Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Palestine is Throwing a Party and the Whole World is Invited: Private Development and State Building in the Contemporary West Bank

    Author:
    Kareem Rabie
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Neil Smith
    Abstract:

    This dissertation argues that the present push towards privatization and state building in the West Bank, while enabling new forms of profit and accumulation in parts of the landscape, is generating new forms of political instability, stability, and political economic relationships between Palestinians, as well as between the West Bank and Israel. Organized around an ethnographic account of the process to create Rawabi, a $1 billion privately funded new city for 40,000 Palestinians, it argues that new political, economic, and social forms are emerging in relation to new types of investment, debt, and accumulation in new types of physical spaces. The new town is the flagship initiative of recent state building and reform projects for the West Bank. It will comprise a government municipality under developers' authority, a political development that could drastically alter the built environment, the geographies of political administration, land ownership structure, and daily life for West Bank Palestinians far beyond it. This dissertation is based on field research conducted between September 2009 and December 2010, and on shorter trips in 2007, 2008, and 2013, among real estate developers, representatives of finance capital, government bureaucrats, ordinary Palestinians, and Palestinian and Israeli supporters and opponents of the project. Interview data and readings of documents from various initiatives and pro-privatization NGOs point towards the different directions that Palestine is moving, and the alternate excitement or anxiety that different people in different places feel about images of the future of Palestine. The day after the occupation is constantly invoked, but different Palestinians are unequally incorporated into it. A focus on the creation of housing and land markets, and the ways that people are integrated into those markets, draws attention to some of the issues that are elided in many local-scale critiques of privatization in Palestine. State building is a Palestinian elite project to manage the dynamics of occupation and to create a functioning state-scale economy with enough stability to protect and encourage ongoing investment and accumulation. Despite the unlikelihood of a clear, territorial, Palestinian state in the West Bank emerging in the near-term, the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian capitalists are not simply waiting for the day after, they are producing it. This dissertation represents the first substantive and critical account of the state being produced through privatization in the West Bank.

  • " 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.

  • Law Without Recognition: The Lack of Judicial Discretion to Consider Individual Lives and Legal Equities in United States Immigration Law.

    Author:
    John Salyer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Michael Blim
    Abstract:

    Law is not separate and apart from society but exists as a unique institution within society both being directed by social change and affecting social change. The history of U.S. immigration law shows that immigrants were welcomed or rejected depending on economic, political, and social factors (such as racial attitudes) and the legal definitions of what sorts of immigration were permissible or excludable differed over time. Since the 1990s, hostile attitudes towards certain immigrants have been represented in laws to a greater and greater extent, most significantly with the 1996 amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act. As a result of these laws, immigration judges often have no discretion to consider personal circumstances and equities of the individuals who come before them. The effects of these laws have resulted in greater numbers of individuals being detained and deported and a significant increase in the militarization of the border. In this work, I examine the workings of the immigration law enforcement system in New York City, including government agencies and immigration courts, from the perspective of the immigration lawyers who advocate on behalf of migrants within that system. Drawing on the experience and expertise of these lawyers, as well as my own participant observation experience as an immigration lawyer at a community based organization, I demonstrate the limitations of the current immigration law system to consider the various historical, economic, political, social, and personal factors of migrants; demonstrate where these sorts of considerations may be possible; and demonstrate the need for immigration law to be better able to consider and attend to these individual factors and equities. Additionally, this work demonstrates that consideration of the complexity of specific immigration statutes, regulations, and practices provides a clearer understanding of the limitations and possibilities in U.S. immigration law.

  • 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.

  • DANCING WITH TRADITION: A GLOBAL COMMUNITY OF ODISSI DANCERS

    Author:
    Nandini Sikand
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    Michael Blim
    Abstract:

    Abstract DANCING WITH TRADITION: A GLOBAL COMMUNITY OF ODISSI DANCERS by Nandini Sikand This dissertation is a multi-sited, ethnographic study conducted from 2005 to 2009 in six cities: Alexandria, VA, Bhubaneswar, Khajuraho, Kolkata, New Delhi, and New York, in two countries, India and the United States, and is centered on the narratives of Odissi dancers, dance gurus, performers, scholars, writers, presenters and institutional officials who have contributed to this changing dance form. By exploring the connections between an embodied practice that has formed at the intersection of colonial discourse, nationalist historiography and regional identity, I explore three fundamental questions: First, what notion of "tradition(s)" guides these practices, and how are they being recreated in a global context? Second, how do Odissi dancers engage with an embodied practice that has its roots in a ritual form, and is now performed nationally and transnationally? Finally, how has Odissi emerged as a cultural product within the context of a global market, since the institution of neoliberal policies in India in the early 90s? By studying this dance as a globalized phenomenon and practice, rather than a solely regional or historical one, I show Odissi to be a highly-produced, fluid and mobile medium that crosses boundaries, and is continuously reinvented. My argument is two-fold: first, there is a thriving global community of Odissi dancers who practice, teach and perform this dance form all over the world, yet this global community is one marked by broad variance and heterogeneity. Second, the practice of Odissi has changed over years to accommodate new contexts and audiences, and it continues to do so. This change is evident from its history, and is built into the cultural understanding and practice of Odissi as a form of expression, guided by traditions that are characterized more by fluidity, than fixity. The ethnographic findings and historical analysis presented in this study show that for many of these dancers the "performing body" is not only a site of aesthetic expression, but one that manifests myriad positionalities of gender, class and region, as it traverses multiple borders and subjective notions of belonging.