Belief and Believeability Volume 16 ANTHROPOLOGY | NEWSLETTER JUNE 2023
Table of Contents
Letter from the Chair 2-4
Tanya Lurhmann “Why Do We Believe What Seems Irrational, At Least to Others?”
Serkan Yolaçan “The Specter of ChatGPT: Thoughts on Genre, Entertainment, and Truth”
Alev Cinar “Can Islam Theorize Politics?”
Saad Lakhani “Saint or Blasphemer: On Getting Friendly with God”
Alisha Cherian “Stories and Everyday Archives of Truth”
Barbora Spalová “Beliefs and Believability During the Fieldwork in Mayfair and Washington - Guadalupe”
Miray Cikaroglu “Studying the Post-Imperial in Post-Disaster Turkey”
Faculty News 27-28
Department News & Events 29-30
Staff News 31-32
Letters from the Field 33-40
Undergrad Fieldnotes 41-42
Alumni Updates 43-50
Hector M. Callejas Anthropology
Alumni Spotlight: Kim Grose Moore
LETTER FROM THE CHAIR
By Thomas Blom Hansen
A new vocabulary entered public debates in much of the world less than a decade ago: alternative facts, fake news, hyper partisanship, deep fakes, media echo chambers, chatbot campaigns, trolling and much more. Much of this has been attributed to the global spread of social media platforms, the rise of rightwing populism and the proliferation of conspiracy theories across the world. There is little doubt that systematic deployment of troll armies and disinformation campaigns have become standard weapons of choice by political partisans as well as by many governments. We saw this in the fog of disinformation around the pandemic, and we see how dis- and misinformation are crucial weapons in the war in Ukraine.
However, what seems like a rapid shift in how belief, credibility and truthfulness are claimed is, in fact, premised on longstanding and gradual transformation of how truth claims and authoritative knowledge have been produced and projected in public life in recent decades.
The authority of expert knowledge and of academic procedures of knowledge production are more contested today than ever before. While earlier debates in anthropology in the 1980s and 90s revolved around the potential of academic knowledge being extractive and being harmful to informants from vulnerable communities, the situation is rather different in the current age of social media, hyper-connectivity and ubiquitous global use of cell phones, cameras and other devices. Today, individuals and communities across the world engage in documenting, projecting, filming and uploading massive amounts of digital materials. Most of it is private and meant for entertainment, other parts seek to represent and project various historical, political and spiritual claims. Much of the latter kind of material appear on websites or videos, often framed as reporting, or presented as ‘para academic’ knowledge that adheres to some academic procedures
of argument and referencing, for example. The latest element in this shift is the debate about AI enhanced knowledge production and the now notorious device known as ChatGPT- capable of faking most student essays, we are told. The net result is a cacophony, multiple spheres of reality, and multiple layers of claims and counter claims that often appear as an ever-expanding hall of mirrors. In other words, an environment ripe for misinformation campaigns, ‘factoids’ of dubious origins, troll armies seeking to sway public opinion and influence elections. No wonder that so many feel exhausted and disoriented, including fact checkers and social scientists whose jobs are to separate fact from fiction.
This emerging reality presents at least two challenges to anthropology as a discipline. First, anthropology as a discipline has to embrace the fact that the knowledge and interventions we produce cannot necessarily claim any self-evident authority as ‘expert knowledge’. Rather, we are all part of an ongoing, and often polarized conversation with communities and interlocutors wherever we work. Contemporary anthropologists have to establish their relevance and value by the quality and depth of their work amidst a flurry of competing truth claims and strong emotional claims to identity, history and cultural values. This is easier said than done, especially in the social sciences where the realities we study are reflexive and dynamic and where those we study are likely to take issue with what we write about them and their societies and communities. Today, many anthropologists face intense criticism, trolling and at times outright threats from political partisans, as well as stonewalling and visa denials by hostile governments. However, we should not be deterred or scared by this new reality but rather embrace the fact that scholarly work by anthropologists and many others is more accessible and more widely circulated than ever before. It does not just dwell in rarefied circles and ivory towers but has an impact in the world. That means
that there is nowhere to hide and that every anthropologist must be accountable for what they write and the claims and arguments they make. It also means that we cannot always predict, let alone control, how our writing and statements are used, cited and deployed by friends, or foes. So, unlike a previous era where the academic profession and its disciplines were accorded a measure of public respect and credibility, each of us now has to earn and maintain our own credibility by presenting distinct and believable arguments in the scholarly community, and in the public spheres we are part of.
The second challenge is that the way beliefs are held, and the ways believability, credibility and truth claims are established among diverse communities appear more complex than ever. Anthropologists of religion have long demonstrated that active faith in divine forces, or the possible existence of a god, are only some of the factors that shape religious activity and identity. In many parts of the world, religion is less a question of individual belief than the community you are born into. One can lose faith, or never really believe, but one can still be strongly attached to an ethno-religious category, for example. The question of belief and believability are rarely just based on private convictions or deliberations. What to believe, and what seems believable and credible to individuals and communities, are entangled with larger ethical concerns, strident public debates and often stubborn narrative frames and stereotypes that are more often than not impervious to academic or legal standards of proof and falsification. But again, there is nothing new about this. The current worries about perils posed by the circulation of outlandish conspiracy theories on social media notwithstanding, wild speculation, rumors and elaborate webs of falsehoods and misinformation are features of most societies, and much of human history. They are also close cousins of gossip, another universal and often highly entertaining human activity that also often provide the ethnographer with important clues as to what is considered scandalous, contentious and risky in a community or social network. What strikes many as disconcerting is perhaps that conspiratorial frames, images and rumors are no longer shared and furtively enjoyed, and believed, in smaller circuits or fringe corners of society. They are now in the mainstream of news and public speech. But even that is not new. As Richard Hofstadter showed in his remarkable 1964 book The Paranoid Style in American Politics, conspiracy thinking and fears of ‘plots against America’ are as old as the republic itself. Paranoia, Hofstadter argues, is a remarkably stable substrata of American public and private life, fueled by fears of emancipated Black communities, by ‘culturally alien’ migrants in the
early 20th century, and now again in the 21st, by fears of communism, or fears of gender fluidity, diversity programs and flexible pronouns that now are portrayed as the latest threat to western civilization. Similarly ‘paranoid styles’ can be found in many other parts of the world where racial and ethnic stereotypes and prejudices based on class and caste have proven remarkably stable and hard to properly address and overcome. Such stereotypes, rumors and prejudice have changed very little for generations, they seem to re-emerge in each generation, each time draped and articulated a little differently but still revolving around racial and social fears, apprehensions, and fragilities that both divide and knit together communities with remarkable, and often disturbing, historical continuity. This persistence of certain kinds of beliefs and ‘truth’ about the other, however outrageous and insidious these may be, is a driving force that structures the behavior and preferences of billions of people. It also shapes political life in most of the world. Yet, it is a problem that neither anthropology nor other disciplines have been able to explain, and account for in any conclusive manner. But we keep trying, as we should, and few try harder and with more eye for detail and historical specificity than anthropologists, I am proud to say.
For this year’s newsletter, we invited faculty and students to reflect on the questions of belief, truth claims, believability and the status of the knowledge we produce. We invited reflections based on ongoing scholarly work; based on experiences as field workers; or based on general intellectual observations.
We begin with a number of contributions that directly tackle the theme of belief and believability. Tanya Luhrmann discusses her research over many years with people and communities who are strong believers in divine and more-than-human forces. Luhrmann draws on the term ‘paracosm’ to describe the worlds and imaginations that people create for themselves, and share with others, within which they can secure truths and certitudes that give deep meaning to their life. Serkan Yolaçan reflects on the much-discussed phenomenon of ChatGPT as a form of entertainment, as an ironic play with the very boundaries of a genre of seemingly earnest output from an AI device that after all does know how to have fun, or to pun – as yet. Saad Lakhani shares an anecdote about an unusual Sufi pir (spiritual guide/master) in Pakistan who cracks jokes about otherwise sensitive topics and yet seems to be protected by his reputation for deep faith and learning. Our academic visitor, Alev Cinar of Bilkent University in Ankara, speculates how Islamic concepts and ethics are translated into a contemporary vocabulary of political
life in Turkey. Drawing on her fieldwork in Singapore, Alisha Cherian demonstrates how ethnic stereotypes turn into more sedimented beliefs about other groups. Miray Cikaroglu reflects on how dramatic events and disasters, such as the recent devastating earthquake in southeastern Turkey, affects political discourse and the believability of political leaders, and the outcomes of elections. Another of our academic visitors, Barbora Spalova, contemplates the appeal of belief and healing among individuals attending churches and Bible study groups in mainly Latino neighborhoods in San Jose.
We then turn to interviews with two academic visitors, Tatjana Thelen, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Vienna who has taught several classes in the department; and Jean-Thomas Martelli, a political sociologist and Fellow at the International Institute of Asian Studies in Leiden, who is visiting in the spring and summer.
We then turn to interviews with Hector Callejas, who is part of the university wide IDEAL program on campus; and Denise Gill, ethnomusicologist focusing on Turkey, and Associate Professor in the Department of Music on campus.
In keeping with longstanding tradition, we carry letters from graduate students in the field – Noor Amr (Germany), Paras Arora (New Delhi, India), Emilia Groupp (Tunisia), Stefania Manfio (Mauritius) and Shikha Nehra (Assam, India), as well as one of our undergraduates, Ilina Rughoobur (Mauritius).
The remainder of the newsletter is devoted to our usual rubrics:
(1) Updates from the faculty, including a celebration of Sylvia Yanagisako who is retiring this year after more than four decades in the department.
(2) Staff updates, including appreciations of Ellen Christensen who retired in September 2022 after many years as Department Manager, and Shelly Coughlan who left the department for new challenges after many years as graduate Student Service Officer. We welcome new faces: Emily Bishop, our new and dynamic Director of Finance and Operations (Department Manager); John Lee, our new Assistant Director of Finance and Operations, and Julianne Spitler, our new Administrative Assistant.
