate to the "state" in its different manifestations since the colonial rule. Evictions from national parks in Africa, are often understood as results of international pressures in the name of conservation of global commons. This study illustrates the equally important role of the emergence of a centralized and developmentalist postcolonial state in forced evictions. I illustrate the transformation of the national park into an "untouchable territory" where the evictions were justified by "public utility." This transformation mirrored and contributed to authoritarian and technocratic tendencies and the radical stand against "customary authorities" in this region, constructed as a backward and rebellious area. In contrast, for many, decentralization through the transfer of centralized state powers to elected local authorities would improve democratization in Senegal. I also examine these claims by looking at the practices of the rural council of Dialakoto in resettlement areas at the northern borders of the National Park. I examine how the resettlement process, increased commodification of land and neoliberal development projects created the conditions for decentralized evictions. While centralized evictions strengthened the local image of the "state" as a coercive foreign authority, decentralized evictions extended this view to local rural councils acting as brokers of neoliberal development. Through the analysis of centralized and decentralized evictions, this dissertation unravels the contradictory effects of development, conservation and decentralization in Senegal and, complexities of claiming authority and property at the margins.

  • The Role of Marine Resources in the Medieval Economy of Vestfirdir, Iceland

    Author:
    Ragnar Edvardsson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Thomas McGovern
    Abstract:

    Abstract THE ROLE OF MARINE RESOURCES IN THE MEDIEVAL ECONOMY OF VESTFIRÐIR, ICELAND Ragnar Edvardsson Adviser: Professor Thomas H. McGovern Vestfirðir became a stagnant and backwater region of Iceland following the social and political changes in the 17th century that crippled the Icelandic economy. For the next two hundred years people in Vestfirðir struggled to survive but at the end of the 19th century the regional economy began to recover and living standards in the region improved. However, these impoverished years in the history of Vestfirðir have always influenced the historical view of the region. Both scholars and laymen alike believed Vestfirðir to have been consistently poor from the beginning of the settlement to the present day. Archaeological and historical data now contradict these ideas and suggest that through most of its history the region based its income primarily on marine resources and supplied the remainder of Iceland with marine products not readily available elsewhere. Vestfirðir was settled at the same time as other regions of Iceland and soon after settlement the region developed a specialized fishing industry, focusing on the production of skreið (dried fish) for both Icelandic and European markets. In the Medieval and early modern periods Vestfirðir gained wealth from trade with foreigners which made it on of the richest region of Iceland. The work presented here contradicts the idea of a stagnant and unchanging society and gives a new perspective of a diverse and flexible society, built around the marine resources, which were the key to the success of the settlement in Vestfirðir.

  • The "Modern and Independent" Women of Generation 1980: Self and Subjectivity Among Secular, Middle-Class Women in Istanbul, Turkey

    Author:
    Esin Egit
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Michael Blim
    Abstract:

    The focus of this dissertation is Turkish women of "Generation 1980" (born in the late 1960s and early 1970s), a cohort of urban, middle-class, and secular women who came of age in the 1980s in Istanbul, and their struggles with and against "traditional" and "modern" gender ideologies. Based on sixteen months of fieldwork conducted in Istanbul between 2004 and 2007, this study analyzes the formation and transformation of a distinct female subjectivity, made visible through close attention to these women's narratives of self, other, and society. Increasingly, women in urban Turkey have begun to question traditional gender roles at an early age, and challenge socially expected life trajectories. Women's narratives and memories of their early youth indicate that a shared sense of pride and accomplishment has emerged among women of this cohort, which I call "self-assured" subjectivity, as women are convinced that they are unquestionably "modern and independent." Women's accounts also, conversely, reveal that in situations that challenge their identity as "modern and independent" women, they find themselves surprised, confused, frustrated, and unprepared to respond. In such cases, women blame themselves rather than perceive their problems in the larger context of the gender inequality in and patriarchy of Turkish society. As they experience this discontinuity in their identity, they turn to friends and intimates, to the private and personal realms, for help, reassurance, and confirmation of their "modern and independent" identity. Women's response to these "unexpected" situations, I argue, must be seen in light of the depoliticized public context in which they grew up. Generation 1980 came of age during a time when the junta government was actively and brutally depoliticizing the public sphere; Republican (Kemalist) ideology was being revitalized by the army; and the economy was undergoing rapid economic liberalization and privatization. Generation 1980 learned to distance themselves from politics and to seek gratification and satisfaction in the private, representing what I call the "apolitical" political self. Drawing on recent of theories of self and subjectivity in psychological anthropology, this dissertation argues that women's self-assured subjectivity, while empowering them in many ways, ultimately limits them as social agents because of their concomitant lack of political engagement.

