Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

Filter Dissertations and Theses By:

 
 
  • The Prison Fix: Race, Work, and Economic Development in Elmira, New York

    Author:
    Andrea Morrell
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Leith Mullings
    Abstract:

    Based on more than a year of ethnographic and archival research in Elmira, New York and, to a lesser extent, New York City, this dissertation analyzes the social, economic, and political processes through which Elmira, New York was transformed by the construction of the Southport Correctional Facility in 1988 as a project of economic development during a period of massive expansion of the New York State prison system. It focuses on the unfolding of the project of mass incarceration and its impact on the lives of Elmira's citizens and workers, as well as the men incarcerated in Elmira's prisons and their families. Through ethnographic work with prison guards, formerly incarcerated men and women and their families, and a broad cross section of Elmirans, I trace the tensions of constructing and maintaining two prisons that incarcerate nearly 2,500 men. I show how the project of prison expansion into Elmira was an attempt to "solve" the social, economic, and political crises of deindustrialization and economic restructuring with a prison "fix." By using the prison town as a unit of analysis, I argue in this dissertation that the prison is part of a regime that extends beyond the prison's walls. I demonstrate that despite increasingly intricate fences and barriers aimed at maintaining the separation between the incarcerated men and "free" Elmira, ideas, money, and relationships circulate between increasingly connected places. An ethnographic focus on the prison town, as opposed to the prison as a distinct institution or an arbiter of ghetto relationships, allowed me to delineate the ways in which the prison leaks into the everyday life of the city of Elmira. Thus, the Elmira Correctional Facilities and the Southport Correctional Facilities are a part of a carceral state, equally political and economic, that makes use of Elmira as a place of confinement.

  • Religion, Mental Health and Disaster Response in a New Age of Anxiety

    Author:
    Joshua Moses
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Shirley Lindenbaum
    Abstract:

    This dissertation shows how the attacks of September 11th, 2001, Hurricane Katrina and subsequent disasters have created the context for novel forms of expert knowledge and professional organizations designed to address the increasing perceived risk associated with what I call the "New Age of Anxiety." The dissertation focuses on the formation of "disaster religious and spiritual care" as an emerging expertise. "Disaster religious and spiritual care" refers to a general framework comprised of loosely associated, sometimes antagonistic, individuals and organizations. Many come from the hospital chaplain world, some from pastoral counseling or from parishes, and others from military, police and firefighting backgrounds, where much of the research on critical incidents has been conducted. It also refers to a theoretical perspective, or therapeutic modality, on how to treat people suffering from disaster-caused distress. The attacks of September 11th galvanized created institutional, political, religious/spiritual and psychological conditions that have provided fertile ground for the expertise of "disaster religious and spiritual care" to expand and increasingly define itself as a necessary component of disaster response. The changes in government policy and new funding streams on federal, state, and local levels, as well as new partnerships among government, religious and community groups dealing with disaster preparedness and response, have provided a broader niche for disaster-related expertise. While religious organizations have long been a core component of disaster response efforts, there was no specific professional expertise focusing on disaster care. This study largely concentrates on individuals and institutions based in New York City. It argues that lives and conditions have been altered by disasters in significant ways, leading to new forms of expert knowledge and global changes in subjectivity and self understanding, particularly in regards to ideas of trauma and conceptions of religious suffering. The dissertation ends by showing the ways in which people experience religious, spiritual and mental health concepts--particularly trauma--as they navigate the "New Age of Anxiety." It illustrates how seemingly incommensurable ideas of religion and science are interwoven in the lives of "disaster religious and spiritual care" workers.

  • Modernizing Charity, Remaking Islamic Law

    Author:
    Nada Moumtaz`
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    David Harvey
    Abstract:

    Drawing on archival and ethnographic research in Lebanon and Turkey, this dissertation investigates changes in the conception and practice of Islamic charitable endowments - called waqfs - in Beirut since1826. In French Mandate Lebanon (1920-1943), a new question about charity emerged: how was one to distinguish when a charitable endowment was a truly religious act? I first trace how this question became imaginable starting in the nineteenth century Ottoman Empire, notably through the rise of the modern capitalist state, its monopoly on the production and administration of law, and the creation and separation of the spheres of religion and economy. I then argue that the selection of religious endowments hinged on new conceptions of the state and general benefit and upon a conception of charity as a practice confined to the public sphere. The answer to this question therefore subjected charitable endowments and their founders to new understandings of charity, property, and intent and redefined the very practice of charitable giving in the Islamic tradition afterwards and up to this day.