(3) We celebrate our return to normal in-person activity with photos from our many department events and new spaces for students.
(4) Last but not least, we bring updates from our many alumni, including an interview with Kim Grose Moore who also kindly addressed our undergraduates at the Alumni Career Night.
I want to extend a warm note of thanks to our faculty, students, visitors and staff for a wonderful and active academic year. It is so great to be back!
Why Do We Believe What Seems Irrational, At Least to Others?
I am an anthropologist of religion. I did my first stint of fieldwork with middle-class Londoners who identified as witches, druids, and initiates of the Western Mysteries. My next project was in Mumbai, India, where Zoroastrianism was experiencing a resurgence. Later, I spent four years with charismatic evangelical Christians in Chicago and San Francisco, observing how they developed an “intimate relationship” with an invisible God. Along the way, I studied newly Orthodox Jews, social-justice Catholics, AngloCuban Santería devotees, and, briefly, a group in Southern California that worshipped a US-born guru named Kalindi.
By Tanya Luhrmann
Professor of Anthropology
March 1997, the bodies of thirty-nine people were discovered in a mansion outside San Diego. They were found lying in bunk beds, wearing identical black shirts and sweatpants. Their faces were covered with squares of purple cloth, and each of their pockets held exactly five dollars and seventy-five cents.
The police determined that the deceased were members of Heaven’s Gate, a local cult, and that they had intentionally overdosed on barbiturates. Marshall Applewhite, the group’s leader, had believed that there was a UFO trailing in the wake of Comet Hale-Bopp, which was visible in the sky over California that year. He and his followers took the pills, mixing them with applesauce and washing them down with vodka, in order to beam up to the spacecraft and enter the “evolutionary level above human.”
In the aftermath of the mass suicide, one question was asked again and again: How could so many people have believed something so obviously wrong?
Most of these people would describe themselves as believers. Many of the evangelicals would say that they believe in God without doubt. But even the most devout do not behave as if God’s reality is the same as the obdurate thereness of rocks and trees. They will tell you that God is capable of anything, aware of everything, and always on their side. But no one prays that God will write their term paper or replace a leaky pipe.
Instead, what their actions suggest is that maintaining a sense of God’s realness is hard. Evangelicals talk constantly about what bad Christians they are. They say that they go to church and resolve to be Christlike and then yell at their kids on the way home. The Bible may assert vigorously the reality of a mighty God, but psalm after psalm laments his absence. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Beliefs are not passively held; they are actively constructed. Even when people believe in God, he must be made real for them again and again. They must be convinced that there is an invisible other who cares for them and whose actions affect their lives.
This is more likely to happen for someone who can vividly imagine that invisible other. In the late 1970s, Robert Silvey, an audience researcher at the BBC, started using the word “paracosm” to describe the private worlds that children create, like the North Pacific island of Gondal that Emily and Anne Brontë dreamed up when they were girls. But paracosms are not unique to children. Besotted J.R.R. Tolkien fans, for example, have a similar relationship with Middle-earth. What defines a paracosm is its specificity of detail: it is the smell of the rabbit cooked in the shadow of
the dark tower or the unease the hobbits feel on the high platforms at Lothlórien. In returning again and again to the books, a reader creates a history with this enchanted world that can become as layered as her memory of middle school. God becomes more real for people who turn their faith into a paracosm. The institution provides the stories — the wounds of Christ on the cross, the serpent in the Garden of Eden — and some followers begin to live within them. These narratives can grip the imagination so fiercely that the world just seems less good without them.
During my fieldwork, I saw that people could train themselves to feel God’s presence. They anchored God to their minds and bodies so that everyday experiences became evidence of his realness. They got goose bumps in the presence of the Holy Spirit, or sensed Demeter when a chill ran up their spine. When an idea popped into their minds, it was God speaking, not a stray thought of their own. Some people told me that they came to recognize God’s voice the way they recognized their mother’s voice on the phone. As God became more responsive, the biblical narratives seemed less like fairy tales and more like stories they’d heard from a friend, or even memories of their own.
Faith is the process of creating an inner world and making it real through constant effort. But most believers are able to hold the faith world — the world as it should be — in tension with the world as it is. When the engine fails, Christians might pray to God for a miracle, but most also call a mechanic.
Being socially isolated can compromise one’s ability to distinguish his or her paracosm from the everyday world. Members of Heaven’s Gate never left their houses alone. They wore uniforms and rejected signs of individuality. Some of them even underwent castration in order to avoid romantic attachments. When group members cannot interact with outsiders, they are less likely to think independently. Especially if there is an autocratic leader, there is less opportunity for dissent, and the group becomes dependent on his or her moral authority. Slowly, a view of the world that seems askew to others can settle into place.
When we argue about politics, we may think we are arguing over facts and propositions. But in many ways we argue because we live in different paracosmic worlds, facilitated these days by the intensely detailed imaginings of talk radio and cable news. For some of us, that world is the desperate future of the near at hand. If abortion is made illegal, abortions will happen anyway, and women will die because they used clothes hangers to scrape out their insides. Others live in a paracosm of a distant future of the world as it should be, where affirmative action is unnecessary because people who work hard can succeed regardless of where they started.
Recently, the dominant political narratives in America have moved so far apart that each is unreadable to the other side. But we know that the first step in loosening the grip of an extreme culture is developing a relationship with someone who interprets the world differently. In 2012, for example, a woman named Megan Phelps-Roper left the Westboro Baptist Church, a hard-line Christian group that pickets the funerals of queer people, after she became friendly with a few of her critics on Twitter. If the presence of people with whom we disagree helps us to maintain common sense, then perhaps the first step to easing the polarization that grips this country is to seek those people out. That’s the anthropological way.
Image from When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God
The Specter of ChatGPT: Thoughts on Genre, Entertainment, and Truth
The pandemic made such adjustments visible as we had to shift between different platforms and genres of learning. Virtual platforms like Zoom and YouTube were tested as potential alternatives to traditional classroom settings and social events on university campuses. Regardless of how we felt about it, we honed our communication skills through new features that allowed us to raise hands, share screens, or have a little chat on the side. The pressure to be discreet was recalibrated. One must be subtle when checking their phone to avoid drawing attention in a seminar. However, watching a debate on YouTube does not require the same level of decorum from its audience, not even the semblance of attention. On Zoom, one’s presence can be reduced to sound, image, or words. Forgetting to unmute became a common mistake, drawing sympathetic smiles from others. Turn the camera off, and poof, you are gone! Are you there? Maybe. Maybe not.
By Serkan Yolaçan
Professor of Anthropology
A new specter is haunting universities and the genres of learning they privilege—the specter of ChatGPT. As we are using this magical tool, testing its limits, and developing sensibilities about its appropriate uses, we are turning it into a new genre of learning. But what do we mean by learning? And what do we mean by genre? And what do they have to do with the theme of this newsletter, “belief and believability?” We have a lot to unpack before returning to ChatGPT at the end.
First, what do we mean by learning? Acquiring knowledge? Discovering a new perspective? Having a new experience? Being inculcated moral values? However we define it, learning adjusts us to our environment in new ways, and learning involves learning how to inhabit this new condition. The truth of what we learn emerges from our understanding and participation in this adjustment, no matter how minuscule and ordinary or grand and “life-changing” that adjustment may be.
The pandemic may have highlighted how our learning experiences involve developing a sense of the rules of engagement, social expectations, and proper conduct that enable and limit it. But this dynamic pervades our lives through other genres that do not need the high-functioning infrastructure of the University or the Internet. Take something as trivial as gossip:
“Gossip is a text crafted with many signals of confidenceandconspiracy,highlightedwithaglance to see if somebody is listening, phrased to titillate with the most savoury or unsavoury bit reserved for the ending. One could not divorce the inflections of voice, the body posture, the signs of intimacy from all the techniques of story-telling in a gossip’s performance of history. We who hear the gossip have a fine sense of its poetics as we separate the snide from the good-humoured, commit ourselves or suspend our judgement of its truth, know which friendly relations are damaged or enhanced by it,” (Dening 1995, 14).
Despite practicing it from early on in our lives, we hardly pay attention to gossip as a genre of communication and learning. Part of the reason is that gossip is a self-effacing genre, much like a joke. Both genres deflect any serious
reflection on them and dissolve when exposed to scrutiny. Ah, it’s just gossip, we say. Or, come on, it was a joke, we exclaim to remind the other party about the genre and how it is supposed to be inconsequential. These unassuming genres lower the stakes of learning, and that is precisely why we keep turning to them to communicate ideas, mores, disagreements, and paradoxes. And the more we use them, the more they become second nature. These low-stake genres are most effective in lighthearted moments that taper, overrule, or even ridicule the seriousness of other genres, that is, in moments when we feel at ease or, even better, entertained.
Entertainment may sound frivolous at first. But as I have already suggested, we should not be too quick to associate learning with sobriety. Not yet. Not before we acknowledge the God of Entertainment who rules us all through our smart gadgets, digital platforms, and the endless content that fills them. Some may prefer to dismiss our obsession with entertainment as the fetish of our age, a monster of our own creation that needs to be overcome. I approach it differently and ask what aspect of the human condition is exaggerated in this obsession. Could it be our proclivity to play?
