Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • " A New Way of Doing Politics": The Movement against CAFTA in Costa Rica

    Author:
    Jeremy Rayner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    David Harvey
    Abstract:

    In October of 2007, Costa Ricans voted in a referendum to ratify a Free Trade Agreement with the United States (DR-CAFTA, or CAFTA). The first referendum in their nation's history--and the first referendum ever held on a Free Trade Agreement--marked the culmination of a cycle of contention over liberalization that transformed practices and expectations of politics in a country often considered an exemplar of representative democracy. In this dissertation I provide an account of the opposition to CAFTA (the NO), based on two years of ethnographic research with the Patriotic Committees (Comites Patrioticos), the decentralized, grassroots network at the heart of the movement against the treaty. I emphasize the contested meanings of democracy invoked in the struggle between the grassroots NO campaign and the transnational elite coalition that promoted the treaty (the SI). I argue that the opposition to CAFTA in Costa Rica was a movement to defend the “social state” (Estado social) against a globalizing neoliberal property regime, while challenging existing forms of political representation in the name of a more authentic popular democracy. I show how the struggle over CAFTA was shaped by an ongoing process of contention over liberalization and representation in the context of Costa Rica's particular social democratic institutions and traditions. I argue that, as the struggle evolved, the SI and the NO appealed to different aspects of the country's “institutionality” (institucionalidad), raising some fundamental contradictions within and between liberalism and democracy. One outcome was a controversial and ambiguous popular consultation, an exercise in “direct democracy” that paradoxically highlighted the limits of an elite-dominated political order. Drawing on theory and scholarship of populism and direct democracy, I show how protagonists of the NO turned a diversity of interests into unity of purpose, enabling them to nearly win a markedly asymmetrical contest. I also explain how the Patriotic Committees worked with established social idioms to pioneer new forms of political participation as they challenged the limits of existing representative institutions. I argue that in doing say they articulated a conception of democracy and social state that makes a distinctive contribution to discussions of post-neoliberalism.

  • Avante, Avante Brazil: Piracy and the Public Sphere in 21st-Century Brazil

    Author:
    Yonatan Reinberg
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Marc Edelman
    Abstract:

    This work examines the practice of piracy in Brazilian urban, political and online worlds in the years 2010-2013. Through ethnography conducted principally in Rio de Janeiro and online, the work frames copying and piracy as an engagement with questions of political belonging and the construction of public spheres in the shadow of contemporary capitalism. The first chapter explores pirating and consuming pirated goods as a large part of extra-market relations in Brazil. Through pirating, vendors occupy city space and provide citizens of the city with vital media about city life. The second chapter exposes piracy as a global discourse about social values, linking transnational forces to local ones in a modernity predicated on ramping up policing of public spaces outside well-defined consumptive spheres. The third chapter unravels how different actors use the specters of piracy to discuss what makes up a Brazilian, which Brazilians - and curate - various aspects of "Brazilianness" through legal regimes. Chapter four studies a group of people who use local and international frames in combination to create a pirate commons, thinking this as a contemporary solution to a disjunctured set of legal and social norms they see as a suffocating ideology. The final chapter follows an exploration of nostalgia and ownership. Through music and technology, I suggest piracy allows different actors breathing room to speak about their surroundings, and their histories that is disallowed - or hypermanaged - by the state in other ways.