  • Fighting the Wall: Understanding the Impact of Immigration and Border Security on Local Borderland Identity in Brownsville, TX

    Author:
    Laura Neck
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Kirk Dombrowski
    Abstract:

    As part of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 approximately 850 miles of the roughly 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexico border was slotted for the construction of a border wall. Between 125 - 150 miles was scheduled to be completed in Texas by December 31, 2008. This dissertation explores how the U.S federal government's actions had direct and almost immediate consequences on its relationship with local borderland residents. Borderland residents are uniquely positioned both geographically and culturally within the nation-states they inhabit. The people who reside in the borderlands have a fundamentally different relationship with the state, not only because they live at the edges, but because they live in a space filled with obvious and physical manifestations of state power. The power of a nation-state is never more evident than at its borders, where it must necessarily assert and defend its territorial sovereignty through obvious control of the local, but more importantly for the state's objectives, national space. The construction of the border wall intensified this difference, increasing stresses on a population where issues of citizenship and racial and ethnic identity are already heightened, and shifting local focus away from citizenship as a primary identity marker and towards race and ethnicity instead, in many ways achieving the opposite of the federal government's stated intensions. The violence of seizing property and erecting a border wall resulted in the erosion of local borderlanders' sense of belonging as Americans while heightening their identity as culturally and ethnically Mexican, a fundamental shift from previous conditions in which local populations were more likely to stress their identity as U.S. citizens in direct, and favorable, opposition to Mexicans in Mexico and immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants, in the United States. Using a multi-method approach including Respondent-Driven Sampling, interviews, and participant observation, this study follows the specific story of the border wall's construction in south Texas in order to trace out the exact ways, and in some cases, the specific moments, in which the state's actions to strengthen its claims over local spaces and citizens actually resulted in weakening those citizens self-consciously identified and internalized connections to the U.S. state.

  • Landscaping Discontent: Space, Class, and Social Movements in Immigrant Paris

    Author:
    Andrew Newman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Ida Susser
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the importance of environmental politics, cultural belonging, and public space for a multiethnic coalition of residents who demanded land for a park in one of Paris' low-income, predominately West African and Maghrebi neighborhoods. The dissertation consists of an ethnographic case study of activism related to the new park and the politics of urban space with the goal of contributing to anthropological scholarship on urban environmentalism, public space, and struggles for national belonging among France's post-colonial minorities. It is based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork consisting of interviews and participant-observation with activists, policy-makers, and urban planners. It makes three principal scholarly interventions in the literature on cultural belonging in contemporary Europe, environmentalism in the city, and the political significance of public space, respectively. First, the study suggests that urban politics oriented around space and place allow residents of Maghrebi and West African descent to legitimately assert their cultural belonging in the nation. These "place-making" politics are significant because the majority of the scholarship highlights the de-legitimization of multiculturalism in France and overlooks the spatial dimensions of cultural politics. Second, the dissertation critiques the divergence between the environmentalism(s) of residents and the "sustainable urbanism" of planners. Sustainable urbanism - an emerging global orthodoxy in urban planning - constructs the environment and environmental problems according to a limited, technical purview. It often clashes with the political projects of activists, who adopt an environmental approach in the broadest sense, incorporating a range of social, urban, and political demands. Third, the dissertation suggests ethnographers should take into account the "political life" of small urban spaces and theorize public space as not simply a setting for public behavior, but as an often incomplete social and political project, which residents (and planners) seek to "finish" for their own ends as part of broader political conflicts in society.

  • From Muslim Citizen to Christian Minority: Tolerance, Secularism and Armenian Return Conversions in Turkey

