Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Evolution of the Face in mid Pleistocene Homo - 3D Surface Analysis of Ontogeny, Allometry and Evolution

    Author:
    Sarah Freidline
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Eric Delson
    Abstract:

    This dissertation seeks to provide greater insight into the phylogenetic relationships among African and Eurasian Middle Pleistocene humans by placing their facial morphology in a broad evolutionary and developmental context. More specifically, the research goals are to gain a clearer understanding of the developmental variation of facial features and their covariation with size and to identify temporal trends in facial morphology that could potentially clarify the polarity (i.e., primitive or derived) of facial features during Pleistocene human evolution. To do so, I apply a recently developed method, semilandmark geometric morphometrics, to quantify the developmental and adult variability of facial features from childhood to adulthood in archaic and modern humans. Additionally, this dissertation evaluates the morphology and phylogenetic relationships of specific Middle to Late Pleistocene fossils that are often not included in morphometric analyses because of their fragmentary condition. These fossils include the early Middle Pleistocene fossil ATD6-69 from Atapuerca, Spain, the mid-Middle Pleistocene fossil Zuttiyeh from Israel, and the Late Pleistocene fossil Saint-Césaire from Southwestern France. Surface and computed tomography scans of modern and Pleistocene fossil humans were acquired and landmarks and semilandmarks were digitized on three-dimensional models created from the scans. Procrustes shape coordinates in shape-space and form-space (i.e., shape and size) were analyzed. The general results of this dissertation are that some population and species-specific features are already established at the time of birth and that postnatal facial growth further contributes to shape differences among adults. Additionally, this research shows that allometric scaling played an important role in the facial differences between Middle Pleistocene humans and Neanderthals, while modern human facial morphology is the derived condition. The distinctly modern human pattern of facial morphology is already present in Jebel Irhoud 1, dated to around 170 ka. ATD6-69 expresses a mosaic pattern of facial morphology, and several features are certainly modern human-like (e.g., infraorbital depression). Zuttiyeh exhibits a generalized morphology possibly indicative of the population that gave rise to modern humans and Neanderthals. Lastly, the results of the Saint-Césaire study do not provide morphological evidence of admixture between Neandethals and modern humans in this particular specimen.

  • When Women Migrate: Children and Caring Labor in Puebla, Mexico

    Author:
    Denise Geraci
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Ida Susser
    Abstract:

    This investigation concerns children and caregivers in Santa Ursula, a town in Puebla, Mexico from which many women have migrated to the United States in recent years. The expansion of female migration since the 1980s and children who remain behind in women's poorer nations of origin, where households, communities and governments assume their care, are salient features of global economic restructuring (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001). This study analyzes how children's circumstances change when mothers migrate, and how family, community and state representatives understand and deal with these changes. Social reproduction in a community like Santa Ursula supports not only a source of cheap immigrant labor in the global economy, but also helps produce and reproduce transnational social hierarchies among individuals, households, communities and nations. Gendered, aged and intergenerational relations and obligations are central to care arrangements in Santa Ursula. Social reproduction is primarily women's responsibility. Although men migrate in greater numbers, female migration most greatly affects care arrangements. Expectations and possibilities for childhood, a gendered and aged household division of labor, early marriage and childbearing, residence rules and in-law relations shape how family members understand and distribute carework when mothers migrate. Most often grandmothers are designated caregivers for children. However, eldest, unmarried, adolescent daughters usually shoulder the burden of reproductive labor. Girls' reproductive responsibilities sometimes supplant educational and social activities, which is more common in poorer nations' migrant-sending communities, than in wealthier receiving nations. Female migration also affects old-age care. Providing companionship and help, grandchildren-charges are often critical to grandparents' well-being as kin networks shrink. Sometimes children cannot adequately or safely carry out domestic tasks. Nevertheless, children are usually well cared for, often with help from extended family. Rarely, children end up abandoned, in which case the state intervenes to reintegrate the family. Despite neoliberal restructuring, the Mexican state has expanded social spending since the mid-1990s and supports Santa Ursulan families through several programs and institutions. Given Mexico's slow economic and job growth, increased social spending inadvertently contributes to a healthier and better educated transnational workforce, including young adults who were raised by caregivers.