The modern distinction between work and leisure has obscured what Victor Turner calls “the human seriousness of play” (2001 ), a characteristic of “all symbolic genres from ritual to games and literature” (1974, 66). Our engagement with the world through these genres can be earnest and playful at once. And in play, we learn. This recognition drops us in the Dionysian domain of pleasure, festivity, ritual, theater, dramaturgy, and performance. Anthropologists have been charting this domain, generating perspectives on the human experience as performance bound in symbolic exchanges. On that firmer ground, Greg Dening helps us expand the notion of entertainment:
“Entertainment comes ultimately from the latin inter tenere ‘to hold among or between.’ Of the sixteen dictionary usages of the word ‘entertain’ onlyoneusageisdevotedtothefrivolousoramusing element in it. All the other usages stress its active, defining quality: ‘to keep in a certain state,’ 'to support,’ 'to engage,’ keep occupied the attention of,’ 'to harbour,’ 'to take upon oneself.’ Entertaining a thought or entertaining a guest has a boundarymaking, dramaturgical character. If I entertain a guestIputallsortsofboundarymarkersaroundour host/guest relationship. I do things with extravagant gesture, out of the ordinary. I place my guest at table, I dress carefully, I formalize the menu, I use special utensils, I move the conversation away from sensitive issues. I play the role of host in a thousand small ways and the guest responds as dramatically. Our host/guest relationship is presented in dramatic actions," (1995, 75-76).
Entertainment requires a deep familiarity with a genre and inhabiting it earnestly. In that focused engagement, the boundary between work and leisure starts to break down. In an entertained state of mind enabled by specific genres, we observe and participate in dramatic compositions, navigate their boundaries, discover their twists and turns, and resolve their tensions.
Understanding the problem of truth first and foremost as a problem of genre allows us to approach the theme of this newsletter, “belief and believability,” beyond the binaries of fact vs. fake or faith vs. reason. The truth of a news article is different from the truth of a poem or both from the truth of a historical novel. We may expect a factual basis from a news article, but demanding such evidentiality from a poem would only reveal our ignorance of the genre. With the historical novel, the same expectation would possibly generate an interesting discussion on the genre’s limits.
What should we expect from ChatGPT as a genre of learning? What questions should we ask of it? How do we understand the truth of what we learn from or through it? For many, ChatGPT is as frightening as it is entertaining. But what are we afraid of exactly? Losing the authenticity of an authorial voice pegged to a single living being that has a physical and social presence? Loss of the modern subject? Even the idea of self? What if I told you that ChatGPT wrote this piece? Would you feel differently? Would you believe me? Who exactly is me?
As all that is solid melts into a hivemind, we are yet to see what human proclivities will be dramatized by this genre. Will it be our unquenchable appetite to decipher the human condition? Will ChatGPT, the ultimate linguistic hivemind, finally divulge the answers for us? Will those answers entertain us? Or will we be entertained by the irony of it all and have a good laugh about it, like it’s all a joke?
Dening, Greg. The death of William Gooch: A history’s anthropology Melbourne University Publish, (1995).
Turner, Victor. “Liminal to liminoid, in play, flow, and ritual: An essay in comparative symbology.” Rice Institute Pamphlet-Rice University Studies 60.3 (1974).
Turner, Victor. “From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play (1982).” Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP (2001).
Can Islam Theorize Politics?
By Alev Cinar Visiting Scholar
I’m at the Anthropology Department as a Visiting Scholar with an EU Horizon2020 Marie S. Curie Global Fellowship, working on a project titled “The Islamic Intellectual Field and Political Theorizing in Turkey.” My core objective is to understand the relationship between Islam and politics through an investigation of Islambased intellectual and political movements that are currently active in the intellectual field in Turkey, which has not only shaped the foundational ideology of the ruling Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP), but has also been instrumental in the transformation of the overall language, culture, and practice of politics during the last two decades, from the political system, including the structure of government, foreign affairs and economic policies, to the conceptualization of national history, the education system, and various cultural policies including culinary practices, “ethnic sports” or the fashion industry. Despite its significance, however, this intellectual field and the movements that constitute it have not been
studied academically, neither internationally nor by the Turkish academia. I speculate that there are at least two reasons for this neglect. First, since academic disciplines are still largely dominated by a paradigm that is rooted in the religion vs. science binary, there is a strong tendency to look at everything related to Islam as belonging to the domain of religion and faith, rather than political thought, which is an attitude that breeds a strong reluctance to see Islam as a legitimate domain of knowledge production that is capable of generating politically, economically, or socially viable perspectives and systems of thought. Second, the “Islam vs. West” binary, which has been cultivated as an antagonistic opposition both by extremist, radical or authoritarian Islamic movements, including the AKP, and by right-wing populist-nationalist movements in the global North, also taints academic discourses. This binary thinking has not only fueled formidable prejudice against Islam in general, but also fosters reductionist and essentialist approaches in the academia, which tend to
Variations of Sufism in Turkey
Alev Çınar 2023
The Predicament of Islamic Decoloniality in Turkey
Sufism (e.g., İskenderpaşa, İsmailağa, Erenköy, Menzil)
“The Imam Rocker” Ahmet Muhsin Tüzer, who combines Sufi music with Rock
The Naqshbandi Menzil Tariqa, which has close ties with the AKP and several ministries.
Sufism: (e.g., Malāmatiyya, Qalandariyya, Bektashi)
The Predicament of Islamic Decoloniality in Turkey
frame Islam as a monolithic category that is essentially and irredeemably separate from the West. Under these intellectually adverse conditions, the study of Islam-based intellectual and political movements is often frowned upon by many in the academic world – both internationally and in Turkey – who tend to see such studies as running the risk of legitimizing radical and extremist forms of political Islam, or inevitably serving the interests of populist or authoritarian regimes like the AKP. In my work, I attempt to critically address and complicate, hopefully without reproducing, the religion-science, faith-knowledge, or the Islam-West binaries to break away from the binary logic that has tainted, and so far undermined, the study of the relationship between Islam and politics.
What inspired me to introduce my work to the Stanford Anthropology community in this way was the following statement of this year’s newsletter theme:
One can lose faith, or never really believe, but one can still be strongly attached to an ethno-religious category, for example. The question of belief and believability are rarely just based on private convictions or deliberations.
I find approaching religion as a category of identification and belonging rather than faith a refreshing intervention that helps break away from the forms of binary thinking that I tried to outline, which is one of the central objectives of my study. But even more central is making this intervention by introducing the significance of religion as a category of political thought, that is, as a source of theorizing the political and the social. In other words, I’m interested in demonstrating how truth, or rather, theoretical and normative insights are sought in intellectual traditions rooted in religion, which is itself a domain that is historically and intellectually inseparable from science and philosophy. More specifically, I am interested in understanding how,
in the Islamic intellectual field in Turkey Islam provides the intellectual tools with which existing socio-political systems and their foundational ideologies are contested or re-envisioned, and how new perspectives and systems are developed to replace them. In my approach to the study of Islam-based political theorizing as a sort of knowledge production, I am not concerned with the truth value of the claims made but rather with their functionality. In other words, I seek to discern how Islam-based postulates, perspectives and ways of knowing are used to justify political projects, foundational ideologies, or policies, and to serve as tools of political legitimation, justice, accountability, or social welfare and wellbeing by different movements in the Islamic intellectual field in Turkey.
Conducting this research under the sponsorship of Thomas Blom Hansen and the Anthropology Department at Stanford, and the network of scholars I met in the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, as well as the Program on Turkey at the Freeman Spogli Institute has been immensely valuable and conducive to the interdisciplinary approach and the unconventional themes I am pursuing. Being a scholar based in political science who is interested in the intellectual foundations of politics and the theorization of the political by the locally established intellectuals themselves, and as someone who wants to maintain a critical distance while also deeply engage their intellectual culture, I found the criticism and feedback coming from anthropological perspectives, and the diverse audiences I was able to interact with at Stanford, most conducive to the kind of work I am doing on the Islamic intellectual field in Turkey. After the end of my fellowship in August 2024, my plans are to seek residential fellowships where I hope to bring together this work in a book. I would love to take advantage of the immensely favorable intellectual environment I found at Stanford by coming back through a possible Stanford Humanities Center fellowship.
Continuation on Page 7
Alev Çınar 2023
the Islamic Intellectual Field: ongoing political theorizing in hundreds of journals and magazines
The Predicament of Islamic Decoloniality in Turkey
Saint or Blasphemer: On Getting Friendly with God
By Saad Lakhani
Rizwan spotted us on his motorcycle and walked back with us to Deen Muhammad’s drawingroom/TLP’s makeshift office. We had just returned from door-to-door political campaigning for the Tehrik Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a popular anti-blasphemy movement, in Lahore’s working-class Walton Road neighborhood. Deen Muhammad yelled out as we stepped in, “six cups of chai!” I had dinner with Deen Muhammad earlier, so he turned to Rizwan to ask if he would like something to eat. Excusing himself, Rizwan half-jokingly said that he better leave soon, or he’ll get “a beating from his wife.” Rizwan had promised his pregnant wife to rush home from work but was with us instead.
Upon hearing Rizwan’s comments, Deen Muhammad remembered a story about the Pir of Kot Abdul Malik, a small town outside Lahore. Deen Muhammad was a retired carpenter whose favorite pastime was to tell miraculous stories about Sufi Pirs.
“You know that I am a disciple of the Pir of Walton [Road],” Deen Muhammad said to Rizwan, “this funny story is about a different Pir.” He continued, “so, a good friend once asked me to join him for Friday prayers at Kot Abdul Malik. He was a disciple of the Baba Ji [literally: father dearest] over there. I quickly fell in love with Baba Ji and visited every Friday for fifteen years. That is, until Baba Ji took a veil from this world.”
Expressing his love for the Pir, he further said, “Baba Ji! What can I say about him? A tall six-and-a-halffoot Qadiri! A beautiful man with a glowing (noorani) face. He was a true friend of God, a dervish-type man. To be honest, I even felt like skipping prayers to keep looking at him and listening to him speak all day long.”
He then remembered after a sigh, “Oh yes, I was telling you a story.”
During his first meeting, Deen Muhammad had conventionally asked the Pir to teach him some spiritual lessons. “You know what he said? This is how you can tell that he was authentic. Baba Ji told me, ‘When you ask your neighbor’s kid to fetch your undergarments, you should expect a beating from your wife.’”
Rizwan and Deen Muhammad burst out laughing. While a playful response to Rizwan’s earlier comments, the story had a moral to it. Since Deen Muhammad had already pledged discipleship to another Pir, the Pir of
Kot Abdul Malik was effectively telling him that his primary source of moral and spiritual sustenance should be his own Pir.
