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.

  • 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.

  • 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.