  • MUCH TOO MUCH SELFISHNESS: NEOLIBERALISM AND THE PRACTICE OF FREEDOM IN A JAMAICAN FARMTOWN

    Author:
    Edward Sammons
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Donald Robotham
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigates the outcome of a course of reforms that rose to dominance in the late twentieth century on the promise of producing the greatest benefits for the greatest number through the expansion of the global capitalist marketplace. Champions of this approach have promoted capitalist expansion as a new project of liberation. Meanwhile, recurrent seizures of the global economy have undermined the viability of these reforms and raised interest in charting substitute paths of freedom. Much Too Much Selfishness contributes to assessing the effects of neoliberal reforms, and to identifying alternative strategies for better living through globalization, by exploring aspects of the creative destruction wrought upon the population of Jamaica, where government and multinational agencies have pursued a consistent and decades-long policy trajectory following the logic of liberation through market expansion. Focusing on conceptions of ethical behavior as expressed by residents of one central-island farmtown, the dissertation charts a corresponding pattern in locally prevalent guidelines for reconciling individual and collective interests through the practice of freedom. Based on analysis of lessons gleaned from ethnographic and archival research conducted between 2006 and 2013, it places more recent expressions within a lineage ranging from the era of the town's initial settlement as an enterprise of plantation slavery, through the early phases of neoliberal reforms, and into the period concurrent with the research for this study. Following an extended historical discussion, the dissertation returns to the more recent past for a close consideration of the soundtrack of a festival residents hosted in the early twenty-first century to commemorate slavery abolition. It closes by applying recent scholarship about meaningful music to information gathered from interviews, participant observation, and field audio recordings taken during contemporary Emancipation Day festivities, in order to access further refined conclusions about the local impact of neoliberal reforms and the existing alternative approaches to global sociality.

  • Bethlehem Steelworkers: Reshaping the Industrial Working Class

    Author:
    Jill Schennum
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    David Harvey
    Abstract:

    This ethnographic dissertation examines the long-term experience of a cohort of steelworkers who entered the Bethlehem, PA steel mill at the height of Fordist gains. Their experience and expectation of a more egalitarian capitalism was soon challenged by post-Fordist processes of disinvestment and deindustrialization leading to the closing of the Bethlehem steel mill, the bankruptcy of the corporation, and the displacement and dispossession of steelworkers. This project examines the complex dynamics of this thirty-year shift from a Fordist to a post-Fordist order as it affects steelworkers. In so doing, it reveals Fordism as more fragile, provisional, and short-lived than is commonly understood. Fordist work has been represented as monotonous and alienating, portraying a quiescent working class as agreeing to deskilled, unfulfilling work in exchange for the rewards of middle class consumption. I challenge this, finding that meaningful work was shaped in the steel mill through crew work and a complex division of labor that built a moral economy in which principles of seniority, solidarity, and citizenship validated worker dignity, constructed collaborative social relations, and imbued work with powerful significance. The Fordist organizations, practices, and ideologies through which an industrial working class was built, however, included fragmentations and exclusions that undermined broader solidarities. Solidarity built around shared meanings of whiteness and masculinity excluded race/ethnic, regional, and gender groups, and inter-plant competition contributed to working-class fragmentation. These limitations undermined broader collective resistance to the restructurings, plant closings, and bankruptcies that we call deindustrialization. Processes of deindustrialization stripped steelworkers of power, assets, and prestige. Often represented as a teleological transition to post-Fordism, these processes are actually very uneven, contradictory, and confusing. Internal restructuring, new management regimes, transfers to other mills, and the bankruptcy process undermined solidarities and exacerbated schisms. Workers struggled to respond through individual strategies, but found it difficult to control broader processes, leading to self-blame and second-guessing. The robust, post-Fordist Bethlehem labor market offered diminished opportunities and a de-valuing of workers' skills, attitudes, and experience. While steelworkers are critical of this, the long assault on the U.S. working class destroyed many of the organizations and practices through which workers build strength.

  • The Influence of Resource Distribution on the Social Structure and Travel Patterns of Wild Hamadryas Baboons (Papio hamadryas) in Filoha, Awash National Park, Ethiopia

    Author:
    Amy Schreier
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Larissa Swedell
    Abstract:

    Hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas)Papio. The evolution of this social structure has often been attributed to the scarce and widely dispersed distribution of resources in hamadryas habitats, but such an association between food availability and social structure in hamadryas baboons has never been shown quantitatively. Additionally, several studies suggest that hamadryas baboons use their home range unevenly, corresponding to the location of important resources. In this dissertation I quantified the distribution and abundance of resources in the home range of a band of hamadryas baboons at the Filoha site in Awash National Park, Ethiopia, and systematically investigated the relationship between resource availability and changes in the baboons' multilevel social structure, home range use, and travel patterns. I surveyed the vegetation structure of the Filoha region, quantifying the density and distribution of resources in the home range of Band 1 of the Filoha hamadryas population. From March 2005 through February 2006, I conducted all-day follows of Band 1, during which I recorded the baboons' travel routes and quantified spatial cohesion at each level of hamadryas social structure. Unlike other known hamadryas sites, the Filoha region includes permanent hot springs and doum palm fruit, a preferred food resource, in proximity to a commonly used sleeping cliff. Band 1 had a large home range of at least 38.6 km2 and traveled an average of 8.3 km each day, despite both the high availability of doum palm fruit and the presence of a permanent water source near the Filoha cliff. The baboons at Filoha also still displayed the multilevel social structure typical of hamadryas even though resource distribution did not necessitate breaking up into smaller units to obtain sufficient food during most of the year. Band 1 at Filoha, however, exhibited greater plasticity with regard to its social system than its ranging patterns. The large band and clan sizes at Filoha compared with those at other hamadryas sites likely reflect the high abundance and availability of doum palm fruit.