In Pakistani Punjab, the Pir-disciple relationship is often understood through the analogy of the marriage contract. Just as a good wife must be loyal to her husband, a loyal disciple must be wary of the enticements and entrapments of other Pirs.
For Deen Muhammad, the fact that the Pir did not actively try to seduce him was a sign of the Pir’s authenticity as a ‘friend of God,’ the Islamic term for sainthood. “This is also a sign of a true Friend [of God]. Any other Pir would say, ‘oh your Pir, he’s nothing. I am the true big shot, real deal Pir. Your Pir hasn’t taught you anything valuable. Let me tell you the real stuff!’”
Having already kickstarted his favorite topic, Deen Muhammad continued to tell us many Pir stories. “Another funny one,” he said. “So Baba Ji always arranged a langar [communal feast] after the prayers. There’d be sweet rice, Halwa, and the like.” Deen Muhammad chuckled before adding, “So, this one time, he overheard a boy tell his friend to avoid getting food stains on his white clothes. The Pir Saheb [mockingly] said, “oh, don’t worry. I’ll even clean your face if I have to with my own hands.”
The joke was that the boy was being effeminate and overly sensitive.
Deen Muhammad told another story, “This one time, a young newlywed man met Baba Ji and asked him to pray for a child. When the Pir learned that the man had just gotten married, he told the man ‘Do you just
A local TLP rally in Lahore against “global blasphemers”
want me to pray or should I do the deed for you too.’”
After sharing a generous laugh with Rizwan, Deen Muhammad told a story about a wealthy old man “around eighty to ninety years of age” requesting to become a disciple. The Pir told him, “Where were you your whole life? Don’t you think you’re a little late? Look, all your nut bolts have become loose?” After pulling his leg some more, the Pir eventually accepted his discipleship offer, saying “okay, okay, we will work with what we got.”
After a brief pause, Rizwan bowed his head and remarked, “Ah, Baba Ji combined sincere love with jokes.” Deen Muhammad added, “his jokes came from sincere love.” He then turned to me, “You see, Saad bhai, Baba Ji had a funny temperament... it was his unique way to do ethical training.” Whether or not the Pir’s jokes had a deeper ethical meaning, they did reproduce an asymmetrical joking relationship of the Pir with his followers: the Pir could mock, tease, and even insult social others, but they could not return the favor. In fact, failing to live up to the norms of deference and avoidance toward a Sufi Pir may even result in an accusation of blasphemy.
Often, joking relationships establish parity in which both parties exchange banter and insult. These exchanges allow individuals to suspend social formality and allow for a more boundary-free, intimate bond to emerge. In this light, the Pir’s joking insults were interpreted by Deen Muhammad as expressions of intimacy and informality that disregarded ordinary social distances about respecting the dignity of others in day-to-day life. This becomes apparent in the Pir’s consistent disregard of bodily boundaries; in saying he’ll wipe a boy’s face with his hands or joking about sex with another man’s wife, or by mocking an old man’s body. The fact that the Pir could get away with it was a demonstration of power and authority. Especially given the fact
the Pir’s active disregard of formal respect toward others goes hand in hand with the taboo regulating deference and avoidance demands for the Pir himself.
Deen Muhammad’s next stories took a more miraculous turn. This one time, he said, the Pir was visiting the city of Jhelum where there was a tea shop that he loved to frequent. He asked for his favorite tea-maker Fazal (literally: "grace") but learned that Fazal had just passed away. “Such divine grace [fazal] it was,” the locals said, that the Pir arrived since he could lead the funeral prayer at the town center.
Deen Muhammad’s next miracle story, he said, was even more shocking because he witnessed it first-hand. This one time he arrived at Kot Abdul Malik during a rainstorm, and it seemed impossible to pray under such conditions. That’s when the Pir angrily turned his face toward the sky and said, “if you don’t like my face, that’s fine. I won’t pray then. I am out here to perform your prayer, not mine.” Deen Muhammad looked at me, “Saad bhai, believe me, within two minutes the clouds and rain were gone. It was suddenly a bright sunny day! Baba Ji then ordered everyone to set up the prayer mats.”
Rizwan said, shaking his head, “Woah, such big words. If someone could just say them then he must be someone big. What big words could he utter... If anyone else had said them, it would be a grave blasphemy.”
Deen Muhammad would later explain to me why the Pir’s seemingly insolent address to God should not be viewed as blasphemy. “Certainly, if anybody else uttered it [it would be blasphemy]. But this conversation [of the Pir with God] is taking place with a beloved, with a friend. Baba Ji was a true friend of God. He wasn’t addressing a Sahib [man of status] but a friend. With a Sahib, you refer to people as muhtaram [with deference]“
“I am not in the mood for a funeral right now,” he told them in almost blasphemous fashion, “I am in the mood of chai.” I say almost blasphemous because these words would ordinarily be considered disrespectful speech against God’s will and the funeral prayer. According to Deen Muhammad, the Pir stood up, walked straight to the town center, and addressed the corpse, “oh, Fazal! Go make some tea already.” Fazal immediately woke up from death and rushed to make tea for the Pir.
“God is great!” exclaimed Rizwan in awe. “Fazal continued to serve tea to the community for many years after that,” Deen Muhammad said.
Deen Muhammad distinguished between two modes of address: address toward a friend and toward a person of status. During the latter, one must strictly conform with the formal rules of avoidance and deference that ordinarily govern one’s comportment toward a social superior. But as a friend, the Pir could speak in a more carefree, intimate, and informal manner with God. In fact, the successful performance of this joking relation with God—that is, not being charged with blasphemy— confirms the Pir’s extraordinary closeness to God. By getting friendly with God, the Pir demonstrates that he and God are close, so to speak.
“The spiritual comb of marriage.” This poster advertises the services of a Sufi Pir who provides an enchanted comb that could brush away deadlocks in one’s marriage.
Stories and Everyday Archives of Truth
By Alisha Cherian
It was a late Friday afternoon, and I was traveling from the eastern end to the northern end of Singapore. I boarded the bus with an Indian woman who looked to be in her forties and a friend of mine, Rakesh, a Malayalee man in his thirties. There weren’t that many empty seats left, so we were all going to need to sit next to someone. The Indian aunty, who got on ahead of me, sat down next to a Chinese woman who looked to be about a decade or so older than her. The seats directly opposite them were the only ones in a pair, so my friend and I filed in next. Immediately, I noticed the Chinese aunty bristle. She clutched her bag closer to her body, shrinking herself towards the window. She rummaged through her purse and pulled out a rose-scented nasal inhaler, tucking it under her mask and audibly sniffing it every now and then. At one point, when there was still a stretch of highway to go before the interchange, the Chinese aunty stood up and made to move into the aisle. The bus swerved suddenly, and she lurched forward, knocking into Rakesh’s knees. She steadied herself on the pole, turned back, and glared at him, before going over to the section of the bus meant for wheelchair users and strollers. She stood there for about ten minutes before we came to our stop and we all alighted.
Later that evening, once we were off the bus and having dinner at a hawker center, Rakesh and I discussed what had happened. I posed several scenarios that could have potentially explained the Chinese woman’s behavior – what if she was worried about Covid? What if she had had a cold and the inhaler was an off-brand Tiger Balm? What if she had wanted to stretch her legs or was running late for her next bus and wanted to make sure she was the first to get off? Rakesh pursed his lips and looked pointedly at me while
he said sarcastically, “or, she just didn’t want to sit next to some smelly Indians.”
During my fieldwork, there was a trend on Singapore TikTok where Indian Singaporean Tokers would film themselves, with their front camera on an MRT train, their eyes smiling, some with their heads nodding proudly, tilting their phones to show that they had empty seats on either side of them. They would then switch to the phone’s rear camera to reveal all other seats in the compartment full with some folks even standing. On the screen, there was overlaid text reading some iteration of “exercising my Indian privilege” or “enjoying my Indian privilege”. The joke was that, in a crowded city like Singapore where over fifty percent of the population makes daily use of public transport, it was a rare moment of respite to have space to yourself on a train or a bus without being hemmed in on either side. However, the reason these TikTokers were able to enjoy all this space was,
Photograph taken by Alisha Cherian
according to them, because Chinese and sometimes Malay Singaporeans did not want to sit next to Indian passengers who they imagined to be "dirty" and "smelly".
I spent most days of my two and a half years in Singapore on long public transport commutes to different parts of the city. I, too, started to notice a discernable pattern of who would get sat down next to and who would not. Many of my informants relayed similar experiences where they’ve either noticed being the last ones to be sat down next to, if at all, or even at times, Chinese Singaporeans standing up and moving after they sat down next to them. Whether or not there was a trend in actual statistical terms of Indian people being avoided in these public settings (I would guess yes), and whether this trend was due to specifically racially motivated reasons (ditto), was, unfortunately, beyond the scope of my research as well as most Indian Singaporeans who would vehemently argue the same. However, what was key was the ways in which many Indian Singaporeans then made sense of these encounters as well as other everyday racial phenomena that, similarly, could also not be "proven" as easily. Going up against dominant state and civil society rhetoric about a successfully racially harmonious nationstate where all four racial groups (Chinese, Malay, Indian,
and "Other") are treated equally, many Indian Singaporeans would tell me how they were often questioned and doubted by folks from the Chinese majority who believed these hegemonic narratives. They would be met with the same line of hypothetical questioning I had presented Rakesh with that evening, laughed off as “being too sensitive”, or accused of trying to “start trouble”. And so, many Indian Singaporeans would assert truth claims about their lived experiences of Singapore’s racial structure while placing these encounters into personal and communal life histories of formative interactions and encounters where racial logics were made known more explicitly.