    Author:
    Ceren Ozgul
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Talal Asad
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the manner in which Turkish secularism has come to delimit, define, and calibrate minority religious practices as well as citizenship policies by tracing different categories of the secular and the religious in Turkey. It is an ethnographic study of conversion from Islam to (Armenian) Christianity, among the converted Armenian community in Istanbul. Since early 1990s, hundreds of citizens claiming Armenian descent have submitted petitions to Turkey's secular legal authorities to change their existing name and religion in the public records. They trace their ancestry to Christian Ottoman Armenians who converted to Islam during the genocide of 1915. Given that the Turkish state refuses to recognize the genocide, the return conversion of Islamized Armenians points to the violence that is still largely unmentionable. This project is a case study of the nature of secular tolerance, and the notions through which it is discussed in Turkey: justice, legal reform, and genocide recognition. It is also an ethnographic study of the descendents of the forcibly Islamized Armenians and their return conversions through an examination of accompanying court cases and conversion procedures, participant observation in several Armenian churches, interviews with converts and their lawyers, court officials and Armenian clergy of different ranks. I explore in detail the process of claiming Armenianness. These return conversions provide a unique perspective for understanding the crisis of citizenship in the heart of Turkish secularism; simultaneously they illustrate the recent shifts in the identities of the citizens under the government of Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi or AKP (Justice and Development Party) since the early 2000s.

  • The development and function of the nasopharynx and its role in the evolution of primate respiratory abilities

    Author:
    Anthony Pagano
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Jeffrey Laitman
    Abstract:

    The nasopharynx is a centrally located region of the upper respiratory tract (URT) integral to several physiological functions. However, few have focused on this area within the context of human evolution. This study investigated osseous morphology, soft tissue histology, development, and evolutionary change of the nasopharynx. Multimodal analyses were performed: Analysis 1: This study tested hypotheses on the morphological relationships of the osseous nasopharyngeal boundaries with the splanchnocranium and basicranium among dry crania representing humans and non-human primates using 3D geometric morphometrics (3D-GM). Results showed that humans, the most orthognathic group, exhibited the widest nasopharynges. Over human development, the nasopharynx grows vertically taller and anteroposteriorly shorter while the path of the cartilaginous Eustachian tube (CET) grows longer and more vertically oriented. Timing of these growth changes coincide with changes in frequency of otitis media. Analysis 2: The nasopharynx was hypothesized to warm and humidify air only via its bony, non-contractile surfaces. Air conditioning capacity was assessed by presence of submucosal blood vessels, mucous cells, and serous cells on histological slides of nasopharyngeal surfaces. Results indicated that all of these microstructures were present on all nasopharyngeal surfaces, rather than being restricted to non-conctractile bony surfaces. Analysis 3: Ambient climate was hypothesized to influence URT growth. Two groups of adult male Macaca mulatta raised in Oregon (cold climate) and California (warm climate) outdoor colonies were used. CT imaging and 3D-GM were performed. Results revealed no shape differences but the Oregon individuals exhibited larger airway size and smaller body mass than the California individuals. Thus being raised in cold climates appears related to development of larger URT proportions relative to body size. Analysis 4: Nasopharyngeal morphology of fossil hominins, including Neanderthals and mid-Pleistocene Homo (MPH) from Europe and Africa, were reconstructed using 3D coordinate data and analyzed via 3D-GM. Neanderthals exhibited greater CET length than MPH and modern humans while the horizontal CET orientation of Neanderthals resembled the human infant condition. Results strongly suggest that Neanderthals possessed CET morphology and physiology distinct from modern humans, likely impacting susceptibility to middle ear disease and supporting species-level distinction.

  • A GIS Image Analysis Approach to Documenting Oldowan Hominin Carcass Acquisition: Evidence from Kanjera South, FLK Zinj, and Neotaphonomic Models of Carnivore Bone Destruction

    Author:
    Jennifer Parkinson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Thomas Plummer
    Abstract:

    This dissertation presents taphonomic analyses of human- and carnivore-modified bone assemblages in order to elucidate the timing of hominin access to carcass resources in the African Early Pleistocene. One of the defining adaptations of the genus Homo is the routine incorporation of animal tissue into the diet with the aid of tools. As a nutritionally dense food source, the addition of meat to the diet is often associated with important changes in the morphology and behavior of early hominins. Yet the ecological and behavioral implications of meat consumption for hominins are not well understood. This study tests competing hypotheses of hominin carcass acquisition and hominin-carnivore competition through a comparative study of carnivore- and hominin-induced modifications in the zooarchaeological assemblages from Kanjera South, Kenya (ca. 2 Ma) and FLK I Level 22 (FLK Zinj), Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania (ca. 1.84 Ma). Patterns of bone preservation and the distribution of bone surface modifications from these two sites are analyzed within a comparative framework of new and existing taphonomic models. The new taphonomic models presented here include the largest modern bone assemblages documenting large felid and canid bone damage to date. A GIS image analysis method is used to analyze patterns of bone damage in experimental and archaeological assemblages. The GIS method originally described by Marean et al. (2001) is expanded here to incorporate ArcGIS Spatial Analyst tools, and this method is applied for the first time to analyze patterns of hominin and carnivore damage. Results of these analyses suggest hominins at both Kanjera South and FLK Zinj had early access to carcasses. At both sites, small and medium bovid carcasses may have been obtained through hunting, while remains of larger carcasses may have been obtained through active scavenging. Despite the evidence for early carcass access at both sites, overall frequencies of both hominin and carnivore modifications are lower at Kanjera South compared to FLK Zinj, suggesting differing competitive regimes at the two sites and potentially signaling differing behavioral strategies.

