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Theses - Social Anthropology

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  • ItemIndefinitely restricted
    The 'ulamā' are inheritors of the Prophets
    Belgami, Mohammed Uzair
    [Restricted]
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    Hegemony and Culturedness: Elites after Socialism in Mongolia.
    Shagdar, Tuya
    This thesis asks: how did a tiny minority, the 'oligarchic' elite of Mongolia, manage to dominate the economic and political life of the nation for over three decades since the transition to liberal democracy in 1990? With Mongolian media reporting that 99.6% of shares listed on the Mongolian Stock Exchange are owned by around 5 per cent of the total shareholders, and that the ownership of Mongolian businesses is limited to just thirty families (Sneath 2018), it might appear that the rule by this tiny minority has become hegemonic. In recent years, however, the superrich have been targeted by a brand of populist politics. This thesis argues that the emergence, maintenance, and recent targeting of the superrich would not have been possible without Mongolia’s complex history of engagement with the idea of independent statehood. Central to the rise, but also to the fall of oligarchic elites is the issue of ‘national interest,’ the valorized notion of an independent state which paradoxically shapes the capitalist dispositions of the elites, while also being a source of their insecurity. In liberal democracies elite power often appear in public culture as something tolerable. In structural Marxist terms, the elite frequently feature as a well-articulated ruling class. The notion of a self-conscious ruling class makes for convincing explanations of relations of stark inequality and the accumulation of resources by a small minority (Althusser 1970: 90; Poulantzas 1969: 74). Such a concept renders the elite a monolithic and well-orchestrated grouping in a capitalist society. Anthropological studies have shown, however, that this can be a misleading approach to elite power, which is frequently fractured and fluid (Armytage 2020; Lotter 2004; 2012; Simandjuntak 2012; Salman and Sologuren 2011; Sánchez 2016; Lentz 2000; Antonyan 2015; Derlugian 2005). A closer look at Mongolia's superrich, with many top careers ending in imprisonment, provides an image of a politically and economically dominant group that is anything but monolithic. The models of elite power most widely used in social sciences have tended to describe relatively stable milieus where knowledge and power are seen as working together to support their status quo (Marcus 1983: 19). For Foucault, domination is primarily discursive whereby power is exercied through production of knowledge and regimes of truth. In Mongolia, public knowledge about the ruling elite is by no means a uniform ‘regime of truth’ in which their power and wealth appear commonsensical. Much public knowledge of elites is profoundly negative. Oligarchy (oligarkhi) and the phrase “billionaires borne of the state” (töröös törsön terbumtan) have become well-worn Mongolian terms for describing the social order. Many of the richest individuals in the country are indeed politicians but their close affinity to the state also means that such privilege is precarious. By engaging with Gramsci’s concept of hegemony I trace the complicated factionalism among elites within the wider cultural setting of the contested ‘regimes of truth’ of Mongolian public culture.
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    Freedom and the Heart of Democracy in Central Malawi: popular interactions with the 2019 Tripartite Elections in a rural constituency
    Farrell, Sam
    This thesis is an ethnographic examination of the popular meanings and practices of democracy in central Malawi during the 2019 Tripartite Elections. Following the 30-year rule of Life President Kamuzu Banda and the Malawi Congress Party, Malawi transitioned from an authoritarian, single-party state to a liberal democracy in 1993, adopting multi-party elections and a new constitution guaranteeing a range of rights. However, the question still remains as to how the predominantly rural Malawian population engages with democratic politics and processes. The thesis explores this question through an ethnographic examination of how constituents in a rural constituency in the central region understood and interacted with the practices, actors and technologies that comprised the 2019 Tripartite Elections. Drawing on a 15-month period of fieldwork, a case study of a village and a variety of other actors, such as parliamentary candidates, local party officials and village headmen, are followed over the course of the election cycle. The focus on an election was inspired by recent anthropological work on democracy, which has not only demonstrated the usefulness of the ethnographic method for understanding democratic systems and elections, but has challenged normative, static definitions of democracy; suggesting instead that democracy is a historically grounded, open-ended process that shapes, and is shaped by, the contexts it travels through. The chapters in the thesis expand on this literature by describing how several aspects of the 2019 election process were interpreted and refigured by interlocutors through broader political, socio-economic and ecological contexts that had significance in their everyday lives, which were themselves affected by these interactions (chapter 1). It thus offers an in-depth account of a political process within social life. However, the thesis takes anthropological engagement with democracy a step further by highlighting the importance of popular practices of freedom in constituting the electoral process and broader social relations. In chapter 2, I argue that constituents interpreted the secret ballot through popular discourses and practices of secrecy, especially discourses surrounding the Chichewa word for heart (mtima) and the unknowability of others, which enabled them to participate in democratic politics more broadly by practicing a form of political freedom where they could keep their intentions hidden or unacknowledged. Subsequent chapters document the relevance of this freedom in shaping several features of popular democratic practice in the constituency throughout the election process, such as the dynamics of local party politics (chapter 3), the moral grounds of relationships between politicians or political parties and constituents (chapter 4), the formation of political legitimacy and national identity (chapter 5) and the importance of radio and social media and popular ways of scrutinizing and contesting the state (chapter 6). One of the key contributions of the thesis is therefore to suggest that anthropologists should consider the role of practices of freedom in constituting democratic processes. In anthropology more broadly, it highlights the applicability of freedom as an ethnographic category, but an expansive, open-ended category inclusive of a diversity of meanings and practices across different ethnographic settings, challenging restrictive or normative definitions of freedom.
