Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

Filter Dissertations By:

 
 
  • Claiming the Right to the City: Towards the Production of Space from Below

    Author:
    Mehmet Kuymulu
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    David Harvey
    Abstract:

    CLAIMING THE RIGHT TO THE CITY: TOWARDS THE PRODUCTION OF SPACE FROM BELOW by Mehmet Barýþ Kuymulu Advisors: Professor David Harvey and Professor Neil Smith This dissertation examines the theoretical and political contradictions surrounding the notion of the right to the city. The right to the city concept has lately attracted a great deal of attention, both from academics who have long engaged with urban theory and politics, and from grassroots activists around the globe who have been fighting on the ground for an alternative just urbanism. In addition to urbanists and grassroots urban justice activists, the right to the city concept has also drawn considerable attention from the United Nations (UN) agencies such as UN-HABITAT and UNESCO, which have organized meetings and outlined policies to absorb the notion into their own political agendas. This wide-ranging interest has created a conceptual vortex that has pulled discordant political projects behind the banner of the right to the city. By reframing the notion of the right to the city to foreground its roots in Marxian labor theory of value, this dissertation offers a theoretical framework to analyze diverse and often contradictory struggles for realizing the right to the city. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in New York, Boston and Istanbul, the dissertation is organized around the three pillars of the labor theory of value, namely, use value, exchange value and value. It begins with an examination of the political struggles that are mobilized for accessing use values in the city. This is followed by an examination of the UN agencies' claim over the right to the city that is primarily for realizing exchange values in the city. Although this dissertation acknowledges the usefulness of the analyses of urban political struggles based on the contradiction between use value and exchange value, it concludes with the shortcomings of such analyses and argues for a politics of value, which aims to cast labor in the epicenter of struggles for the right to the city.

  • Raising Children the American Way: Court-Mandated Parenting Education in Alameda, California

    Author:
    Nicole Laborde
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Shirley Lindenbaum
    Abstract:

    Based on ethnographic research in Alameda County, California, this dissertation examines the parenting practices and knowledge that are taught in court-mandated parenting classes along with those of parents enrolled in these classes. In California, two of the primary reasons that parents would be mandated to take classes are because of involvement with Child and Family Services (CFS) or in a custody dispute that reaches the courts. I argue that the different forms of knowledge and the practices advanced in the classes, at times consistent with, at times in conflict with those of the parents, reflect the demands and social responsibility of our current political and economic setting in the United States. The demands of a global market-driven economy require citizens who are self-disciplined, prepared to be flexible for the job market, schooled in the ways of a consumer society, and ready to accept responsibility for their own health and well-being ((Katz 2004), (Rose 1999), (Petersen and Lupton 1996)). I also suggest that this ideology rests on the authority of scientific and psychological research that is far from conclusive; it is the authority, rather than the information, that informs the values behind parenting advice. Further, I argue that the prevalent parenting approach, which is time-intensive and expensive, works to reinforce structural inequalities. Parents are the focus of much attention as the means to reverse many social problems including poverty, crime, ill health, and illiteracy. If parents could raise children with the appropriate morals, ambitions, and abilities, the thinking goes, children could grow up to be responsible, healthy, and middle class. As Sociologist Val Gillies phrases it, this assumption results in "a stream of initiatives designed to regulate childrearing as part of an almost evangelical drive to equip working-class parents with the skills to raise middle-class children" (Gillies 2005, 838). I have tried to show in this dissertation how parenting education is integral to this overall drive. I base my writing on two years of ethnographic research on parenting education in Alameda County, California. I attended classes of three different parenting organizations and conducted in-depth interviews with class participants, teachers, and program directors. I also read hundreds of parenting magazines and books, and had countless conversations with other parents, looking for advice for raising my own three-year-old daughter.