  • Ordinary Hardworking Folks: Economic Restructuring and the Making of Populist Identities in a Maine Small Town

    Author:
    Claudine Pied
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Leith Mullings
    Abstract:

    The economic recession and the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 unleashed right-wing movements characterized by populist claims that political leaders are neglecting the interests of American "ordinary folks." Though recent developments have spurred this reaction, even before the economic recession, populist ideas and politics influenced the people and communities struggling to adjust to the insecurities of the new economy. Based on research conducted in 2006 and 2007, this dissertation explores the relationship between conservative populism and economic decline through the story of a predominantly white former manufacturing town in central Maine. Though there was not an organized populist movement in central Maine when I was conducting research, appeals to "the people" for limited government influenced political battles over community development and town budgets. Well-intentioned community revitalization leaders deepened the divide between themselves and "ordinary townspeople" as they worked to develop a competitive post-industrial town with a thriving downtown, bustling farmers market, and expanding population of artists and "professionals." Several sets of ideologies informed these politics; namely, individualism, valuing hard work and struggle, whiteness, and the idea of the small town as a place safe from poverty. But this dissertation counters perceptions of individualism and hard work as prefigured American or small town cultural ideals. First, these ideas are contested. Just as workers attributed value to working hard, struggling, and persisting through difficult times, they also blamed their economic troubles on structural economic change, their employers' low wages, and greedy corporations. Second, decades of neoliberal politics and the experience of surviving on low wages influenced individualism and class consciousness. Alongside increasing economic insecurity, for example, local programs taught "soft skills" and state and national campaigns demonized welfare recipients and praised the hardworking Mainer. Ultimately, reacting to economic decline as "ordinary hard working folks" weakened the role of class as a framework to explain life in central Maine under advanced capitalism.

  • HIV/AIDS, LOCAL POLITICS, AND THE LIMITS OF TRANSNATIONAL GOVERNANCE IN SOUTH AFRICA

    Author:
    Theodore Powers
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Donald Robotham
    Abstract:

    This dissertation analyzes the social and political contestation that surrounded the implementation of a new national HIV/AIDS policy in South Africa. I contend that that the African National Congress developed new institutional forms and cultivated alliances with non-governmental organizations to limit the influence of organizations and international donor funding through the implementation of the new AIDS policy. At the national level, my research on the National AIDS Council found that intransigence on the part of government officials undermined the implementation of the national policy. In the Western Cape province, I discovered that a consultative process for the new policy was deeply influenced by the transfer of the Global Fund grant from the provincial health department to a single non-governmental organization. In the townships located outside of Cape Town, I found that local branches of ruling party developed alliances with local non-governmental organizations to disseminate alternative AIDS treatment. However this association between the African National Congress and non-governmental organizations focused particularly on initiatives and organizations that were supported by international funding. As such, I argue that the politics of the South African AIDS epidemic were partly oriented around the influence of transnational political and economic forces. The conclusions I reach in my dissertation offer a critical perspective on the ways that contemporary theories of globalization and transnational governance characterize the capacity of states to maintain political autonomy. Here I argue against those who see a growth in non-governmental organizations or global interconnectedness as marking a retraction of the state. This trend has been particularly emphasized in developing countries, where the privatization of social services has been viewed as an essential ingredient in macroeconomic stabilization. While the capacities of the South African state have been diminished due to privatization, the ruling party has expanded its influence through alliances with non-governmental organizations and by strategic control over institutions that can be used to limit transnational political influence. Thus, rather than a weakening of state power, in South Africa the influence of neoliberal globalization has precipitated a transformation of the modes through which political power is achieved and/or maintained by the African National Congress.