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    Faltering Care: Homeless Mothers’ Experiences of Caregiving in Dublin
    Lucey, Hannah
    This dissertation takes as its focus the caregiving efforts of a group of mothers in Dublin who were homeless, struggling with addiction, and separated from their children. It offers an ethnographic account of their attempts to reknit their relationships with their distant children by extending care, even as these caregiving efforts were thwarted by their wider social context. As such, this thesis demonstrates homeless women’s ongoing orientation towards their separated children in terms of their practical actions and affective lives, their efforts towards a better future, and moments of faltering. In so doing, this thesis sets forth a valuable contribution to the growing anthropological literature around care by examining moments in which our ardent attempts at caregiving fall short. It explores how moments of ‘care lapse’ were produced and exacerbated by the conditions in which interlocutors were forced to care (including at a distance from their children, without stable or safe accommodation and confronted with long periods of waiting). It also considers how care lapses came to be socially mediated through the lack of support interlocutors received from their intimate partners and service providers. Building on these ethnographic insights, this thesis suggests that the experience of continually providing care which was unreciprocated and unacknowledged yielded moments – however fleeting – in which my interlocutors’ capacity to respond to the challenges of caregiving as they unfolded crumbled. However, rather than concluding that my interlocutors were unsuitable caregivers for their children as a result, I explore how my interlocutors came to evaluate care which was perceived by themselves and others as being pockmarked by lapses, and the significance of providing and receiving this kind of care in orientating their wider being-in-the-world. This thesis thus puts forward the concept of ‘faltering care’: care which encompasses moments in which the provider’s practical action and attentiveness towards the recipient lapse. This concept brings a fresh perspective on the relationship between anthropological domains of gender and care, kinship and the state, in highlighting the caregiving travails of a group of women who found themselves the focus of accusations of neglect and positioned outside normative ideals of motherhood, leading their maternal efforts to be heavily mediated by external actors. It furthers anthropological conversations on the recursive relationship between caregiving and hope, in examining those instances in which hope seems lost, and thus the capacity for practical caregiving action extinguished. Most fundamentally, this thesis opens out onto anthropological conversations about the significance of caregiving relationships for people experiencing poverty, addiction and mental illness, in suggesting that my interlocutors’ experiences as mothers became a defining factor of their trajectories through homelessness, in both those moments when they succumbed to despair, and those others where they drove themselves to reach for something better.
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    Transforming the Self through Benefiting Others: Fo Guang Shan Humanistic Buddhism in the People's Republic of China
    Liu, Xinying
    This thesis presents an ethnographic study of Fo Guang Shan (FGS, Buddha’s Light Mountain, 佛光山), a Taiwan-based Han-Chinese Buddhist movement that is socially engaged and highly active on a global scale. The particular focus is the development of FGS in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It aims to answer the question: wherein lies the appeal of FGS Humanistic Buddhist teachings and practices in contemporary China? My overarching argument is that FGS Humanistic Buddhism (renjian fojiao, 人間佛教) – ingrained in bodhisattva-oriented ethical pedagogies that not only concern self-focussed cultivation, but also underscore the importance of caring for others in the broadest sense – encourages and enables mainland Chinese participants in ‘doing personhood’ (zuoren, 做人) during the current epoch of prevailing moral uncertainty. Based on my twelve-month fieldwork across seven FGS branches, spanning from Beijing and Shanghai to other cities in Jiangsu province, this thesis takes two main aspects into account: the institutional development of FGS mainland branches and the experiences of mainland Chinese followers. It explores how FGS endeavours to ‘purify people’s hearts and minds’ (jinghua renxin, 淨化人心), pivoting on the guidance of its founder, Master Hsing Yun (星雲), in the highly distinctive religious ecology of the PRC. It also examines how adherents pursue self-transformation – whether they are successful or not – through ruminating over their own relations with the self and others. Key discussion revolves around how participants with multifarious demographic features heighten their awareness of self-reflection and make ethical choices when confronting different value clusters: (1) kinship-based relational morality of ego-centred relations, (2) Communist ideology (or ideologies), (3) individualistic views that have emerged during China’s socio- economic transformation, and (4) a double concern for the well-being of the self and others entrenched in Humanistic Buddhism. Practitioners learn to perfect their personhood in both monastic and daily settings: following the Six Pāramitās (Six Perfections, liudu, 六度) via monastic training, creating positive karmic bonds (jieshanyuan, 結善緣) via Buddhist Giving, and cultivating the Bodhi Mind (putixin, 菩提心) via Buddhist volunteerism. Indebted to many contributors in the anthropology of ethics and morality, this thesis participates in various discussions surrounding virtue ethics, ethical practice (self-cultivation and ethical pedagogies), and ethics in institutional life (moral economy and volunteerism). It also contributes to the anthropological study of religion (Buddhism) in China, as well as the study of Humanistic Buddhism. A four-pronged theoretical approach is developed in this thesis. First, moving beyond Euro-American philosophical traditions, Buddhist concepts have been deployed as analytical tools to enrich our understanding of the plurality of human ethical thought and practice. Second, examining Buddhism from the perspective of ethics broadens the analysis of religion in Chinese society. Third, reflecting Buddhist emphasis on both the ontological equality and the interdependence of persons, self–other relations are key to the FGS approach to self-transformation. Finally, my understanding of the ‘humanistic’ character of Buddhism as taught by FGS is predicated on the interplay between practitioners’ ethical and spiritual pursuits: people’s faith in Buddhism is spontaneously and gradually nurtured when their ethical aspirations for perfect personhood and a meaningful life converge with their spiritual pursuit to benefit the self and others.
