Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • "MY PEOPLE IS A PEOPLE ON ITS KNEES." MEXICAN LABOR MIGRATION FROM THE MONTANA REGION AND THE FORMATION OF A WORKING CLASS IN NEW YORK CITY.

    Author:
    Rodolfo Hernandez-Corchado
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Michael Blim
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the contemporary proletarianization via migration of the indigenous and mestizo people from the Montaña region, in the Mexican southern state of Guerrero, to New York City. The dissertation demonstrates how the region was transformed since the 1980s into a migrant labor supplier and how its inhabitants became proletarians, and a major pool of labor supplying the North American transnational migrant labor market. Far from being homogenous, the people of the Montaña region are ethnically and class diverse. Based on the oral narratives of an indigenous Mixteco, and a mestizo teenager dweller of the city of Tlapa, the dissertation shows the extent to which labor migration cannot be separated from a broader history of racialized dispossession and labor exploitation, particularly in the case of Mixtecos. I argue that the proletarianization via migration of both indigenous Mixteco and mestizo people in the region has been produced through different rounds of dispossession that in the oral histories are identified as "the abandonment" and "the chemo days" respectively. By studying the contemporary history of the Montaña region labor migration I examine how geographical and labor connections are being produced between New York City and the Montaña. I argue that the particular process of massive migration from densely populated Mexican indigenous regions to the U.S. in the aftermath of Mexico's 1990s economic crisis, help us to interrogate `integration' as a category that was central for post-revolutionary Mexican anthropology to explain the nation formation in the twentieth century. The role that previous former ethnic and class differences of the Montaña people, as well as racism of non-indigenous Mexicans toward indigenous people influence the arrival, settlement, and labor incorporation of these two segments into an already economic and culturally stratified Mexican community in New York City. Finally, I examine punk as a cultural expression of working-class formation among Guerrerense migrant proletarians living in New York City to show the extent to which punk serves migrants as a language to collectively elaborate social claims about social inequality and politics both in the Montaña and in the United States.

  • Dental Microstructure and Growth in the Cebid Primates

    Author:
    Russell Hogg
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Alfred Rosenberger
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is an analysis of growth rates in the teeth of the Cebidae, a family of New World monkeys (Platyrrhini, Primates) which includes capuchins, squirrel monkeys, tamarins, and marmosets. The dissertation is motivated by the need to: 1) further catalogue information on dental microanatomy within this group and analyze it as it relates to dietary adaptations; 2) catalogue dental growth rates in New World primates, a large group which has gone largely unstudied in this regard; 3) assess the impact which body mass, brain mass, and ecology have upon the evolution of growth patterns within primates and mammals in general; 4) better understand how physiologies (metabolism, reproduction, etc.) evolve to meet environmental demands, and 5) better understand the evolution of mating behaviors in primates. Teeth provide an excellent means to answer these questions, because they preserve permanent records of their own growth within their microscopic anatomy, in a similar manner to tree rings; therefore, we can compare growth lines (increments) within teeth of different species to better understand the evolution of growth across major groups. In order to access microanatomical data from teeth of cebid primates, this dissertation uses microscopic imaging and measurement of all eight genera within this family, focusing on circularly polarized light as an imaging modality.

  • FINDING KINSHIP IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: MATCHING GAY NEW YORKERS WITH CHILDREN THROUGH ADOPTION AND FOSTERING

    Author:
    Lynn Horridge
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Shirley Lindenbaum
    Abstract:

    This dissertation focuses on how gay New Yorkers go about building families and finding kinship through the adoption and fostering of children. Since the 1990s, the U.S. child welfare system has become increasingly privatized. This has had a dramatic impact on who can adopt and who gets adopted. This research pays special attention to the history of "matching" in American adoption practices and how some gays and lesbians have emerged as suitable adopters despite continuing struggles to gain recognition on other gay rights issues such as marriage. I argue that gay and lesbian New Yorkers who adopt, like their heterosexual counterparts, benefit greatly from the neoliberalization of child welfare services in ways that both positively and negatively affect children in need of care. Gays and lesbians, particularly white gays and lesbians, have been placed with children through fostering and adoption for the past twenty years, riding a wave of increasing mainstream tolerance and visibility. This trend marks a tremendous achievement for some gays and lesbians still struggling to gain rights equal to their heterosexual peers. As this dissertation shows, however, matching practices leave legacies of race, class, and gender inequalities intact. Fieldwork for this dissertation was conducted from 2002 to 2008 in New York City and in Guatemala during the summer of 2003. New York City is known for its overcrowded foster care system and open attitude toward gay family forms. Guatemala became a "hot spot" for gay adopters from the United States for a short period in the early 2000s. Research in these two locales allows for a rich description of the many factors influencing contemporary American adoption practices. Data was collected through recorded interviews with gay adopters and adoption professionals in New York City as well as through participation in gay adoption support groups, foster-to-adopt training settings, and numerous adoption-related information events, academic and professional conferences. Drawing on these experiences, this dissertation shows how some gay New Yorkers have managed to gain recognition as qualified parents to children in need of families, and how they negotiate their identities toward successful adoption placements. It also shows the wide spectrum of possibilities for gay New Yorkers as they approach the adoption of non-biological children, from the adoption of newborns to the fostering of gay teenage youth.

  • Digging Up the Earth in New York City: A Community-Based Environmental Movement

    Author:
    Yoko Ikeda
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Ida Susser
    Abstract:

    Community gardens are an important green asset to New York City, helping to improve the urban environment and provide accessible open green space to residents and visitors. The unlikely presence of numerous community-run gardens in the midst of densely-populated, highly-valued property is the result of the community garden movement initiated in the 1970s in an effort to reclaim decaying neighborhoods by transforming garbage-filled lots into gardens. Examining the successes and struggles of the community garden movement along with everyday activities that occur within community gardens, this study provides insight into crucial elements required to sustain community-based conservation. Based on participant observation and interviews, this study highlights the oral histories and internal operations of two community gardens with different organizational structures located in two distinctive neighborhoods. The institutionalization of the garden movement and individual gardens, as well as the participation of available and willing volunteers who assume leadership positions are important factors in ensuring the longevity and strength of individual gardens and the community garden movement as a whole. The community garden movement emerged at a time of New York City's financial struggle. The presence of gardens on city blocks has since affected the gentrification process of the neighborhoods in which they were originally founded. The community garden, once a symbol of a struggling neighborhood and resistance of people against urban decay has grown into a site that symbolizes resistance against overdevelopment and the loss of green space. At the same time, the gardens have become an attraction of a gentrified neighborhood. In the changing neighborhoods, community gardens are more than open green space; they are a democratic space where people of different economic and racial backgrounds come together and interact, a place for community building. The community garden movement as a true grassroots environmental movement has created communally and voluntarily managed open green space. The creation and maintenance of community gardens attest to the strength of volunteerism in the United States. This study of community gardens shows the possibility of a bottom-up approach to greening an urban area and improving the quality of life in an urban city.

  • An Ethnographic Perspective on Downtown Comedy in New York City

    Author:
    Amy Jones
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Vincent Crapanzano
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is based on an ethnographic investigation of the "downtown" or "alternative" comedy scene in New York City. Downtown comedy emerged as a production model for live performances in the mid-1990s, and its objective was to provide comics with opportunities to try out new or experimental material. Audiences were drawn to this quasi-workshopping environment by a low cost of admission, and an interest in seeing new work in its formative stages. As of this writing, the scene in New York is robust, and has cultivated a loyal fan base in addition to launching the careers of many well-known comics. Participants have successfully cultivated a social sphere that nurtures certain innovative forms of performance and social interaction. A central theoretical concern of the project was to better understand the mechanics and operation of linguistic performativity. Comedy entails a performative risk - audience members may be mobilized to empathy, appreciation, and even adulation, or they may reject the comic, resulting in ego-injury. Comics are thus enacting an existential drama of self-articulation, and how audience members relate to this drama serves to determine what constitutes efficacious or felicitous speech. Experimental comedy, moreover, can be highly provocative or transgressive, challenging deeply-rooted conceptual frameworks or social conventions. Such provocations often result in micro-scale crisis moments in the liminoid, leisure-oriented space of the performance venue. A "good" punchline, and the audience laughter that follows it, resonates as the explosive emergence of an entertaining public secret. Via a combination of ethnography and formal analysis, I trace the reception of specific jokes, the process of commodification of comics via live performances and mass media outlets, and the affective resonances that circulate within this self-described "community". I document the contributions of community members in developing and enforcing the criteria for what constitutes "comedic authority" in this context. I conclude that the transgressive dimension of this authority is often paired with the exercise of unmarked forms of social power. The fault lines of social power along which comics implicitly position themselves, and which are investigated here, include those of race, gender, sexuality, and mental health.