  • Secular Immortal

    Author:
    Abou Ali Farman Farmaian
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Talal Asad
    Abstract:

    A study of groups in the United States trying to achieve immortality or radically extended lives through cryonics, biogerontology and artificial intelligence, this ethnography defines Immortalism as an active commitment to transcending through technology the limitations that bring about the biological end of a person. Although long life and avoidance of death are considered universal ideals, Immortalism's imaginaries, practices and subjectivities have been shaped by a contingent confluence of American histories and specific techno-utopian practices and assumptions about life, death and personhood. The research identifies four key dispositions in immortalist practices, concepts and ideologies: i/ techno-utopian orientations towards the future in which human problems are solved not through socio-political rearrangements but the rearrangement of matter by biotechnology and the informatic sciences; ii/ shifts in secular temporality to counter the sense of human life (individual and species) as a finite, incomplete and purposeless trajectory; iii/ understandings of personal identity in terms of information, producing an "informatic self", a self understood, managed, preserved and improved via the notion of information through strategies like cryopreservation or mind-uploading; iv/ the further use of "information" as a transontological concept bridging numerous domains to construct "informatic cosmologies" that portend to address the issue of universal purpose. The broader analysis engages largely ignored tensions between science and the secular, which are overlapping but not coterminous domains. The encounter between Immortalism and the institutions of law and science highlights the inability of secular epistemology (mainly scientific materialism) to fix key metaphysical categories such as personhood, life and death, on which secular politics depends. This points to a general sense of existential fragility that has shaped secular life-death regimes. Immortalism's appeal is partly related to the possibility of addressing such existential issues, but from within the domain of science.

  • From Incentives to Ayudas: Historical, Social and Political Context of Development Projects with Small-Scale Coffee Farmers in Rural Nicaragua

    Author:
    Carolyn Fisher
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Marc Edelman
    Abstract:

    In rural Nicaragua in 2006-7, most people lived in extreme poverty. Numerous development projects competed for clients in places like "Kiyenmejave Abajo," a rural locality south of Matagalpa. One project was "Taza Humeante," a coffee grower's cooperative seeking fair trade and organic certification. Rural development programs long sorted campesinos by an oversimplified class analysis that obscured their complex economic strategies. The Sandinistas initially gave privileged access to more "progressive" poorer campesinos. Projects in 2006 used similar categories, but aided the richer poor more. Development projects assume people are organized in "communities," but people see the places they live as riven by factionalism. Programs fear creating dependency, instead they encourage horizontal solidarity. But poor Nicaraguans are accustomed to wielding vertical patronage relationships, not horizontal ties, as a livelihood strategy. While working with projects, people talk the languages of both vertical patronage and horizontal solidarity. Aid does not flow towards the poorest because local leaders navigate structural conflicts. Several Taza Humeante officers occupied multiple leadership positions despite their poverty. Sandinista policies caused these leaders to gain prominence, but in 2006, constituents expected them to channel aid from projects. These expectations carry weight because local leaders compete for clients' loyalty. However, leaders must also satisfy organizations, thus projects exclude others entirely. In Nicaragua in 2010, microfinance was besieged by the Movimiento No Pago, causing several microfinancers to close and large losses to others. This movement's roots were planted earlier. The Sandinista history of competition between organizations and debt forgiveness caused campesinos not to expect to pay back debt under adverse conditions. Later, microfinancers reinforced similar conditions. I observed four inspection visits from organic and fair trade inspectors. Certifications inaccurately assume base cooperatives are "communities." Certification regimes constitute incomplete new lines of authority. Farmers often saw certification requirements as demands made by foreign countries. Development projects are not improving the situations of many and are worsening things for some, but removing projects would not solve anything. Focus on "best practices" leads to decontextualized and ahistorical plans which founder against the complexity of real social formations.

  • THE FLOWS OF SOVEREIGNTY: ITAIPÚ HYDROELECTRIC DAM AND THE ETHNOGRAPHY OF THE PARAGUAYAN NATION-STATE

    Author:
    Christine Folch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Marc Edelman
    Abstract:

    "Flows of Sovereignty" explores 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 20th 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. Moreover, these findings have implications beyond the energy politics of South America but for the development of renewable energy resources worldwide and global water management. Leftist former Bishop Fernando Lugo toppled the six-decade ruling Colorado Party in Paraguay in April 2008, linking popular discontent to one issue: Itaipú, the world's largest dam. In 2008 it supplied 19 percent of Brazil's electricity and 95 percent of Paraguay's and Paraguay "ceded" the vast majority of its electricity to Brazil for 1/10th to 1/40th of the price of that energy on the Brazilian market. Lugo's government promised to renegotiate this inequity and use the wealth for "social development" under the rubric of "sovereignty." This historical ethnography is drawn from unparalleled access to leaders in the government as they negotiated with Brazil and administered the dam, social movements as they mobilized for "hydroelectric sovereignty," and archival evidence within Itaipú and the Stroessner-era secret police Archives of Terror. Section I begins with the dam's founding as an expression of the Stroessner military dictatorship's dominance over nature and nation, local and international causes for construction of the dam and how Itaipú enabled the growth of the Paraguayan state apparatus, including the surveillance-torture regime. Section II turns to Lugo's dramatic rise to the presidency, new negotiations with Brazil, and promises to fight corruption by instituting "transparency." Section III offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the patronage, rent-seeking, and networks of obligation that surround the dam. Section IV explores how the political economy of energy in the Southern Cone is recrafted under "energy integration" as well as the debates within Paraguay about how Itaipú's millions should be invested socially.