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    The making of art: sculptors, artisans, and artists in the Apuan Alps
    Ruiz del Río, Javier
    This dissertation investigates the sculpture industry in the Apuan Alps and its relation to claims of artistic value. For centuries, this Italian district has specialized in extracting, marketing, and processing marble into luxury commodities. Ahead of many other parts of this economy (including design and architecture), art manufacturing has dominated local identity and commercial strategies. This thesis studies the Apuan industry in the context of transnational artmaking processes. It maintains that production reveals aspects of these economic activities that cannot be fully studied from the side of circulation alone. For example, while a sculpture’s making can be fundamental to our appreciation, we often rely on highly restricted information, sometimes misleading, in order to respond as spectators. In foregrounding production, this dissertation hopes not only to improve our understanding of sculpture-making itself but also to explain why it is often mystified. Its treatment of the topic refers to debates in the anthropology of art and those more traditionally engaged by scholars of economy and labour, such as technology, practical rationality, and alienation. Methodologically, the analysis combines in-person and remote fieldwork with a historical framework. As an international art centre since the Florentine Renaissance, the Apuan Alps present an ideal location for such inquiry. Around Carrara, Pietrasanta, and the rest of a local 20-kilometre-wide marble district, workshops host a diversity of carving activities. In the sculpture firms, artisans fabricate works for their clients, which may involve different degrees of automation and creative input. In private studios, amateurs and professionals share spaces to make art, for themselves and for others. The thesis’ approach to this intricate economic reality is structured around a central question: How can we understand art as industrial production? The response is both empirical and theoretical. In the Apuan Alps, sculpture-making appeared fraught with conceptually challenging phenomena, like outsourcing and mechanization. Consequently, the empirical investigation demanded a theoretical discussion of varied notions at play (including ‘art/industry’ or ‘design/execution’), which often appeared in conflict with one another. The main contribution of this work is establishing such dialogue between the anthropologies of art and the anthropologies of the economy. The argument proceeds in three parts. First, it explains the industry’s place and organization. Chapter 1 locates the district in the political economy of high art, while Chapter 2 describes its general organization and problematizes the notion of the ‘industrial district’. Then, the thesis investigates sculpture-making processes. Chapter 3 breaks such processes into operational sequences, interrogating whether art is a special ‘kind’ of production. Building on this discussion, Chapter 4 focuses on the division of roles (between the ‘artist’ and the ‘artisan’) that underpins fundamental phenomena like alienation and authorship. Finally, the third section (Chapter 5) questions why people dedicate themselves to sculpture in the way they do. When examining sculptors’ personal trajectories, it becomes apparent that the picture of practical reasoning championed by the anthropology of ethics has overlooked the non-moral goods that guide people’s actions in the workplace. These five chapters will contribute ethnographically and theoretically to an understanding of artmaking in an industrial context.
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    Being Good Women: The Rise and Appeal of Femininity Among Globalist Women
    Qassim, Summer
    This thesis is focused on ethics as a practice of becoming. It examines a large, growing group of geographically dispersed women united in their devotion to a neo-Buddhist relationship guru who instructs them, online, in the embodiment of femininity as the means to realizing success in their desired heteronormative relationships. This is Feminine Magnetism™, a global countermovement to mainstream feminism led by dating coach and guru Katarina “Kat” Phang. The central questions the thesis asks are: Why and how do these women seek to change themselves into feminine others? What is the relationship between coaching, online support groups, and the goal of recalibration into a polarized, feminine self? What does the process of becoming an “other” across a digital and non-digital interface mean as an ethical practice? As I observed this ethical self-cultivation that necessarily, for my interlocuters, mediated between their online and offline selves, it became clear that the discourse upon which their feminine ideal was born was itself a mediation between encounters – Buddhism and psycho-therapeutic self-help discourses – a hybridization that can be placed within those vague and varied spiritual practices that are often referred to as “New Age” or “New Thought” in what has come to be called the West. That is to say, “becoming” revealed itself not just as a micro-unit of analysis of split interlocuter selves – physical/digital, idealized/uncultivated, or real/virtual – but also as part of a broader conceptual and ethnographic focus: the discovery of a philosophical “ethical encounter with the Other”(El Shakry 2017: 17). At the same time, Feminine Magnetism’s™ founder, Katarina Phang, (which, fieldwork revealed, is not her real name) herself a product of an “awakening” that led to the initial establishment of her discourse and coaching business, over the course of my fieldwork, underwent a dramatic metamorphosis. This thesis, then, is also about a charismatic leader’s process of becoming an “other.” “Becoming” implies *a priori* the existence of an original, or, at the very least, an origin. If an origin is an *a priori* assumption, so too then is a destination. Becoming another, or an “other” points not only to notions of fundamental difference but also to the multiple shifts of differential iterations moving towards idealization, whether at the level of the self, philosophical tradition, or amidst anthropological discussions of cultural others and, in the ethnographic instances presented here, across a digital and ethical interface. This thesis, then, is also about these processes of movement.