  • Nation-States, Capital Market Managers, and Sovereignty: An ethnographic case study in Malaysia

    Author:
    Laura Kaehler
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Jane Schneider
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is an ethnographic investigation of the restructuring of the Malaysian capital market in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98, showing how the calculative practices of financial experts intersect with the global financial regime, reformatting relations between subjects so as to create a forceful, indeed compelling scale of value. The ability to determine a forceful scale of value relates directly to how sovereignty, the ability to determine the state of exception, is held only by those networks with strong connections to “core states” which wield power as part of the regime–making “club” in global markets. I argue that an emergent “proto global state” plays an increasingly important role in structuring global financial markets. As developing states seek to engage this order, fund managers — key agents in developmental projects who are enmeshed in local and global racialized regimes — arbitrage between local capital regimes and global regimes and are able to mine value. In the case of Malaysia, their work reinforces and extends stratification in global markets. This is demonstrated by tracing the way that the success of the Malaysian state in promulgating growth has come through participation in the ongoing escalation of primitive accumulation and at the price of reinforcing an ongoing racial project of elites in the nation–state. Ethnographic investigation in Malaysia shows that the subjectivity and market making praxis of financial elites in this developing country mimic core country norms and expectations and, further, that the ability to present evidence of conspicuous cosmopolitanism in training, outlook and knowledge is a pre–requisite for success in fund management. The habitus of fund managers and the cycles of arbitraging opportunities engendered by elite networks in Malaysia support the conclusion that as financialization continues to reinforce difference and marginality, even while engaging networks across racial formations, racism will increase in importance among elites in emerging nation states.

  • "We are Refugees in Our Own Homeland": Land Dispossession and Resettlement Challenges in Post-Conflict Teso, Uganda

    Author:
    Matt Kandel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Donald Robotham
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is based off of fieldwork that I conducted in post-conflict Teso region in northeastern Uganda from 2012-2013. It focuses primarily on land dispossession and challenges to resettlement. Conflicts over land intensified in the early 1990s, coinciding with the early stages of resettlement in southern Teso after a period of regional civil war and large-scale cattle rustling. In contrast to the large-scale "land grabs" in Sub-Saharan African that have occurred since the 2007-08 global commodities crisis, land expropriations occur mainly on a small-scale in Teso. I argue that there are a number of drivers to land dispossession in the region, although the most structural impetus is fundamental transformations in the regional political economy. A central thrust of this work is that there is significant intra-regional differences with respect to patterns of displacement and resettlement. For instance, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), an Acholi-based insurgent group, infiltrated Amuria and Soroti districts in 2003, but did not seriously impact other districts. People from parishes in Teso that directly border the predominantly pastoralist region of Karamoja to the north have undergone a number of cycles of displacement/resettlement since the mid-1960s. While cattle raiders from Karamoja have devastated Teso for decades, there have been significant improvements in inter-regional piece within the last 5 years, and they have largely been due to the grassroots efforts of local civil society organizations. I critique the dynamics that underlie the long history of enmity between Teso and Karamoja regions, including the longstanding dispute over the correct inter-regional border. At the heart of this confounding problem--like most challenges facing Teso--is the issue of tenure rights to an increasingly fragmented supply of land.

  • Claiming Modernity through Aesthetics: A Comparative Look at Germany and Turkey

    Author:
    Banu Karaca
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Vincent Crapanzano
    Abstract:

    Claiming Modernity through Aesthetics: A Comparative Look at Germany and Turkey examines how modern nationhood is established and consolidated through the arts in two locations that are generally conceptualized as fundamentally different from each other. Based on over fourteen months of fieldwork this dissertation traces parallels and divergences in cultural policies, artistic practices and patronage systems. The study tries to move away from the notion of `lack' and belatedness in Turkish modernization by showing that in Germany similar preoccupations regarding the mutual expressiveness of art and modernity have existed. I argue that all historical specificities notwithstanding both the German and Turkish case exemplify struggles with the normativity of modern power, in which the interdependent projects of nationalism and modernity have impacted how the socio-political function of art is conceptualized. This approach allows for using art as a foil to discuss a variety of topics that range from the configuration of citizenship, national memory and censorship to the intertwinedness of economic dispossession and the composition of private and public art collections. At the center of this ethnographic interrogation are the paradoxes of modernity that manifest themselves in tensions between understandings of art as an universal human expression and a particularly national one; its role as a civilizing agent and its, at times, troubling uses in mass incitement; and between art as a deeply personal articulation, a common good - and - a commodity. I show that artworld actors in Berlin and Istanbul reconcile tensions arising from these contradictory understandings of art that comprise a variety of different commercial, private, public and political interests by referring to its purported civic impact. In this process sanctioned nationalized art histories and discourses of civic cultivation through the arts are frequently mobilized even by respondents who generally frame their (artistic) practices and understandings of art in opposition to these official discourses.

  • Claiming Modernity through Aesthetics: A Comparative Look at Germany and Turkey

    Author:
    Banu Karaca
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Vincent Crapanzano
    Abstract:

    Claiming Modernity through Aesthetics: A Comparative Look at Germany and Turkey examines how modern nationhood is established and consolidated through the arts in two locations that are generally conceptualized as fundamentally different from each other. Based on over fourteen months of fieldwork this dissertation traces parallels and divergences in cultural policies, artistic practices and patronage systems. The study tries to move away from the notion of `lack' and belatedness in Turkish modernization by showing that in Germany similar preoccupations regarding the mutual expressiveness of art and modernity have existed. I argue that all historical specificities notwithstanding both the German and Turkish case exemplify struggles with the normativity of modern power, in which the interdependent projects of nationalism and modernity have impacted how the socio-political function of art is conceptualized. This approach allows for using art as a foil to discuss a variety of topics that range from the configuration of citizenship, national memory and censorship to the intertwinedness of economic dispossession and the composition of private and public art collections. At the center of this ethnographic interrogation are the paradoxes of modernity that manifest themselves in tensions between understandings of art as an universal human expression and a particularly national one; its role as a civilizing agent and its, at times, troubling uses in mass incitement; and between art as a deeply personal articulation, a common good - and - a commodity. I show that artworld actors in Berlin and Istanbul reconcile tensions arising from these contradictory understandings of art that comprise a variety of different commercial, private, public and political interests by referring to its purported civic impact. In this process sanctioned nationalized art histories and discourses of civic cultivation through the arts are frequently mobilized even by respondents who generally frame their (artistic) practices and understandings of art in opposition to these official discourses.

  • Bilingual Motherhood: Language and Identity among Japanese Mothers in New York City

    Author:
    Masako Kato
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Miki Makihara
    Abstract:

    Based on ethnographic research on bilingual motherhood in New York City, this dissertation explores language and identity among Japanese mothers who traverse the linguistic borders between Japanese and English and the cultural borders between Japan and the US. This study asks how mothers inquire and transform ideologies of language and gender. It also asks how these experiences affect the ways in which they organize language socialization and identity in the bilingual context. The methodology of this study included participant observation, formal and informal interviews, and recording naturalistic interactions between mother and child. Through observing and recording mother-child interactions, I learned and identified language socialization practices among the mothers. With the interviews, I did not originally intend to probe the mothers' identity issues in particular, but rather aimed to learn about their experiences of bilingual motherhood. The interviews nevertheless became examinations of these mothers' identity construction processes and practices because through their bilingual motherhood experiences, mothers manifest alternative and multiple identities both locally and transnationally. This study demonstrates that Japanese mothers construct their bilingual motherhood, including language socialization, through their experiences with Japanese and English. That is, Japanese mothers are empowered by being assigned the important role of Japanese language transmitter in the inner sphere (family) while they are marginalized by being labeled as incompetent English speakers and deficient English teachers for their children in the outer sphere (school). The mapping, however, is more complicated. Japanese often diminishes their authoritative status in the inner context when the mother-child relationship is challenged by children who know English better than their mothers and deride them. Accordingly, mothers' language socialization offers a site of tension and compromise between them, their children, and their children's schools. This study reveals that mothers constantly negotiate the traditional roles of Japanese wife and mother and the new roles of language transmitter and migrant mother in this foreign environment. It concludes that these mothers invent an "in-between" sphere in which they make sense of their bilingual motherhood and emerge with viable identities.