For example, Ishan, a Tamil man in his mid-thirties, remembered how in Primary 1, when he walked past a Chinese girl on his way to the bathroom, he had accidentally brushed past her, his arm barely grazing hers. She glared at him and “wiped it off”, as if he had left a trace of himself on her. His classmates in later years would in all seriousness tell him that his skin was dirty because it was brown and that he had better use an eraser to rub off both the color and the filth it evidenced. Divya, a Malayalee woman in her late thirties, described a lifetime of being teased in school for being "smelly" and later having to admonish coworkers and friends who would crack jokes about Indian people being malodorous or ignore Chinese Singaporeans of all ages who would pinch their noses as she walked by. Aunty Reena, a Malayalee woman in her early sixties, remembered vividly how a teacher had lectured their post-war Primary 1 class on personal hygiene, pointing to the Indian girl in the class with the darkest skin, and warning that if they did not bathe regularly, they would look like her.
This repertoire of lived experience was laid out for me in semi-formal interviews as well as in casual conversations at dining tables or over a drink at a bar, many times as part of larger group conversations where the story being retold was that of a family member or a friend of a friend. All these stories collectively (re)established the known stereotype that Indians were thought of as "smelly" and "dirty", a stereotype that Indian Singaporeans believed structured much of their encounters and interactions across race in public urban space. Thus, even when people were not "telling on themselves" by pinching their noses, wiping away imagined dirt, or sometimes even explicitly saying things like “don’t sit next to that dirty one”, Indian Singaporeans drew from their personal and shared knowledge of these racial logics to understand what others might perceive as more nebulous encounters. Against a local hegemonic culture of statistics where numbers were presented as the language of truth and yet sometimes used to mask if not also perpetuate social inequality, these memories served to provide evidence of what was otherwise often disbelieved about Indian Singaporean everyday lived reality.
Photograph taken by Alisha Cherian
Beliefs and Believability During the Fieldwork in Mayfair and WashingtonGuadalupe
By Barbora Spalová
01/02/2023, Redwood City
After weeks of uneasy family management in the new environment, I am eager to start the research. How will people from new monastic communities understand and respond to my aims? In the project, I developed some descriptive aims (the character of the counterculturality of the new monastic movement, their diagnoses of the problems of the contemporary world, and their responses), some theoretical (what the religious and non-religious mean for new monastics) and some more practical (bringing the experiences of American new monastics to the dialogue with their “spiritual relatives” in Europe). In the contact letters, I link my previous research about the renewal of monasticism in Central and Eastern Europe after communism to the project, saying that this research affected me professionally and personally and that I expect to see a somewhat similar reinterpretation of how the new and old monastics had to do with the monastic tradition.
01/08/2023, Downtown San José
The life of the Shalom Iglesia, the church started by the Servant Partners community in San José eight years ago, is slowly recovering after the Christmas break. A pastor answered my contact e-mail: “I’m quite intrigued by your work!Infact,Iamworkingonnewmonasticismtoofroma different angle — trying to start a lay movement of justice and compassion ministry. I’m in the midst of applying to a PhDprogramtostudythispursuitmissiologically.So,among alltheSPsites,Ithinkyou’veendedupattheonemostlikely tospeakthelanguageyou’retryingtotalk.” But he doesn´t show up today; he is ill with covid. Another pastor is informed I am coming and recognizes me immediately: “Bienvenido!” Before I can say something to introduce myself, he already knows: “It is good, Barbara, that you are here. It is not by
accident, HolySpirit sent you here.You know, people have alotofprejudicesaboutMexicans,thattheydrinktoomuch andhavemanywomen,butitisnottrue.Andyoucanwrite about it; you can prove it.” I feel certainly honored to be recognized as sent by the Holy Spirit. Still, at the same time, I am registering that people associate new aims with my project — academic exchange and support in emancipatory or recognition efforts of the Mexican neighborhood in San José.
01/22/2023, Downtown San José
Thursday, I could not attend the Bible study group; I was in the hospital with my teen daughter, who started to have panic attacks as soon as we arrived in the US. Today I came to worship with my baby daughter. When the pastor sees me, he calls his wife, puts my hand into hers, anoints them with a fragrance “for inviting Holy Spirit” as he says and prays: “God,youknowBarbara,youalsoknowherdaughter, you will bring her peace and you will provide Barbara with wisdom…” The prayer is long; I have Noemi on my hands and four bags hanging on me; I would like to put it all somewhere, but the pastor speaks without pauses; I find it funny. I wish I would have the faith he has, and I am trying to imagine myself believing that it really helps, that my daughter would be miraculously healed. Or that I would suddenly know how to speak to her. That peace comes to the family. It recalls the images from the Jehovah´s Witnesses magazines, which finally makes me laugh.
The next day, Khando speaks during the Brown Bag about ethnographic poetry and asks us to try it. I remember the moment from the children’s Sunday class yesterday:
Elias’s hand gently touches Noemi’s.
He is only a year and a half old but already a servant.
He is going to the slums of Bangkok.
He will learn Thai quickly, for sure.
How long will he stay there?
How long will those he will serve with his trusting look stay there?
It is interesting to think about the fieldwork experiences as about the topics for a poem. Do these fieldwork “poetic moments” have something in common? Some strange indeterminacy, unnameability, tension can be felt from them. Pity that the system for evaluating scientific performance established by the Czech government would probably not accept the collection of poems as one of the results of my project.
02/16/2023 WashingtonGuadalupe neighborhood, San José
I went to Jennie´s house two hours before the Bible study; we agreed to do an interview. The Servant Partner staff rent the houses in this neighborhood and in Mayfair to fulfill their mission to build friendships with the urban poor. The neighborhood includes approximately 12,000 residents and is about 85% Latino, including many recent immigrants. The residential areas take up a little less than a square mile for a population density of approximately 15,000 per square mile. Jennie´s baby needed a little nap, so to my delight, we went for a walk. As we are passing the streets, Jennie shows me the houses of friends, but very often, she says: those are people who had to go during the covid when they lost their job, those moved to another state because of the high rents, these three families had to move to one house, you can see how many cars they have around, the father of this family disappeared so the mother could not afford it and went back to Mexico… The realization of the new monastic call for stability makes the Servant Partner staff play the role of memory holders of the neighborhood. When it comes to the discussion about the sustainability of the local public school struggling with a lack of students, the Servant Partners can witness the continuity of good work this school provides to families struggling with poverty, racism, criminality, and gang violence. The more affluent families slowly moving into the neighborhood try to convert the public school into a charter one or start a new one, but Jennie wants to send her girl when the time comes to this beloved public school. So, she started to volunteer with her little baby in the Teen Center of the school. It is her ministry just to be there and build the relationships.
When Annie started to speak about public school, I had a
question in my head but felt embarrassed to ask it. Knowing how big an issue schooling is for the child’s future in the US, is she sure about sending Lola to this endangered public school? What is the belief behind this decision? Parenting is always part of the parents´ faith, but the communal kids experience more than the faith of parents; they are parts of the countercultural community their parents choose.
Was my belief that I could manage my work with the role of the mother of five kids right? The belief that coming here would be an important, maybe not only positive, but important experience for everybody? Or is this my belief that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, behind my daughter’s breakdown?
04/24/2023 Green Library
The time is becoming short, and I try to organize the dozens of interviews and hundreds of pages of field notes to see what I missed. There are some topics that I don´t dare to go into: racism or the character of the secularity of American society don’t seem graspable for me now. I wonder what would bring the re-reading of my material about the practice of monastic stability through the lens of migration and urban studies. I care about being in contact with the missiology aims of the Servant Partners’ pastor but also to bring him and other people of a similar audience a fresh perspective. But I would like also to approach the puzzle of counterculturality of the new monastics. To honor the stories of my friends whose parents or grandparents don’t agree with their ministries, their lives in poor neighborhoods, their abolitionism. To make sense of the stories hard to believe for me of people being shot by police using rubber bullets during the George Floyd protests. To seek the reconciliation together with another friend whose grandma wrote her a letter to make her aware that she lives in sin doing this ministry. The effort to fulfill these aims will surely bring to light some of my beliefs. And maybe I could hope for reconciliation also in my family.
Photograph taken by Barbora Spalová
Studying the PostImperial in Post-Disaster Turkey
By Miray Cakiroglu
All things that come to the foreground begin to make sense in terms of comparisons. In 2023 Turkey, a theme of repetition is prevalent. The ruling party declared its campaign slogan for the upcoming elections– “Turkey’s Century.” This is in reference to the centennial of the Turkish Republic and, at the same time, an invitation to view the elections through the lens of the closure of an era and the beginning of another. In anticipation of directions to take, comparisons arise between experiences that come into view as turning points in retrospect. Yet, comparisons also arise even when they are not desirable.
I entered a bomb explosion scene in Taksim when I arrived from school at the field in Istanbul. A news ban and internet slowdown soon followed. The wi-fi network at the hotel did not allow me to connect to the VPN, so I could not access my Twitter feed. I could watch the mainstream news channels on TV, which circulated images of a female refugee accused of the incident where six lives were lost. As we were approaching the elections, many asked whether this incident was the harbinger of a bloody episode that could resemble the aftermath of the 2015 elections. The explosion in Taksim on 19 March had marked a period of events that culminated in repeat elections in 2016. One hour into the field, I was also wondering, as did others, whether we could expect more in the coming days.
The explosion had only made the headlines for a short time. A couple of months into fieldwork, an earthquake of immense intensity hit Turkey. Suddenly, back in the present time of another devastating catastrophe, the horizon was not the expectation of violence nearing the elections but that of the aftermath of 1999. The “Big Southeast Earthquake” of February 2023 has been compared to the 1999 Izmit earthquake. Those who have memories of 1999, besides feelings of personal loss, have also drawn links between drastic turns in the country, including the 2022
elections that brought Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP) victory in the wake of the disaster. People mostly attribute the blossoming of a robust civil society in Turkey to that earthquake: When they lifted their heads from the rubble, they saw not state agencies that rushed to relief but each other. The air in Istanbul thickened with grief upon news from the southeast and worries of the “expected Istanbul earthquake,” as it is commonly called since 1999.