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    Cultivating Lost Land: Livelihood and Depopulation on São Jorge Island, Azores
    Burger, Tim
    This ethnography of rural social life on São Jorge Island, Azores, examines the interconnections between depopulation, people’s practices of material livelihood, and their understandings of their overall historical and social condition. Following decades of transatlantic outmigration and demographic decline, subsistence farmers in my main fieldsite, the village of ‘Fajã’, shared a focus on overall decay. However, they evaluated and lived out what I call ‘depopulated social relations’ in different and conflicting ways. This study explores the heterogeneous range of reflexive, hands-on, and often counterintuitive modes in which island residents organized their historical consciousness around the social reproduction of agrarian livelihoods in unfavourable circumstances. My interlocutors’ central predicament was that their intensely valued agrarian land was being overgrown by brushwood. They often described this land as “already lost” (*já perdido*). Watching the physical change of their gardens and terraces was an unsettling and confusing experience that metonymically condensed broader concerns about the moral imperative of agricultural labour, the lack of desirable conviviality, the gendered dynamics of household subsistence, or sacred spacetime. A collective sense of failure regarding agrarian cultivation was the key category through which island residents made sense of depopulation. While gardening hence became a positively imbued activity in which people acted out their historical consciousness, other economic practices such as renting out houses to tourists or intensive cattle farming were more ambivalent in moral quality. Chapters One and Two approach these conflicting forms of livelihood-making through the lenses of land and households, respectively. I argue that the dominant asset for realizing wealth, public distinction, and moral selfhood has shifted from subsistence gardens to houses, producing novel forms of inequality and social heterogeneity. Chapter Three examines outmigration, which people held to be the leading cause for demographic change. I further develop the theme of heterogeneity by juxtaposing different migrants’ life-histories and varied understandings of emplacement. Chapter Four examines the intrinsic value residents frequently attributed to agrarian labour – portraying it as an end in itself, not a means to other ends – since working together consciously counteracted the impacts of depopulation in a convivial way. Chapter Five returns to general perceptions of land and landscape, now exploring models of masculinity and the violent potential of ideals of agrarian cultivation that take shape in relation to experience of ‘lost’ land as uncontrollable environmental change. Chapter Six explores the Holy Ghost Festival (*Festa do Espírito Santo*) as a disputed spatiotemporal model that both mediated decline and provided an iconic form to orient economic activities. The theoretical arguments that emerge from these chapters contribute to anthropological debates on value, space, and depopulation. I suggest that an action-centred theory of value requires attention to spatial semiotics in order to conceptualize how everyday practices give form to larger social and cultural wholes.
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    Unjust Profit: Moral Economies of Recycling and Migration in Urban Turkey
    Yildirim, Kevin
    This dissertation examines how the arrival of foreign migrants into Istanbul’s recycling workforce has changed how citizens consider who or what should profit from the city’s waste. Based on twelve months of fieldwork in a peripheral Istanbul district, it proposes that labour encounters between foreign migrants and citizens are key sites where new moral understandings of work, profit, and citizenship are produced. The study aims to introduce new empirical and conceptual understandings of moral economic life, citizenship, and waste labour. As the largest city in a country that hosts nearly four million asylum seekers and irregular migrants— primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan— Istanbul is a prime location for such inquiries. Within Istanbul’s recycling sector, citizens of Turkey increasingly articulate what is right and wrong in social and political life by invoking the newly arrived figure of the migrant recycling worker. When asserting their own moral virtues, for instance, citizens will often claim that migrant workers lack such qualities in comparison. Expanding on this ethnographic insight, this thesis provides critical analysis of two broad phenomena. First, it contends that competing labour regimes in a precarious urban economy—one comprised of citizens, the other of irregular migrants—relate to each other primarily in moral registers. Second, it demonstrates how these moral registers influence economic action in tangible ways. The thesis understands these phenomena by developing the concept of moral authority. This term refers to a relation that is produced when one person claims their right to assert a vision of how social life ought to be organised, whether on the scale of an individual relationship or society at large. By looking at migrant-citizen relations in Turkey’s recycling sector with the analytic of moral authority, the thesis attempts to improve anthropological understandings of how political hierarchies influence moral economic life, and vice-versa. It does this by developing the argument that relations between citizens and international migrants in Turkey’s recycling sector are structured by citizens’ efforts to reproduce their moral authority. Doing so, it engages with debates in the anthropology of citizenship, waste labour, moral economy, hospitality, and work. Chapter 1 claims that the introduction of foreign migrants into the recycling sector in the 2010s has led citizen-workers to articulate a right to work in registers that exclude foreign migrants. Chapter 2, in contrast, examines how irregular migrant waste pickers seek a right to work in Istanbul by appeasing and avoiding figures of authority rather than confronting them. Chapter 3 contends that, for citizen-workers in Istanbul’s recycling sector, moral authority is produced through discourse that regards migrant recycling labour as an immoral and asocial form of work. Chapter 4 critically analyses hospitable forms of giving between shopkeeper citizens and irregular migrant waste pickers. Chapter 5 interrogates tense relations between ethnic Turks and Kurds in a recycling depot that imports plastic waste from the United Kingdom. The conclusion suggests that moral authority is central to the exercise of political power within contemporary Turkey.
