Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.