  • Analysis of the Carl Lumholtz Collection of Casas Grandes Ceramic Artifacts at The American Museum of Natural History

    Author:
    M Patricia Lee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    William Parry
    Abstract:

    Abstract Analysis of the Carl Lumholtz Collection of Casas Grandes Ceramic Artifacts at the American Museum of Natural History by M. Patricia Lee Adviser: Professor William Parry The Carl Lumholtz Collection of Casas Grandes ceramic artifacts at the American Museum of Natural History, with its complete and exact provenience, is the most comprehensive and diverse collection of Casas Grandes ceramics available to researchers in a United States or Canadian museum. This collection was excavated during Lumholtz's expedition of 1890-1891 to northern Chihuahua in Mexico. None of the museum collections outside of Mexico provide the data specificity of the Lumholtz Collection. The artifacts analyzed in my dissertation were excavated in Cave Valley and from under the floors of ruined pueblos in the vicinity of San Diego, 10 miles south of Paquimé (Casas Grandes). While many of the collections of looted artifacts in museums have greatly enhanced our knowledge of the past, these collections may present a distorted picture of Casas Grandes ceramics since they consist of vessels chosen for their "aesthetic appeal to collectors" (Kelley, et al. 2011:214). Forgeries pose another threat to the efficacy of museum research. The Mesoamerican versus North American origins argument for the fluorescence of the Casas Grandes Medio Period (1200-1450 A.D.) has been hotly debated for decades. Many scholars hold that the key to answering this question lies within the unique ceramic assemblages, since the design elements carry many stylized representations that can be correlated with Mesoamerican as well as Southwestern culture zones. Yet, theories centered on the ceramic assemblages are often based solely upon design elements present in United States and Canadian museum collections that have meager documentation. This study seeks to remedy that void. Chapter 1 sets the stage for the Casas Grandes Culture Zone while Chapters 2 and 3 elucidate early work in the region. Chapter 4 and 5 cover theoretical issues and Chapters 6 and 7 contain a comprehensive analysis of the Lumholtz Collection Casas Grandes ceramics. Chapter 8 offers my conclusions and a view toward future research. Appendix I through Appendix III provide visual references. The Lumholtz Collection of Casas Grandes ceramics at the American Museum of Natural History creates a unique opportunity to study an assemblage that is well documented and legally acquired by a U.S. museum.

  • STRATIFIED REPRODUCTION AND DEFINITIONS OF CHILD NEGLECT: STATE PRACTICES AND PARENTS' RESPONSES

    Author:
    Tina Lee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Leith Mullings
    Abstract:

    This dissertation focuses on the day-to-day decision-making practices and definitions of child neglect used in the child welfare system and on parents' experiences with child welfare cases and their attempts to regain custody of children placed in foster care. It is guided by an overarching concern with how and to what extent state practices build on and recreate inequalities of race, class, and gender. It also seeks to add to our understanding of state efforts to shape the lives and behaviors of poor women of color in the contemporary United States and of state change under neoliberalism. My purpose is to examine how child welfare decisions are made, to understand on what basis they are made, and to see how these decisions are related to and reproduce larger inequalities. I understand reproduction as "political" (in the sense of being inextricably bound up with power and inequalities of power; see Ginsburg & Rapp 1991) and employ the term "stratified reproduction" to discuss the conditions under which some categories of women are valued and supported in bearing and raising children while others are not (Ginsburg & Rapp 1995). Everyday practices in child welfare empower or disempower women (and men) to carry out their caretaking work through the legal processes that grant custody of children to some and not to others based on notions of what the proper care of children entails and what kinds of individuals proper parents should be. Child welfare is thus a key arena for drawing lines between "fit" and "unfit" parenting and these often fall along lines of race, class, and gender. Consequently, I see the child welfare system as integral to the production and reproduction of stratified reproduction. Drawing on observations in family court and at support groups for parents, interviews with child welfare decision-makers, and interviews with and a survey of parents with children in foster care, I argue that the child welfare system both builds on and directly reproduces relations of stratified reproduction as well as race, class, and gender inequality.

  • The Causes of Cholera: Public Health in Post-Transition Vietnam

    Author:
    Martha Lincoln
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Victoria Sanford
    Abstract:

    This dissertation argues that market transition in Vietnam, while enabling rapid economic growth, has generated new vulnerability to a classic disease of poverty. Using a series of recent cholera outbreaks as a case study, it argues that the transition has sharpened the contradiction between the promises of development and modernization and experiences of inequity and poverty. Fieldwork was conducted between August 2009 and September 2010 in Hanoi, Vietnam among poor and near-poor urban households as well as foreign and Vietnamese public health professionals. Additional source materials included news media, weblogs, state accounts of the outbreaks, and the reports of international health agencies. Interpretive readings of these texts demonstrated how diverse actors ascribed social, moral, and political significance to infectious disease and health care in Vietnamese society, and traced how Vietnam's economic transition has reshaped moral imaginaries of risk and responsibility. Ethnographic interviews with everyday citizens and public health workers also revealed anxieties about the contagious circuits of capitalism and the unpredictable, potentially destructive consequences of profit-motivated practices of petty traders. Such explanations of disease outbreaks gave voice to Vietnam's shifting ideological valuations of social class during a period of economic upheaval, rapid economic stratification, and massive rural-to-urban migration. However, as I argue, these perspectives, and the Vietnamese state's response to the cholera outbreaks, neglected the more likely risk factors: lack of capacity in urban water management, sanitation, and public health. These episodes reflect the costs of market transition for public health, especially among the urban poor. While some of the historic institutions of Vietnam's socialist health care system continue to provide security for vulnerable populations, the significance of socioeconomic inequity and health disparities is increasing. By drawing attention to public health, sanitary conditions, and living standards in the national capital, the cholera outbreaks threatened to disclose economic transition's association with deteriorating living standards and the advent of new forms of risk and precariousness. As a result, cholera's political "sensitivity" for the Vietnamese state posed significant obstacles to research. This dissertation represents the first substantive and critical account of these episodes.

  • ARTICULATING NAGA NATIONALISM

    Author:
    Abraham Lotha
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Donald Robotham
    Abstract:

    Nationalist movements by nations without states or ethnonationalism continue to be part of the political landscape in many parts of the world. Internal colonialism, state imperialism, and economic exploitation are cited as some possible causes for ethnonationalism. Examples of economic growth and granting of greater autonomy have not resolved these conflicts. So what is it that engenders, motivates and sustains these ethnonationalist movements? By analyzing a case of ethnonationalism, Naga nationalism, this thesis makes a two-tiered argument: first, the ultimate aim of ethnonational movements is for a greater political power for self-determination either for autonomy within states or sovereignty. Secondly, what gives credibility and motivation to these movements are the ethnic cores with deep historical roots that predate modern constructionist forces. Throughout more than six decades of the Indo-Naga conflict, the Nagas have insisted that they are not Indians and that Naga territory was never a part of India. Based upon such `colonial free' history and ideology, Nagas see themselves as defending their independence, and not asking for independence from India. It isn't as if the Nagas woke up one day and decided to band together and fight for Naga independence. There has been a progression from the initial defense of independent village-states, to an articulation for a pan-Naga cause through the formation of the Naga Club in 1918 leading to the eventual declaration of Naga independence on August 14, 1947, a day before Indian independence, to its articulation as a peoples' movement today. Modern exogenous factors such as British colonialism, Indian state building measures including armed repression and discriminatory extra-judicial laws, modernization, economic differences, and global indigenism have influenced the development of Naga nationalism. But Naga nationalism is ultimately centered on and motivated by a functioning `navel' - an ethnic core consisting of elements such as kinship, history, origin, myths, race, polity, language, territory, symbols, and religion which provide the foundations and cultural resources for their identity, a strong psychological bond and consciousness of their oneness as a people that find expression in nationalism as a credible struggle to define and protect the `Naga way of life.'

  • Landscapes of Life and Death: Social Dimensions of a Perceived Landscape in Viking Age Iceland

    Author:
    Ruth Maher
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Gregory Johnson
    Abstract:

    The pre-Christian period in Iceland dates from the settlement in the latter half of the 9th century to about the year 1000 C.E. The burials from that time are found across Iceland, singly or in group cemeteries. Prior research on the burials has ranged from surveying, excavating and cataloging them, to comparative analyses of the grave designs and grave inclusions with respect to other contemporary areas of the Viking World. Separately, various types of skeletal analyses have been conducted to assess the sex, age and pathology of the individuals; and also a focus on the origins of the individuals is in progress through the use of strontium isotope analysis. However, little attention has been paid to accumulating the various data sets on the subject and interpreting them in an anthropological context in order to provide an image of the society who created the data in the first place. Such a study yields information regarding differences based on gender and age. Even less has been done with respect to understanding the role that the landscape and seascape played in burial placement and its relationship to cosmology. By reevaluating the grave inclusions, skeletal remains, artifact and animal inclusions, and considering the landscape in which they were originally placed, this study was able to recognize social positions based on gender and age within and between the burials, and also revealed the significance in the placement of the graves. The gender and age differences led to understanding the social dimensions in Iceland during this time; while placement shed light on the cosmology of the society. All of this underscored the fact that Iceland was indeed a `new land.'