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    Mastering the Margins: A Chinese Mine in Mongolia
    Zhu, Ruiyi
    In recent decades, Mongolia’s rich natural resources and small population have made it a sought-after destination for Chinese capital investment and labour migration, facilitated by China’s ‘going out’ policy. While this cooperation has been founded on the ostensible complementarity between Mongolia’s structural shortage of industrial labour and China’s surplus, the presence of Chinese workers has become a source of anxiety in Mongolian society. Historical interethnic and interstate entanglements, as well as Mongolia’s fear of China’s contemporary economic might, cast a long shadow over the relationship between these two neighbours. Examining the complex, delicate, and fraught Sino-Mongolian relations, this thesis presents an ethnographic study of a Chinese-owned private fluorspar mine and processing plant in Mongolia. I followed a group of middle-aged workers who endured mass layoffs in China and sought to regain economic agency by participating in Mongolia’s extractive economy – an industry buoyed by hopes and rife with controversies. I argue that the Chinese workers view their time in Mongolia as an opportunity to ‘master the margins’ by extracting the marginal value of their own labour and exploiting their relationship with the geographically peripheral land and socioeconomically marginal other. In this thesis, I seek to explore the nuances that elude the official discourse of interstate friendship and widespread apprehensions of neo-colonial hegemony by navigating a variety of quotidian interactions between Chinese workers and their Mongolian counterparts. The thesis consists of two parts, each with three chapters. The emphasis of Part I is on the emergence of the desire to command the margins, shedding light on familial bonds and entrepreneurial ethos as the twin forces undergirding the circular migration of laid-off workers, labour hierarchy on the shop floor, and ritual practices of ingratiation. Part II focuses on the discontent and ambivalence toward Chinese ‘masterhood’ by exposing the translation politics between monolingual and bilingual employees, the failure of skill transfer between the master and apprentice, and the aspiration for improvement through the discourse of standards. The analytical concept of ‘mastering the margins’ delineates the dual position of people who are simultaneously victims and enablers of capitalist expansion. With its exploitative potential, ‘margin’ elicits opposing views in economic and social theories. While maintaining an anthropological openness to social complexities and contingent processes, this thesis investigates the concerns, strategies, and dilemmas of ordinary Chinese and Mongolian workers in a transnational labour regime. I describe and analyse marginalised subjects’ attempts at overcoming material and ontological insecurities within structural constraints. In a broader perspective, this Sino-Mongolian industrial encounter serves as a case study for examining the contradictions in a globalising China.
  • ItemControlled Access
    Norms and Reasons: Modernity and subjecthood inside (and outside) a Chinese school
    Jiang, Edwin
    This dissertation has three intertwined aims. First, to elucidate (and defend) Weberian modernity as drastic transformations in peoples’ conceptions of normativity, which radically breaks with the past (Chapter 1), thereby illuminating how contemporary moral educational focuses in China function as a “pre-modernist” response to the effects of modernity (Chapter 2). Second, to understand how historical developments of Chinese modernity motivated mass educational migration (Chapter 3), thus identifying how top-down decisions to modernise inspired and sustained perhaps unexpected pluralistic perspectives on the Chinese nation-state (Chapter 4). Third, to examine the lived experiences of pupils within the Chinese schooling system, motivating anthropologists to rethink the “individual subject” in practical and theoretical contexts as actor (Chapter 5) and knower (Chapter 6) alike. The title of the dissertation, “norms” and “reasons,” derive from these three related aims. I propose to understand modernity as a reversal in the direction of normative fit; while I hope to reconceptualise what it means for the individual to be the locus of both practical and theoretical reasoning qua actor and knower respectively. To these ends, I undertook ethnographic investigations of the educational paradigm within China, as well as into the effects of studying abroad on informants from China who have since left. I relied heavily on historical arguments regarding China’s transformation and development—both material and abstract—since its encounter with Western powers in the mid-1800s. Throughout this dissertation, I drew generously from philosophical discussions in epistemology, action theory, and moral philosophy to make sense of the ethnography.
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    In the Shade of the Kangla: Kingship and Revivalism in Northeast India
    Moon-Little, Edward
    [Restricted]
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    Time, Self, and the Other in a Rural Chinese Township
    Naydenov, Angel
    [Restricted]
  • ItemOpen Access
    Gender and Generation in Rural Turkmenistan
    Loomis, Cara
    This thesis seeks to explain the reproduction of gender and generation in desert villages of Gökdepe district, Turkmenistan. More than differences of wealth or class, gender and generation acted as organising principles determining communication between men and women, roles and responsibilities assumed by young and old, and the arrangement of people and structures in space and time. An ideal Turkmen family is a patriarchy centred around feminine, demure young women who are respectful of pious elders. It might be easy to understand the social conservatism of rural Gökdepe as reflecting a “traditionally Turkmen” way of life. However, the people I knew rarely attached importance to practices for their symbolic value as either traditional or modern, Turkmen or Muslim. This theoretical difficulty of encompassing the behaviours of my hosts and acquaintances in terms of explicit projects of identification led me to a theory of habitus as incorporating a sense of practical competence that allowed “traditions” to be practiced without being explicitly framed as such. Part One addresses the reproduction of gender by looking at the gendered dimension of gift- giving. Taken together, these two chapters sketch out an opposition between men and women in terms of obligations through notions of patrilineal descent between men that disavow the necessity of small transfers of food between women. Seen from the perspective of brothers, fathers and sons, the day-to- day maintenance of relationships through small transfers of food appear inconsequential at best and at worst shade into petty accounting and calculation. However, these small transfers can have significant consequences. In the context of virilocal marriage expectations, sisters, mothers and daughters act to maintain intimacy and interdependence after leaving their natal home through gifts of food and cloth. Part Two asks if it makes sense to speak of gender as a static quality, given changes that occur with age. These two chapters address how seniority is established through claims that life-cycle events hosted by the older generation are necessary to transform the younger generation into mature adults. Both older men and women develop the skills necessary to assume prominent roles in hosting large celebrations. These events are a public expression of piety and wealth, garnering status for the host/ess from recognised acquisition of these skills. For older men, the central skills concern animal sacrifice and generous hosting. The work of care for their children and particularly grandchildren, built through the myriad transfers of small gifts detailed in Part One, offers an alternative route to fortune available to mothers and grandmothers. To account for the domestic reproduction of hierarchical relations of age and gender, the conclusion brings together the two themes that have oriented the thesis through the phrase an “actually existing patriarchy”. This means that; firstly, “patriarchy” is recognised as a political project intent on a coherent impression of “father-rule”; secondly, to use “patriarchy” to describe this configuration is necessarily one-sided, offering the impression of complementarity – a harmonious existence – that exists primarily from the vantage point of older men; thirdly, that “patriarchy” can come to be reproduced despite the best efforts, intentions and tensions inherent of men and women.