Figures circulate. A prominent former journalist, a figure from the past, is now running as an MP in the elections. The journalist interviewing him jokingly asks whether he could open the parliament the day after the election as the most senior parliamentarian. He is one of the figures associated with an era and seems out of place, having outlived that period. He had played an active role in the “peace process” as a journalist who studied the circumstances of reconciliation with the armed wing of the Kurdish movement closely and published reports for steps to take. After a self-imposed exile in Europe, he has recently returned to Turkey, accepting the pro-Kurdish YSP’s offer to run as a candidate. The hope is that his presence will aid in passing on valuable know-how in a potential post-AKP reconstruction. He says he has found time to read much history in his self-imposed exile in the interview. Having done so, he confidently suggests that Turkey today most resembles 1908, right before the constitutional monarchy.
“May 14 is like the proclamation of the second constitution. The sultan is the same; Abdulhamid remains there. He is the one to give it anyway. Give what? Give back the constitution he canceled in 1876. Yes, the regime did change. Some throw his fez, some his hat, some his serpuş in the air… There is an emotional state in the society resembling the second constitution: “Oh, a new era is beginning!” 1
There, Not There
I came to the “field” to study Istanbul’s Rum (GreekOrthodox) community. Rum is a religion-based category defined through its subjection to the Greek-Orthodox church. In the nineteenth century, this religious community acquired a national meaning, with Greece becoming
the first nation-state to emerge from the Ottoman Empire.2 Istanbul’s Rum community also connects itself to the Eastern Roman Empire. What is the present for a community that is invoked with its past? I aimed to explore it through the modes of presence and absence in contemporary Istanbul.
The Rum in Istanbul are more open about their ethnic and religious identity than anywhere else. Still, I expect to have difficulty accessing this close-knit minority. I get introduced to the former president of non-Muslim foundations in a gathering hosted to “make space” to grieve on the 40th day of the earthquake. “Don’t,” he says to me, “there is nothing to be studied.” As a response to me, looking to hear more, he adds: “I believe you want to do serious work,” taking his cue from the friend who introduces me, “You will not be able to find anyone that will give you a substantial account.”
On another day, I am trying to schedule a meeting with a prominent archivist. Non-Muslim property transfer is relegated to historians, I say; I want to discover what is happening today. I would like to see if he could direct me to people or documents. “Documents?” he responds, “there are no documents; it is only hearsay.” Later I try to take this cryptical response apart. Perhaps the archivist alluded to methods of oral history. It would not be a coincidence for him to say that. The plethora of research on population exchange primarily relies on oral history accounts. The statement to me was a surface response, the first thing you offer upon a question. Perhaps the way I start laying out the question has been wrong, and it does not immediately hit a nerve.
Yet allusions to the imperial past in connection to dispossession keep coming up in unexpected places. A journalist speaking at an event on Antakya’s future after the earthquake describes a wide frame where he thinks the reconstruction of Antakya fits.3 He says the audience is probably familiar with Armenian and Rum property. Remembering that construction has moved hand in hand with expropriation throughout Turkey’s history highlights the necessity of closely monitoring the rebuilding of Antakya, 90 percent reduced to rubble in the earthquake’s aftermath. We see that historically spatial organization corresponded to processes of identity building. Antakya was the region where borders changed the most following the bylaw of 2012 on the transformation of disaster-prone urban areas.
An anthropologist starts laying out how she became interested in rural land enclosures. 4 She became interested in a news piece covering a rural struggle against a private company buying and fencing the land in a village in western Turkey. She was particularly interested in the temporal references the peasants made back to the 1960s, a period of land occupations entwined with socialist student movements, and further back, deriving their share in land from use since ‘antiquity.’ She suggests that the 1920s was the primary accumulation of the first phase of the
drawing up of borders; the 1960s was the second phase. The rural struggles today can be understood in terms of the possibilities opened or not opened in these times.
At the time of my writing this piece, there is one week left until the elections. I have been living since January in the Yesilkoy neighborhood, where there is a resident Rum community. It is possible to find the Ayastefanos church with decent participation any Sunday and hear Greek on a stroll along the shore. I have been primarily involved with a group called Nehna (which means “us” in Arabic). Nehna started as a website, an outcome of the collaboration of young Arab-Orthodox people from or with links to Antakya.5 It immediately took on a role of a civil initiative since the February earthquake, with the network they had in place.
Through them, I have witnessed the Rum spaces of Istanbul open for relief efforts for the non-Muslim population in Antakya and the wider community. Last Saturday, there was a charity bazaar at the Panayia Greek Orthodox Church in Beyoğlu. And on Sunday, a piano recital took place at the Zografeion, one of the two high schools still active today, to benefit students impacted by the earthquake.
On my way to the subway for Sunday’s recital, I could see
One hour into the field. Taksim, Istanbul. 14 November 2022.
cars waving flags and shouting chants down the Istasyon Caddesi. It is the crowd Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held its Istanbul meeting at the no-longer-functional Atatűrk Airport located in the Yeşilkőy neighborhood. I catch a glimpse of Erdoğan’s speech on my return from the recital.
It seemed apparent to many that the devastating earthquake drew the final line to the question marks as to whether the opposition will win the elections against the ruling party. The chain reaction of negligence that resulted in the catastrophic scale of the disaster pointed to illprepared disaster response and corruption in supervision mechanisms at all levels. In the first few days, there was no official declaration. The opposition mobilized the three metropolitan municipalities, declaring they could not wait for a 'go' from the state to act. It was common to hear the following statement: “The state is buried under the rubble of this earthquake.” This became a shorthand for many after excitedly reporting on the immensity of the experience to come to a point where they struggled to find more words.
Three months seem like a short time for a disaster of such scale to be put on the back burner. However, the prime minister invites the audience to look at the works and services they will offer in the next term. One of them is to leave no city vulnerable to earthquakes and make cities resilient to disasters. Even if we leave aside the recent experience for a moment, the promise is ringing the alarm bells for those who have lived through disasterled urban transformation, gentrification, and population displacement cycles in the past decade.
Staying on track in what feels like a whirlwind of events is challenging. It is interesting to study something that could have been left undone from the transitional period from the empire to the republic. To focus one’s gaze on institutions founded for the social well-being of non-Muslim Ottomans, redefined in Republican Turkey, while time seems to flow incredibly fast.
One of the ways I had started imagining the time scope of my field was with an early formulation of helalleşme (making amends) offered by the opposition as a new political direction. What ‘making amends’ entails is not yet clear, nor how far back those who suggest and those who interpret are willing to extend it. In the video, when the Kılıçdaroğlu first used it, he did so vaguely:
“Our country is one of wounded people. Different groups carry different wounds. Our wounds are so deep that our souls are in agony. We are so deeply hurt that we cannot look into the future; we are stuck in the past.” 6
Whatever the result of the elections, the discussion will go from here.
1. Cengiz Çandar. “Cengiz Çandar Talks to Ruşen Çakır.” 13 April 2023. Medyascope. https://medyascope.tv/2023/04/13/cengiz-candarrusen-cakira-konustu-milletvekili-adayligima-gelen-tepkiler-elestiriboyutlarini-asti-bu-organize-ve-operasyonel-bir-hareket/
2. Benlisoy, Foti and Stefo Benlisoy. 2001. “Millet-i Rum’dan Helen Ulusuna (1856-1922).” Modern Türkiye’de Siyasi Düşünce Cilt 4. Murat Gültekingil and Tanıl Bora (Ed.) İletişim.
3. Bahadır Özgür speaking at “Antakya’nın Felaketi ve Geleceği” (The Disaster and the Future of Antakya”) (2023). İstos. https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=ARSGVm7u6ac
4. Begüm Özden Fırat. “Toprak İşleyenin, Su Kullananın!: 1960-80 Arası Toprak İşgal Hareketi” (Land belongs to who works it, water belongs to who uses it!: Land Occupation Movement between 1960-80.)" Talk at TÜSTAV, İstanbul. 5 May 2023.
6. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. [Twitter post]. 13 November 2021. https://twitter. com/kilicdarogluk/status/1459455266831937536/
A Conversation with Jean-Thomas Martelli
scholarship draws from adjacent fields of knowledge, in particular political anthropology. My exposure to interdisciplinarity in a range of area studies departments—King’s India Institute, Center for International Studies (CERI), Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH)—made me receptive to a wider range of interpretive scholarship on South Asian politics, irrespective of its formal disciplinary moorings.
Could you tell me a little bit about your current work and what inspires your current research?
My work is inspired by the following question: how do some people get to speak for others in autocratizing democracies?
I believe this question is important because modalities of representation, such as expressions of proximity to the masses can damage democracy rather than strengthen it. All in all, the main concern of my work is to identify, catalogue and interpret the various ways in which democratic representation is performed in contemporary India. As part of this, I research populist discourses, youth activism, generational politics, political professionalization and practices of the self.
In the past few years, I developed a strong expertise in combining ethnographic and computational approaches. I aspire to build on this experience to research everyday political labor such as political advisory, speech-making, digital outreach, campaigning and political brokerage. In addition to ‘playing’ with advanced methods of text analysis, data mining and natural language processing, I specialize in corpus design, extraction, and compilation.
What role has Anthropology played in your research?
Although my training is grounded in political ethnography, my
I learned from anthropology a taste for enlarging the scope of politics beyond the study of formal mechanisms of political representation such as elections. I also use the anthropological canon to nuance positivist hypothetico-deductive approaches in American political science, in particular through grounding political theory on deductive field-centric evidence. Third, the way I look at politics is tinted by classical anthropological quarrels, in particular the one concerned with equality and hierarchy in South Asia, from Louis Dumont to M.N. Srinivas, including contemporaries such as Mukulika Banerjee, Anastasia Piliavsky and Alpa Shah. From this, I conceive anthropology as a liminal space for experimentation that very much informs my conceptual work on political representation.