  • The Upland Archaeology of West Rock Ridge in South-Central Connecticut: Small Stemmed Point Tradition Land-Use Intensification

    Author:
    Cosimo Sgarlata
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    William Parry
    Abstract:

    West Rock Ridge is an intrusive diabase sill that was injected between layers of brownstone bedrock, and subsequently exposed by erosion. Although its precipitous west facing cliff and more gently sloping but rocky and uneven eastern face, provide one of South-Central Connecticut's most rugged environments, the objective of this project was to see how this setting could contribute to understanding of Southern New England's prehistoric occupants. Following Barber's (1981) advice concerning "new ways" to look at "new data" the project focused on changing land-use patterns on the part of South-Central Connecticut's prehistoric inhabitants. It was the conclusion of this investigation that Small Stemmed Point Tradition habitation of West Rock Ridge occurred under conditions of high hunter-gatherer population density and territorial packing. These conditions favored thorough coverage of available territorial ranges, and inclusion of otherwise marginal resource patches, such as West Rock, into annual subsistence rounds. It can be further suggested that cultural adaptations which rely on decreased residential mobility and focal dependence on vegetative and/or aquatic resources adjacent to habitations would lead to decreased coverage of available territorial ranges. In fact, the continued reliance on high residential mobility, despite increasing numbers of hunter-gatherers during the Late Archaic Period, appears to have been a major factor pushing Small Stemmed Point Tradition populations to utilize resource patches that were apparently marginal at other times. The long temporal duration of the Small Stemmed Point Tradition argues against models of cultural complexity that postulate increasing population density as a "prime mover" for the adaptation of hierarchical societies. As Woodburn suggests (1998) the differences between residentially mobile "immediate return" hunter-gatherers, as opposed to more sedentary "delayed return" economies have important implications in terms of socio-political organization and structure. Immediate return economies are more often egalitarian in comparison to delayed return economies in which some forms of permanent authority and hierarchical differentiation are found. The persistence of very stable cultural patterns, such as the Small Stemmed Point Tradition may therefore have its explanation in terms of individual choice and agency, favoring autonomous social relations.

  • Salsa and Everyday Life: Music and Community

    Author:
    Robert Siebert
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Ida Susser
    Abstract:

    Salsa is a musical form integrated into the fabric of Puerto Rican communities throughout the NY-NJ areas and beyond. I examine the production of Salsa in Newark NJ by working-class Puerto Ricans and other Latinos and the ways in which it affects the lives of the performers and the community itself. I explicitly look at the local level of salsa, the unknown performers for whom salsa is a way of life. Music is a significant feature of Puerto Rican and Latin American communities and a marker of their ethnicity nearly as strong as the Spanish language. I examine the history of salsa and how it has been connected to the rise in stature of Puerto Ricans on the mainland United States. Using music as a window into the local community, I am able to examine a variety of issues: the usage of music as work; the networks developed by the musicians and how they relate to more general networks of bonding between the men who play salsa; how salsa integrates multiple age groups while restricting the interaction of different racial groups; how salsa and other musical activities can provide assistance in social mobility; and how gendered issues act out in the context of salsa including ways in which the men who perform salsa may be using it to redefine machismo in a positive manner. I explore the social interaction among musicians through their rehearsals and performance. The musicians act as cultural reproducers for their local communities and are able to perpetuate characteristics that define what it means to be Puerto Rican. However, the reproduction of culture at the local level is a collective act where the audience participates in determining what aspects of Latino culture are reinforced. The research ends with an examination of how Puerto Ricans and Salsa are represented in the larger music industry and the contradictions that occur between the local and (inter)national production and promotion of music.