  • ItemOpen Access
    'Like Ice Floes': Iñupiaq Sovereignty and Settler Migration on Alaska's North Slope
    Walsh, Elizabeth
    My dissertation examines relations between Iñupiat in the village of Utqiaġvik on Alaska’s North Slope and a number of non-Iñupiat transient workers who, enticed by generous salaries, have temporarily relocated there. A focus of my study is the North Slope Borough, founded by Iñupiat to preserve their political autonomy and funded by taxes collected on the nearby Prudhoe Bay oil fields. My research tests and refines theoretical frameworks concerning settler colonialism. I draw on political, economic, and environmental literatures in sociocultural anthropology, as well as Native American and Indigenous studies and interdisciplinary settler colonial studies, to show how Iñupiat and non-Iñupiat village residents engage in day-to-day interactions guided by differing economic motivations and different understandings of community, place, and value. By working in an Indigenous community with both Iñupiat and non-Iñupiat, my research adds contemporary, on-the-ground, ethnographic insight into the ways in which individuals’ perspectives and attitudes are shaped by settler colonial ideologies as they are experienced in the present. I explicitly locate the origins of attitudes and dispositions of both non-Iñupiat transient workers and Iñupiat in the settler colonial past, while also tracing how these norms have endured structurally into the present. Long-term participant observation has allowed me to explore the ways in which socio-political norms are felt in, and inform, everyday life. In the first two chapters, I contextualize contemporary transient worker passage through the village within a history of colonial comings and goings to the region initiated by European explorers and Yankee whalers pursuing similar economic goals. I locate Native Alaska, the North Slope, and Utqiaġvik within the legal and political frameworks of United States settler colonialism and demonstrate that contemporary relations among non-Iñupiat transient workers and Alaska Natives are grounded in norms and understandings derived from these frameworks. In the remaining chapters, I describe the findings of my ethnographic research. I detail how many economically motivated transient worker employees at Iḷisaġvik College, a tribal college founded to provide local, culturally informed higher education, socially segregate themselves from the majority-Iñupiat community. I show how their ethical, social, and political commitments to fellow residents and the Arctic landscape are informed by the settler colonial and capitalist ideological structures familiar to them. This puts them at odds with Iñupiat, for whom the ethical and the economic, the individual and the community, are all connected through the Iñupiaq value of sharing and the hunting and community-wide distribution of the bowhead whale.
  • ItemControlled Access
    The Dualities of Home: Hong Kong Citizens in a Mobile World
    Tse, Lee-Shan
    Hong Kong’s long-standing situation of escalating accommodation costs has been widely characterised as one of the most severe housing crises in the world. This is a study of how the Fuzhou members of one of Hong Kong’s long-term citizen populations from Fujian province experience home in its dual sense of home: what and where home is for my interlocutors. The first meaning of home is a physical and material site of residence, rented or owned, that runs in parallel with a second meaning of home, where home is perceived as a geographical and affective location, whether this is Hong Kong or the People’s Republic of China (PRC), or an in-between space either bridging or navigating between the two. Its key concern is how my interlocutors make and are being made by homes in a global city that was once imagined by its residents, its government and my interlocutors as a city of futuristic modernity and is now experienced as a deteriorating city in crisis. I conducted multi-sited fieldwork in three key locations: Hong Kong, their long-term place of residence; Fuzhou, their ancestral place of origin and return; and the Greater Bay, a new ‘Silicon Valley’ that actively incorporates Hong Kong into South China. Originating from Fuzhou, my interlocutors arrived in Hong Kong in the 1970s and the 1980s, when the PRC was still a strictly closed socialist economy. I document their remarkable trajectory from very poor low-skill earners to comparatively advantaged participants in the Hong Kong boom economy, using their residential sites and spaces as a key means of making real, though always volatile gains. How they inhabit, deal with, buy, rent out, and transform their flats, and other residential sites and properties is central to the material I present. Their distinctiveness lies in their flexibility in both location and identity: as self-identified Huaqiao (‘Overseas Chinese’), they move between the two Chinese worlds, without an exclusive, place-based identity. Each ethnographic chapter documents a different aspect of home: home either as a strategy, residential site, a business, an investment, or a fictive place of return. I develop an analytical framework wherein each chapter follows the central framework of a mirage: the mirage is the traversing of space as one seeks to reach a tantalising desirable object that has appeared in the distance. However, as the viewer comes closer, the tantalising object disappears - and subsequently appears anew elsewhere. For my interlocutors, homes take on multiple appearances, meanings, uses and locations. The home, in its dual sense changes over time due to the unprecedented border changes of Hong Kong and the PRC. This study seeks to contribute to four key areas of anthropological research: the anthropology of homes, diaspora, global city, and crisis. Important aspects of home include notions of temporality, materiality, urban change, and affect. In light of the current crises, which started as a housing crisis and subsequently deteriorated into a political crisis with city-wide protests, this dissertation contributes to a more nuanced understanding of homes in a mobile world.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Huddled Masses: Death and Citizenship in New York City
    Raudon, Natasha
