Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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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.

  • 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.

  • Right to Land and the Rule of Law: Infrastructure, Urbanization and Resistance in India

    Author:
    Preeti Sampat
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Anthropology
    Advisor:
    David Harvey
    Abstract:

    The Special Economic Zones Act 2005, a critical infrastructure model, was enacted in India in two days amid total political consensus. Within two years, intense conflicts over land and resources erupted in SEZ areas across the country between corporate developers, the state, and peasants' and citizens' groups. In the ensuing furor, several SEZs foundered and Goa state unprecedentedly revoked its SEZ policy, suspending 15 SEZs, some with construction underway. Amid raging debates and accusations of corrupt real estate deals over SEZs and other "infrastructure" and urbanization investments, the central (federal) government attempted to redraft land acquisition policy, eventually enacting a new law in 2013. This legal anthropological study of land and resource conflicts over "growth infrastructures" and urbanization in India examines the emergent Indian jurisprudence around land and resources; the policy genesis and evolution of Indian SEZs; the growth of India's real estate economy; and successful peasant and citizens' resistance to "infrastructure" and urbanization policies in Goa. Using ethnographic and archival research, it contributes to anthropological studies of law as process, and law contextualized in its broader social setting. It locates conflicts over land and resources challenging "state sovereignty" and capital accumulation at the center of India's economic growth story. It analyzes contemporary processes of capital accumulation, relationships with land and resources, social movements, and negotiations of "citizenship" and "the state" refashioning the "rule of law" in India's liberal democracy. It concludes that India's growth is unfolding with recurrent conditions of "impasse" and resistance. Contradictory policy and legal provisions, interests within the state, and oppositional social alliances have reopened a fundamental historical impasse over relationships with land and resources that underlines how critical access to land and resources are to a large number of people. It argues for a legal framework for land- and resource-use that is locally determined, egalitarian and ecologically appropriate as a tool towards ushering a fundamental "reconstitution from below."

  • 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.