  • Households, Landscapes, and Post-Collapse Continuity in Postclassic Jalieza, Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico

    Author:
    Elise Maragliano
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    William Parry
    Abstract:

    Through the lens of household and landscape archaeology, this dissertation examines an Early Postclassic archaeological site located in Jalieza in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. The analysis reviews data collected during an intensive archaeological field survey consisting of mapping and systematic surface collection. The site of Postclassic Jalieza is compared with other Postclassic sites in the Valley, as well as with the Early Classic and Late Classic settlements at Jalieza. The Postclassic component at Jalieza is a single time-period occupation restricted to the Early Postclassic, thus presenting a rare glimpse into this turbulent and little understood episode in the history of the Valley of Oaxaca. The central argument of this dissertation will focus on understanding the relationship between the elite and commoner elements of this settlement and how their use of space within the landscape represents an important ideological continuity with the past. The deliberate recreation of key elements of traditional Zapotec architecture, site organization, and religious practice at Postclassic Jalieza indicate a strong connection with earlier settlements and practices. My contention is that Postclassic Jalieza represents a conservative community intentionally preserving and perpetuating traditional beliefs and practices during a period of social and political upheaval throughout the Valley of Oaxaca.

  • Deconstructing Marginality: Exploring the Foundations of Dogtown Commons, Massachusetts

    Author:
    Elizabeth Martin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Diana Wall
    Abstract:

    This thesis deconstructs the documentary archive and built environment of the historical site called Dogtown in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The site consists of forty house foundation holes placed along four roads in the middle of Cape Ann's Dogtown forest. Originally settled by Europeans in the Colonial era as an English farming village, local history describes the community as transformed sometime after the American Revolution into a small "outsider community" consisting mainly of a population of poverty-stricken and aging, single English American women. These women are often labeled "witches" in the local folklore and are said to have co-habited with two African American individuals, only adding to their marginal status. This study's deconstruction of the historic narrative and how it has affected the cultural landscape begins to illuminate a constructed and interpreted history which makes the site appear to have been more "outside" of Gloucester than it once was. The nature of constructing histories may affect changes to the narrative on a larger scale as well. For example, it is found that a similar reinterpretation could be applied to three other nineteenth century outsider communities in the northeastern United States: the Lighthouse community from northwestern Connecticut, the Ramapo Mountain People from the northern New Jersey/New York State border region, and a group of people who once lived on Malaga Island off of the mid-coast of Maine. These sites are not all exactly alike but the persistent rumors of immoral and antisocial behavior bind them all together in a broader Colonial landscape. These sites have all been constructed in their narratives to appear as they are today, i.e., outside the larger society. It is argued that the nineteenth and early twentieth century constructions of such histories of those who were included in the bourgeoning capitalist mode of production created a need for stories of their opposite, i.e., populations of marginalized people excluded from this way of life.

  • The Politics of Transition: Time, History, and Justice in Postwar Lebanon

    Author:
    Shea McManus
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Talal Asad
    Abstract:

    In the context of postwar Lebanon, this dissertation investigates various modes by which local and global actors attempt to reckon with the past, despite the state's amnesty law and its efforts to `close the files' on the past. It problematizes a range of social, cultural, religious, and artistic initiatives that engage the continuing presence of the past in the present. These projects have generated a rich and variegated field of activity related to the civil war by drawing both on contested local memories and representations of past violence and on transnational techniques of truth-seeking, witnessing, memorialization, and archiving. Although diverse, they aim, among other things, to pursue truth for the missing, to confront and debate painful memories, to collect and evaluate testimonies from former fighters, and to critique the absence of an official memorial or museum on the war. Beyond that, my research also looks at the interventions of transitional justice in Lebanon. I show how international experts inject themselves into specific sites of local activity, and endeavor to cultivate distinctive sensibilities towards suffering, modes of political subjectivity, practices of speaking and remembering, and conceptions of guilt and responsibility to extend the dominion of international law, global democracy, humanitarianism, and human rights. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the sites of their interactions, I trace the conflicts, tensions, and ambiguities that emerge when international experts and local artists, activists, and victims groups meet to grapple with the past and imagine the future in sites of prior violence, and argue that what is involved in these encounters are different, and sometimes clashing, configurations of time.