    How can citizenship survive death? At Hart Island, New York City’s ‘massed’ grave cemetery for its unclaimed, unknown, and poor, the dead have historically been excluded from the realm of ordinary posthumous citizenship expected by their fellow New Yorkers. However, activists, relatives, and politicians are currently attempting to pull the Hart Island dead back into that realm. Their efforts have been complicated by multiple processes, including trench burials, isolation, penal control, lack of visitor access, and an absence of memorialization, all of which mark those buried on Hart Island as belonging to particular categories of people, less than full citizens. The deliberate nature of these processes indicates that the dead do not simply fall outside the bounds of ordinary posthumous citizenship but must be methodically placed outside them. This thesis shows how Hart Island’s practices have been made ordinary through more than 150 years of systemized bureaucracy, so can appear unremarkable to those most familiar with them. Yet people often react with great discomfort when they learn about Hart Island because it says something powerful about their city and about New Yorkers. I argue that for many, it juxtaposes painfully with their city’s compelling mythology of exceptional inclusion and liberal values by recalling a history of brutal disparity. I examine how, motivated by the social anxiety that Hart Island provokes, several projects have begun to recover Hart Island’s dead from their non-citizenship and re-embed them into the realm of normal posthumous relations. This includes political moves such as replacing the government department that manages the island (switching from Correction to Parks), pledging to increase public access, and reclaiming the dead rhetorically as New Yorkers, a term locals use as a gloss for citizens. What do New Yorkers understand as normal posthumous relations, and how are Hart Island’s dead excluded from them? What can this exclusion explain about perceptions of normal citizenship for the dead? If massed burial is usually prompted by exceptional circumstances, how does Hart Island’s very ordinariness trouble people? To answer these questions, I draw on anthropological literature on citizenship, death, memorialization, stigma, and social memory; and on ethnographic data gathered over fifteen months of fieldwork across New York City’s five boroughs, including Hart Island, and online during lockdowns. I argue that it is through memorialization that citizenship survives death, and throughout the thesis, I scrutinize the implications of this claim. The first two chapters contextualize these questions within the early Covid-19 pandemic and American deathcare, explaining my concepts of ‘ordinary posthumous citizenship’ and ‘normal posthumous relations’ and exploring how they are enacted in New York and the US. The following chapters examine stigma within the framework of commemorated citizenship, from talk about the Hart Island dead as New Yorkers to the shock when New Yorkers learn about Hart Island. In the final two chapters, I turn from this broader analysis to focus on two distinctive communities, contrasting views of those who find Hart Island’s neglect appropriate with others vigorously pursuing projects of destigmatization. Hart Island’s characteristic and mundane neglect, and the destigmatization projects this has prompted both seem to crystallize around how – or whether – to memorialize the Hart Island dead. I conclude by examining what kinds of memorialization are possible here.
  • ItemEmbargo
    'We Will Remember; We Will Not Stay Put': Ethics and Politics after the Sewol Ferry Disaster in South Korea
    Park, Yeong Seo
    The sinking of the Korean ferry, MV Sewol, on April 16th, 2014, claimed 304 lives, 250 of whom were high school students on a fieldtrip to Jeju Island. The Disaster, broadcasted real-time, incited a widespread movement founded on condolence for the victims, and a collective determination that ‘things have to change’. Bringing together bereaved families, progressive activists, and ‘ordinary’ citizens previously far from ‘political’, Sewol activism has witnessed mobilization of a scale unprecedented for a post-disaster activism in Korea. Based on 15 months of fieldwork, this dissertation investigates the ethics and politics of the social movement that emerged in the aftermath of Sewol. Chapter 1 begins with a contextualization of Sewol activism within a broader lineage of Korean social movements, and an outline of its key tactics and repertoires. Focusing on the movement’s striving for diffusion, I probe how the Sewol movement calls for a refined understanding of what it means to ‘act’ in the political arena. In Chapter 2, I turn to my interlocutors’ commitment to remembrance, through accounts of spaces and places intrinsically infused with the memory of the Disaster and its victims, and those endowed with meaning by the bereaved and activists. I highlight how remembrance establishes not only an intimate relation with the past, but also an orientation towards the future. Chapters 3 and 4 scrutinize the activist and ethical commitments of the bereaved family members and the non-bereaved activists, respectively. Both chapters highlight how ethical commitments are developed and performed relationally, through examinations of affectively charged notions of duty, complicity, and solidarity. Chapter 5 situates my interlocutors’ activism within the broader field of Korean politics. I recount the complexities inhered in treading a balance between a victims’ movement and a political movement, and in challenging normative ideas about how victims ought to engage with the field of politics. The chapter calls for attention to how ethical projects are shaped by and contested within their social and political milieus.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The great shout of the wolves’ mouth: Indigeneity, social change and historical narrative in the Ecuadorian Andes
    Rojas Rodriguez, Lucia