  • Our Day Has Finally Come: Domestic Worker Organizing in New York City

    Author:
    Harmony Goldberg
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Leith Mulllings
    Abstract:

    This dissertation tells the story of Domestic Workers United (DWU), an organization of Latina and Caribbean nannies, housecleaners and elder care providers based in New York City. I trace DWU's efforts from its campaign to win basic employment protections for domestic workers in New York State through its efforts to enforce those new rights and to raise working standards above the minimum. The driving motivation behind this work is the search for new paradigms for worker organizing that respond to the political and economic challenges of our times. I argue that domestic workers and other low-wage workers of color are the paradigmatic workers of the 21st century. The dynamics of the domestic work industry are an extreme expression of broader trends towards decentralization, informalization, low-wage work and commodified reproductive labor. DWU is part of a national movement of domestic workers' organizations that are developing new organizing models that can help workers in other industries navigate these trends. Domestic Workers United's work highlights the constraining and stratified models of economic citizenship that shaped labor politics in the last century, suggesting a more expansive, integrative and dynamic approach to worker organizing. Their work provides an example of an "intersectional" approach in which the incorporation of work to address race and gender oppression expands the terrain of "class struggle," rather than narrowing it. DWU's model also points towards the need to re-imagine economic citizenship and to conceptualize a new social contract. Their work indicates that, in order to respond to the dynamics of our times, we need to radically expand the realm of state protections, and it also suggests that we need to transform the framework of collective bargaining in the United States in order to enable effective negotiations between workers and employers. DWU's implicit vision for a new social contract also offers a space for contestation over the social organization of reproductive labor. Finally, DWU's demonstrates the need for more complex and dynamic approaches to understanding class relations and workers' struggles that works through the racialized and classed differences between working people rather than focusing only on their shared experiences.

  • Paleobiology of Protopithecus brasiliensis, a Plus-Size Pleistocene Platyrrhine from Brazil

    Author:
    Lauren Halenar
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Alfred Rosenberger
    Abstract:

    This dissertation tested several hypotheses concerning the paleobiology of the extinct platyrrhine Protopithecus brasiliensis in order to fill in many of the gaps in our knowledge of this fossil and the evolutionary history of its ateline relatives. Both cranial and postcranial morphology were examined using three-dimensional geometric morphometric (3DGM) techniques to investigate the body size, basicranial shape, and locomotor repertoire of the fossil. Regression equations based on platyrrhine postcranial dimensions support the hypothesis that Protopithecus belonged to a size class of platyrrhines that no longer survives, yielding an average estimate of 23 kg. This large body mass led to a previous suggestion that Protopithecus would have traveled on the ground, but detailed observations of the skeleton found no adaptations to terrestriality. Instead, the original hypothesis of a suspensory mode of locomotion was supported, particularly based on analyses of the elbow and phalanges. The femur and pelvis exhibit robust muscle markings, suggesting that Protopithecus, like Alouatta, also used hindlimb suspension and climbing. A phylogenetic link between Protopithecus and Alouatta was originally proposed based on suggested synapomorphies of the cranial base and mandible, traditionally related to opening subbasal space for the howler's uniquely enlarged hyoid. These features were examined in more detail to test the hypothesis that Protopithecus also had an enlarged hyoid. Based on the landmark dataset analysed here, the Protopithecus cranial base and mandible were more similar to the generalized, potentially primitive, condition seen in Lagothrix. The occipital region, however, was similar to Alouatta in shape and orientation, a potential phylogenetic link but a neutral feature with respect to the question of hyoid enlargement. The large body size of Protopithecus needs to be considered here as well, since it is possible that at 23 kg the fossil had sufficient space in the throat to accommodate a relatively large hyoid without extreme cranial base modifications comparable to those of the much smaller Alouatta. Protopithecus demonstrates derived alouattin, primitive ateline, and autapomorphic traits. Based on the fossil hip and thigh morphology, as well as the modified occipital region and small brain size, a provisional phylogenetic position as a basal alouattin is supported.

  • FAUNAL ANALYSIS OF THE EARLY MODERN BISHOP'S FARM AT SKÁLHOLT, ARNESSYSLA ICELAND

    Author:
    George Hambrecht
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Thomas McGovern
    Abstract:

    This dissertation presents the analysis of faunal material recovered from middens outside the main complex of the Bishop of Southern Iceland´s Cathedral farm at Skálholt, Arnessysla, Iceland. Issues of diet, deposition patterns, as well as participation in larger trade and intellectual networks addressed. All of these issues are examined in order to investigate larger issues centered around the early modern Atlantic world. The Skálholt material is also compared with the larger body of existing early modern Icelandic archaeofaunal data in order to investigate issues of adaptation and resilience in the face of harsh climatic as well as social and economic conditions.

  • Silk Roads and Wool Routes: The Social Geography of Tibetan Trade

    Author:
    Christina Harris
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Neil Smith
    Abstract:

    Based on fieldwork in Lhasa, Tibet, Kalimpong, India, and Kathmandu, Nepal, this dissertation examines the past sixty years of social and economic changes along a trade route that cuts across China, India, and Nepal. Centered on the narratives of two generations of traders who have exchanged goods such as sheep wool (and now, household appliances) across Himalayan borders, the project investigates how infrastructural and political transformations on global and regional levels might be experienced through smaller scale, "everyday" sites of trading activity. By exploring the intersections between economic anthropology, human geography, and material culture, I address a fundamental question: how might we make connections between aspects of seemingly mundane daily life and the more abstract level of global change? Taking an approach that explores how traders "make places," this project examines the creation of geographies of trade that work against state notions of what the trade route should look like. These tensions between the apparent fixity of national boundaries and the mobility of local individuals around such restrictions are, I argue, precisely how routes and histories of trade are produced. Several recent state-led infrastructural development projects - such as the reopening of the Nathu-la mountain pass between Sikkim and Tibet and the completion of the Beijing-Lhasa railroad in 2006 - have been driven by the need to open up new markets for surplus commodities in the name of "free" trade and bilateral cooperation. In an area of Asia that has long been characterized by geographical representations highlighting its supposed marginality and remoteness, these state-led searches for new openings for capital have led to the creation of what I call "geographical blindspots," the erasure or obfuscation of certain places in tandem with the highlighting of other, more profitable places for a variety of hegemonic political and economic goals. This dissertation examines how competing groups are attempting to make their trading places more coherent in the face of such powerful economic shifts, arguing for the need to obtain a more nuanced picture of the tensions and overlaps between large-scale economic shifts and smaller-scale practices in the region.

  • WORLD SYSTEMS AND HUMAN ECODYNAMICS IN MEDIEVAL EYJAFJÖRÐUR, NORTH ICELAND: GÁSIR AND ITS HINTERLANDS

    Author:
    Ramona Harrison
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Sophia Perdikaris
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the potential connections between the Eyjafjörður region and the centrally located Gásir, home to a medieval trading site and a large church structure. Historical sources document the presence of Icelanders at Gásir and an interpretation of those sources suggests interactions between a seasonal trading community at the trading site made up of Icelanders and non-Icelandic (mainly Norwegian) merchants and sailors in the 13th-14th centuries. Utilizing data gathered from archaeological and environmental analyses this doctoral research project examines the inter-relationship of the medieval seasonal trading center at Gásir and the surrounding Icelandic countryside. It will contrast a potential Minimalist Scenario (small and relatively un-influential Gásir with little or no actual hinterland effect) with a Maximalist Scenario (a large and powerful Gásir with an impact comparable to a small medieval town) and an Intermediate Scenario (with a real hinterland effect but one different from the post-medieval impacts). The doctoral thesis presents evidence for settlement and economy in the Eyjafjörður-Hörgárdalur valley systems from Viking Age to Early Modern periods, with a focus upon the 13th-14th century. It is the result of a five year program of site survey and selective excavations, partially funded by an NSF doctoral improvement grant (OPP ARC 0809033, PI: Harrison). This dissertation makes use of a multi-site, landscape based approach aimed at better understanding the complex interactions of local and regional climate, Icelandic economic and social changes between Viking Age and high Middle Ages in the region, and the potential connections between local sites and economic processes to the wider North Atlantic economy of the 13th-14th c. "proto-world system". The author´s specialty in Zooarchaeology enables utilization of excellent proxy data to provide insight into the issues discussed here. It further helps address broad questions of North Atlantic pathway divergence and the role of cross-regional, inter-scale connection in a context of rapid environmental and social change with reference to one particularly well researched portion of northern Iceland.

  • Breach of Trust: Customary/Commercial Documents and Practices of Private Law in an Egyptian Port

    Author:
    Christine Hegel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Talal Asad
    Abstract:

    This dissertation is an ethnography of private law in contemporary Port Said, Egypt. Based on extensive fieldwork in 2005 and 2007, it considers how Port Saidians come to possess economic and social entitlements vis-à-vis one another and how concomitant obligations get construed and actualized. As an analysis of quotidian practices of private law and surety, this dissertation is intended to contribute to broader scholarly debates about legal subjectivity and legal consciousness, and to reconsider the intersections between law, custom and morality. The analysis of contemporary transactional and surety practices is rooted in a discussion of both Egyptian legal reform and the history and economic context of the research locale, Port Said. Legal reform in the 19th and 20th century in Egypt radically altered the scope of law and carved out a separate space for moral personhood in the private sphere. This shift to a secular modern law, in conjunction with processes of urbanization and the penetration of European capital in Egypt, can be seen as productive of new strategies by which the tenuousness of private law agreements could be mediated. In order to better understand practices of private law as both reflective and constitutive of moral and legal personhood, this dissertation concentrates on innovative uses of customary/commercial documents. These documentary technologies, including honesty receipts, checks, and contracts, are ubiquitous in transactions and dispute resolution processes. Port Saidians deploy them to radically enhance guarantees, and to fictionalize and obscure the true subject of a dispute or agreement. This allows them to make determinations about how the law shall adjudicate their problems, to limit law's intervention, and to reinsert moral normative values into exchanges. In order to make such processes visible I analyze three important nodes through which documents and cases travel: the police, the courts, and lawyers. I argue that attention to both moments of customary/commercial document production and the circulation of these documents between people and institutions is critical. These moments of production and circulations are the processes by which documents not only determine rights and make obligations effective but also forge and redefine relationality and moral personhood.

  • "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.