Think about the topic of belief, credibility, and truthfulness. How does this topic play a part in your work?
I must admit that I have not much engaged with the topic of belief, credibility and truthfulness in my own academic work, although I am currently coordinating a special issue on digital politics in India, which touches on questions of fake news and disinformation at the interface of online and offline spaces. Questions of trust are often nested within considerations of political communication and electoral success. For instance, Neelanjan Sircar has recently introduced the term viswas (trust, assurance or faith in Hindi) to understand the personal and non-institutional ‘connect’ that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi established with his voter base. I follow academic debates around these lines very closely. I also have personal interest in understanding how bahubalis, strong men with criminal records, are building political patronage on boss-like notions of force that rely paradoxically on trustworthiness and paralegal credibility. A subtype of bahubalis —conmen—fascinates me even more. I read media stories on high-level Indian political and business scammers—Sanjay Sherpuria, Kiran Patel, Tihar-jailed Sukesh or a mysterious yogi allegedly pulling strings at the Indian National Stock Exchange (NSE). This does not yet constitute a topic of academic scrutiny, but in the future…who knows!
A Conversation with Tatjana Thelen
Could you tell me about your educational background?
When answering this question, I’m tempted to smooth out a pathway that wasn’t straightforward and didn’t feel that way either. I started my studies rather late and unambitiously, making my later career unlikely. However, those years certainly contributed significantly to my academic personality and research interest. When I finally studied anthropology in Cologne, Thomas Schweizer became my supervisor. He focused on social networks and had close research connections with UC Irvine. Thus, my first fieldwork experience was in a collaborative project only 400 miles south of here.
My PhD at the Free University in Berlin was supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation within an interdisciplinary program called “Comparison of Societies”. I was interested in what was happening after the demise of socialism and undertook fieldwork on privatization in Romania and Hungary. My supervisor was Georg Elwert, an expert in West Africa with a focus on conflict theory who inspired my perspective on the role of arbitrary violence in social reproduction.
After defending my thesis, I joined the Legal Pluralism group headed by Keebet and Franz von Benda-Beckmann at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale. My work on the state and social security profited deeply from their insights into the working of law. Besides them, Richard Rottenburg at the University of Halle-Wittenberg and his STS network, LOST, exerted the greatest intellectual influence. After I had already left Halle for the University of Zurich, he and Keebet sponsored my habilitation based on my research at a former large enterprise in eastern Germany.
I started this project as an economic anthropologist, but – as is so often the case in ethnographic research – the resulting book focused on something entirely different: care. At first glance, this conceptual choice might seem counterintuitive. With hindsight
I think that my involvement in diverse scholarly environments and schools of thought (STS, network analysis, political and legal anthropology), without ever considering myself fully part of any of them, enabled my ongoing intellectual endeavor of finding bridging concepts.
Could you tell me a little bit about your current work and what inspires your current research?
My current interests are not completely new, but rather aim at consolidating my relational approach to state and care. Considering the overwhelming stress placed on newness and the accelerating rate of “turns”, this stance might seem oldfashioned. However, only because I started to work on property and inequality nearly 25 years ago that does not mean everything has been said. And although much of anthropological (post) socialist studies ventured into area studies, I still think of socialism as a broader topic worth exploring not only in other places and times but also through its entanglements with anthropological theory.
Moreover, the interdisciplinary intellectual roots of my PhD education have never stopped inspiring new collaborations like the research group on Kinship and Politics, which I co-led with historians from UCLA and Zurich. One of our central topics has been the consequences of conceptual choices and the kinds of critique they enable or disenable. Thus, my own recent writings contemplate the gift as critique and temporalities of critique, as well as the critique of one of my earlier findings about the parcels sent by kin between the two German states. Ultimately, while my interests are mainly theoretical, I do think or at least hope that better theory can influence better policies.
Could you tell me some things that you have engaged with during your time at Stanford?
Apart from enjoying the pleasant surroundings and cultural and sports facilities, I have taken the opportunity to participate in the intellectual life at the department and beyond. I have also used my stay to (re)connect with colleagues at Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UCLA. In addition, I have given a couple of talks, have finished some publications, and visited two of my PhD students, one at her field site in California and the other one in Iowa.
However, my main occupation has been teaching two courses, one undergraduate and one graduate. This has resulted in many conversations with implicit or explicit comparison when people have asked about my experiences. Some are interested in organizational differences (length of term, reading load, forms of assessment, etc.); some explicitly or implicitly in the quality of students. Personally, I have found remarkably little difference in either of these. But the questions often seem to imply a belief that at Stanford, the quality (of both teaching and students) must be higher than elsewhere. My para-ethnographic interest here is especially in what statements such as “our [sic] students are really good” convey about assessment of students (and their teachers) elsewhere. What is measured by the category “really good”? It could reflect a belief in selection procedures and quality assurance. That would mean that academic hierarchies, nationally as well as internationally, are justified by scholarly excellence. With my own engagement as a “Distinguished Austrian Visiting Chair” at Stanford, I of course am myself contributing to this belief in the capacity of ever more standardized academic CVs and publications as measurements of academic excellence.
Thinking about the topic of belief, credibility, and truthfulness. How does this topic play a part in your research?
The short answer is that neither plays any role in my research in itself. The long answer is that the productivity of concepts in creating credibility for truth claims plays a large role in much of my writing.
Most explicitly, this is the topic of one of my more recent publications, a special issue on Measuring Kinship, which I co-edited with Christof Lammer. This explores how claims of kinship gain credibility through various sorts of evidence and how they are displayed. We show how a diversity of units can be used for measuring kinship as similarity or closeness. One key concern is how ideas of measurability are translated into various technologies spanning from documents over rituals to genetics. New measurement technologies usually promise "more reliable" results and produce new experts, but even calculated probabilities
are less secure than often assumed and contribute to ever more negotiations among experts as well as lay persons.
A huge role in these processes that make kinship “believable” is played by effective displays, such as genealogical charts, tables, and lists. The success of display often has less to do with the force of scientific arguments than with visual persuasiveness. Of course, their credibility remains contested. Different measurements might mix, challenge and reinforce each other, but all of them first assume kinship exists in a particular form and then produce indicators that support the assumptions. Measuring thus constitutes (or negates) kinship by producing credibility of claims for belonging that are then made effective into differentiated access to resources that ultimately structure economic and political inequalities around the world.
Concepts can also disallow the proof of something. In the work I mentioned on parcels sent across the former German-German border, I show how specific beliefs about a diminished importance of kinship in modern states have made it invisible. Faced with evidence of its existence, scholarly interpretation resorts to evaluating it as “socialist kinship practices,” and thus as different from Western kinship. This other kinship is "unmodern", a purely strategic behavior to facilitate access to resources, and therefore not taken up in any significant theoretical way.
The last and most recent aspect that comes to my mind in relation to belief is a fieldwork course that Margit Feischmidt and I co-directed in Hungary last year. The fieldwork period was full of tensions, not least because we were easily identifiable as liberals from either the West or the capital, Budapest. In this situation a local entrepreneur closed a conversation by pointing at my student and saying: “Look at him, he’s always taking notes.” Comparing ethnographers with spies is, of course, a well-known trope in anthropology. The question, however, is what he believed was suspicious in this situation. He had just recounted parts of his life as an exchange worker in socialist East Germany and had mentioned how during socialist times the secret police were everywhere. However, he added that he was now even more cautious when talking about politics. The event reminded me of another experience twenty years earlier: my host in another Hungarian village had closed the windows before we sang socialist songs. He believed that after the demise of socialism, any sign of sympathy to the former regime was inopportune. While the first remark could be easily taken as proof of the current authoritarian democracy in Hungary, the second could be easily dismissed as a conspiracy theory in what was then a liberal democracy. Together, the two incidents rule out an all-too-easy dismissal of certain positionalities and complicate divisions between liberal and conservative, right and left, proven and unproven facts. An anthropology of critique that follows how specific claims (including our own) are made to be seen as legitimate can be useful to analyze these situations. Rather than to insist on truthfulness and take part in deepening the split in many of the contemporary societies, it could make sense to return to the anthropological project of trying to understand how the “others” come to and prove their convictions. Adding some temporal depth, we could move beyond the presentism of ethnography and the binary between what we seem to know (or believe) for certain.
A Conversation with Denise Gill
and use of the voice employed by the women about whom I write. Second, I aim to center women’s voices, their struggles, and the personal philosophies they individually and collectively develop and transmit in their training of others over years of deathwork. There are lessons to be learned from not only how these women care and tend to the deceased, but how they care and tend to each other.
My ethnographic research on forced migration and the recovery and burial of deceased refugees forms the basis of my third monograph. Based on 2016 and 2018 fieldwork I conducted at sites on the Turkish shores of the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, this project provides a window into the labors enacted by the complex of social actors who confront refugee death, issues of sovereignty, and contending networks of responsibility. In or along these seas, telephony becomes a traumatic listening practice. This ethnography records the twice-wrought violence of simultaneous death and displacement-in-process in water.
Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, Associate Professor of Islam and the Arts
What kind of projects have you been working on for the past few years?
My current book projects expand on my investment in developing diverse approaches to studying listening. Both projects, based on ethnographic research in Turkish cities and coasts that I began in 2016, recover the centrality of sound and aurality in one moment of Muslim funerary practices—the cleansing, reciting over, ritual washing, and shrouding of the deceased. These multi-sensory ritual acts unfold at the liminal threshold between dying and interment, and they are shaped by an understanding that the deceased continue to hear after death.