    This thesis is a historical ethnography of the parish of Simiatug, from the turn of the twentieth century to the present but focused mainly between 1970-2020. Simiatug is a rural parish located in the Bolívar province in the central highlands of Ecuador, where Kichwa indigenous communities, a major hacienda (Hacienda Talahua), and a white-mestizo town coexisted until the early 1980s. Relationships of exploitation and racial discrimination against indigenous people were predominant during this period. Legislation such as the agrarian reforms were not implemented locally, due to the unassailable power of the landowning family, the Cordovez, who were able to maintain their estate despite the law. This began to change in the 1970s, and social change accelerated during the 1980s. Indigenous peasants organised themselves to create a Peasant House for adult literacy, founded independent bilingual schools and a Kichwa radio frequency. They also demanded changes in market relations with mestizos, refusing the asymmetrical exchange systems that had been usual until then. In April 1981, hundreds of people marched to occupy the land of hacienda Talahua, pressing for the application of land reform legislation. In 1982, they were successful, and the hacienda’s land was granted to the indigenous organisation Fundación Runacunapac Yachana Huasi (FRY). FRY still owns several hundred hectares of communal land, on which they have since carried out many agricultural and educational projects. Each chapter of the thesis analyses a different aspect of the transformation of Simiatug, contrasting observations made during fieldwork with archival material, including documents from the Land Reform Archive and several unpublished video interviews with indigenous leaders filmed by anthropologists in the 1980s. Chapter One describes the hacienda through the landowners’ and peasants’ concepts of land, Chapter Two portrays the town and its market as a second backdrop for the struggles, Chapter Three describes the uprising in which indigenous peasants occupied Hacienda Talahua, Chapter Four looks at education and Chapter Five reflects on indigeneity as a form of historical consciousness. The main historical narrative woven through the thesis has been reconstructed from the perspective of the generation who participated in the occupation of the hacienda. This narrative is complemented by other interpretations made by the indigenous youth, mestizos, and landowners. Focusing on indigeneity, from the point of view of different actors - including not only the indigenous peasants’ perceptions of their identity but also the mestizos’ and the elites’ discourses - I trace how being indigenous in Simiatug is a complex, intricate and changing reality. I argue that the struggles for land, education and fair commerce, as a practice and lived experience of political mobilisation, shaped certain forms of historical and ethnic consciousness. This allows the consideration of historical consciousness not only as an abstract process, but as a multi-layered, embodied experience, with a strong relation to certain forms of indigeneity. Unravelling these histories of change and the pivotal events that made change possible from the perspective of my interlocutors, I present the complexities of being indigenous in Simiatug in the recent past and today and across different generations.
  • ItemOpen Access
    “Sharing Ontological-Metaphors”: Meanings, Expressive Agency, Lived- Realities, and States-of-Being, in Uttarakhand, North India.
    Hall, Victoria
    PhD Abstract: This project explores principles of “meaning” and “the meaningful” as active and embodied “gestures” or “lived-realities”, via concepts of “sharing” and communicative relationality. These concepts were ethnographically researched in the far northern, religiously-plural Indian state of Uttarakhand. This is a state with faith-based populations variously self-identifying as Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, or Muslim. I met members of all of these faiths regularly, although my interlocutors were predominantly Christian and Hindu. Formerly a region of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand is known for its close proximity to the Himalaya, the Indian borders with Tibet and Nepal, and for its religious sanctity as an area of devout (usually Hindu) pilgrimage. All of these diverse factors have led to the consistent and complex intermingling of a number of sub-communities and regional populations. This was evident within many of the larger towns, such as Mussoorie, found in the Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, and the central-base for my fieldwork. My methodology was ethnographic and qualitative, focusing on oral-verbal communications and person-to-person interactions. These processes defined my principal concepts within this project by demonstrating the lived-realities of religious identities, religious communities, and the prevalence of inter-faith communication (or “sharing”) within this region. Most significantly, my research highlighted the ongoing importance of meanings – as well as the notable variance in what “the meaningful” was actually considered to be across and between faiths. Such diversity in understanding was made even more complex by different meanings being expressed in the same language, forms, narratives, or verbal images. Within these communications, metaphor was a creative, commonly used, and actively-engaged principle, evidenced within the practice of (different) faiths. This demonstrated a form of “relationality” or “inter-relationality” that seemed to reinforce contemporary, anthropological concepts of embodied lived-realities being a fundamental aspect of the relational, but not the same as “definitionality” or as “meaning”. Yet, when in use in Uttarakhand, principles, concepts (and uses) of expressive form, representation, communication, “sharing”, and “meaning”, were frequently entangled . Many apparent “oral metaphors” and “descriptions” – including images of “sacrifice”, “heart-speech”, God, Gods, or the cosmological/transcendent – had extended-meanings and purposes in their Garhwali context. Such meanings and actions were in contrast to what I had previously understood metaphor “to be”. These were not solely representational-metaphors, they were, instead, acts of agency (via expression). These observations led to my own evolution of the term “ontological-metaphor”. The metaphorical was persistently utilised not only as a “symbolic- tool”, but as an overlapping, entwined lived-form that was capable of encapsulating the relational and definitional-meaningful. This was not merely in a simultaneous representation, but as a co-creational state-of-being or “ontology”.