The field site of my second monograph, Aurality and the Craft of Muslim Deathwork, is the gasilhane, or municipal washing house, at Karacaahmet Cemetery in Istanbul. The book centers the lives and experiences of the women state employees doing this funerary care labor I call deathwork. When I began this ethnography, I received certification through the staterun Department of Cemeteries of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, and thus have myself done deathwork over the last few years alongside women in different sites in Turkey as well as here in the U.S. My aims with this first project are twofold. First, it is to interrogate the ontological supposition that the deceased still hear. The craft of deathwork, I argue, is in the realization of what I name posthumous aurality. Because the deceased is primarily interpolated as an aural being, her sense perception becomes the root of subject formation (a kind of: she hears therefore she is). Deathwork ensures the continuous allocation of personhood to the deceased through the modes of tactility
I have also been publishing about method, canonicity, and gatekeeping in the discipline of ethnomusicology. My most recent publication on these topics investigates theory and citational practices in research on music and the semantic field of affect/feeling/emotion, in which I consider the affective dimensions of theorizing in ethnomusicology. I am currently working on an article that offers interpretive analysis and practical suggestions for employing feminist and anti-racist pedagogies, particularly for the kind of courses ethnomusicologists are often compelled to teach: those with an explicit comparative scope in understanding sounds and musics in diverse locations throughout the world. These side projects are unified by an effort to center transparency and accountability in ethnomusicological theory and method, and by asking what reparative work can look and sound like in a discipline that continues to participate in empire-making.
What do you find particularly challenging about your research on deathwork?
Deathwork is not necessarily traumatic—we all exist in a life and death continuum. Yet the ramifications of its study are weighty. Both of my current projects amplify the issues and urgency of consent. The dead cannot consent to being touched or recited over. A glossed over engagement with my theorization of posthumous aurality risks missing crucial consequences of deathwork throughout Turkey. There is nothing to romanticize here. Beyond putrid smells, sounds of weeping, and thick, wet air, the gasilhane is a vociferous collision site of privacy, citizenship, and necropolitics. In a city like Istanbul, Muslim deathwork is monitored by individuals tied into Turkey’s populist regime. A study of deathwork is thus a study of how the regime extends its biopower beyond the moment of dying. Deathwork requires the strength of the full body—you tire, sweat, and grow hoarse using your chest, arms, hands, breath, and voice. These very
instruments of one’s body viscerally extend the violent reach of the state. It is crucial to think through issues of consent, attend to acquiescence, and center the contested politics of citizenry which manifest in near-daily interactions in the gasilhane.
I would also say that my decision to bring deathwork into the center of ethnography is disquieting—there are consequences to this ethnographic display. I believe the study of Muslim deathwork forces us all out of ourselves in productive ways, but it also serves encounters of vulnerability and loss for public consumption. In my current book, I let gasilhane life itself depict the impossibility of resolution to the challenges I enumerate here. But crucially, this is a collaborative book built in alliance with the women of Karacaahmet’s gasilhane. Interlaced with my writing are sections featuring the views and voices of twelve of these women, with content stitched together from our several recorded interviews that they edit in turn. I spend a lot of time thinking about what kinds of relationships I establish in writing about deathwork, and what it means for readers to receive them.
North America. The discipline is thinking about perception differently, learning from ethnomusicologists working with d/ Deaf musicians and listeners. Structurally, our professional societies are broadening translation series and supporting ethnomusicological research across languages and locations. I hope that we will continue to see a growth of multi-authored works with artists, intellectuals, and activists who may not be in academia or who may not speak English. The more we listen for a plurality of voices, the more we hear.
The discipline of ethnomusicology has long been explained as the anthropology of music, but even in the 1980s many scholars understood ethnomusicology as the anthropology of sound. Since the so-called sonic turn in the humanities and social sciences, ethnomusicologists find themselves frequently appealing to scholars from a variety of disciplines who do work on sound, acoustics, aurality, and listening to collaboratively engage with our discipline. Ethnomusicological research broadens sound studies topically beyond its earlier fixation on specific forms of material and digital technologies, on one hand, and on white North American producers and listeners on the other.
We are also witnessing an influx of historical ethnomusicologists producing research that goes beyond terrestrial or linguistic area studies paradigms—sailors’ sea shanties and minstrel performances throughout the Pacific Ocean is one such example. While I would argue that most ethnomusicologists do careful historical and archival work, I see ethnomusicology disciplinarily making a bid to institutions, departments, and other branches of music studies to center the sonic experiences and musical practices of enslaved and colonized peoples in different historical eras and places.
I remain inspired by ethnomusicologists who are doing relational and capacious work of repair. There are several projects of repatriating early field recordings to communities. Ethnomusicologists endeavor to support people who are studying or relearning their songs with the tools we have. Many scholars are focused on rematriarching knowledge of sound-making in communities with which they work. From different vantages— historical, geographic, linguistic—several ethnomusicologists are untangling the imperial white supremacist patriarchy of the discipline in ways that do not simply describe this history or acknowledge our complicity in its continuance but suggest productive ways forward. We have ways of pinpointing settler forms of listening, understanding the work on colonized ears by Indigenous and by settler ethnomusicologists throughout
In previous work, I examined the cultivation of silence in the formation of a particular instantiation of masculinity within elite, multilingual communities of contemporary musicians who champion the arts from the Ottoman court and Mevlevi order. One of the chapters of my book Melancholic Modalities: Affect, Islam, and Turkish Classical Musicians (Oxford UP, 2017) unraveled the pedagogy behind musicians’ intentional cultivation of feminine melancholy via sounding.
My current projects move away from these nuanced and often divergent expressions of femininities and masculinities to a harddrawn boundary between femaleness and maleness that is both routinized and concretized in Muslim deathwork. Deathwork is sex-segregated, site-specific Islamic praxis. When I do deathwork in the U.S., I am in a space where women-identifying individuals care for girl children, infant, and women-identifying deceased. In state-run facilities monitoring deathwork in Turkey, the women I work alongside find themselves in ever-changing situations that intensify their sense of gender boundaries. Broadly, sites of deathwork are places where hegemony is naturalized, but they are also spaces in which counterhegemonic thinking is transmitted. Deathwork and related state-sponsored burial services are provided to Turkish citizens free of charge. Yet as the state only provides Sunni (and as of 2015, Shi’a) funerary rites, individuals from religious, sexual, and ethnic minority groups are widely excluded. The Hanafi women employed at Karacaahmet Cemetery are thoughtful and deliberate when meeting deaths rendered unmournable by transphobia, forced migration, structural racism, intra-Muslim marginalization, homelessness, or anonymity. In private moments in this gasilhane, women doing deathwork cultivate practices of inclusion for trans, queer, and nonbinary deceased.
A EuroAmerican frame might name these queer or feminist subversions. I resist the urge to insert women’s complex lives within expedient academic discourses that would subsume their practices, especially as these women themselves refute such naming practices. Their prioritization of the dignity of gender nonconforming deceased and their cultivation of their own acts of mourning for individuals who have been denied social scripts of grieving are, for them, private ways of being Muslim. Their practices render women’s space in the gasilhane a place of uninterrogated sovereignty.
(continue on p. 26)
What direction do you think ethnomusicology is taking?
In all your work, you have a strong emphasis on gender and gender forms, how do you see your current project contributing to that?
A Conversation with Hector M. Callejas
with marginalized communities; how to use ethnographic and historical methods to critique the intersections of race, Indigeneity, and power; and how to fix the persistent underrepresentation of racial minorities in the profession.
My research is inspired by my lived experiences with race as a non-White mestizo (mixed race) Latino. My parents are from El Salvador and Guatemala. I was born and raised in a Mexican immigrant community in Sacramento, California. My daily encounters with racialization and racism have fostered a deep intellectual commitment to understanding how ordinary people confront racial inequality, and what the possibilities are for change. My current research examines Indigenous rights advocacy in El Salvador. My future research will analyze environmental justice activism in El Salvador and California.
Could you tell me about your educational background?
I have a PhD in Ethnic studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Ethnic studies is a critical and interdisciplinary field that analyzes the central role of race, ethnicity, and Indigeneity in contemporary society. The field has origins in student of color activism against racial exclusion within traditional academic disciplines in the United States. These days, Ethnic studies scholars engage a wide range of fields and disciplines, including sociocultural anthropology. As part of my doctoral training, I read broadly in sociocultural anthropology, Latin American studies, and Native American and Indigenous studies.
Could you tell me a little bit about your current work and what inspires your current research?
I am an IDEAL Provostial Fellow and Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology. The fellowship is designed to support the development of early career scholars on race. My current research builds on my training in Ethnic studies to address key questions, concerns, and debates among anthropologists concerning racial inequality. I am particularly interested in making the following contributions to the discipline: how to conduct ethical research
Could you tell me some things that you have engaged with during your time at Stanford?
Given my educational background in Ethnic studies, much of my time at Stanford has been dedicated to figuring out how to position my research in sociocultural anthropology. Toward this end, Thomas Blom Hansen, Angela Garcia, Andrew Bauer, Jonathan Rosa, and Pablo Seward Delaporte have given me tremendously valuable feedback via workshops and conversations.
I am currently working with my cohort of the IDEAL fellowship program to plan the IDEAL Provostial Fellows Annual Conference for the Fall 2023 quarter. I am organizing a panel that discusses how anthropologists conduct ethical research with Indigenous
I am presenting on my research during the invited session of the Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Seattle, Washington.
communities. As a panelist, I will present some of my research on Indigenous rights advocacy in EL Salvador. I will send out an invitation to faculty and students in the department as we get closer to the date.
I am involved in other research activities on and off campus. For example, I present my research at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association and the Latin American Studies Association. I also participate in the Research Institute at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.
My teaching on campus builds on my research. This year I taught an undergraduate course on race, Indigeneity, and cultural heritage in Latin America. Next year I will teach a graduate seminar on interdisciplinary and critical approaches to Indigeneity.
What do you find most exciting about what your students in ethnomusicology are doing right now?
Anthropologists and other scholars have long drawn on critical theories and ethnographic and historical methodologies to investigate the politics of truth-making: who gets to define what counts as true, how, why, and to what effects. In the United States and other parts of the globe, institutions—particularly the state—claim the authority to determine the truth. Established and emerging regimes of truth-making enable the state and other institutions to develop and exercise power over various subjects, particularly those at the margins of systems and structures of power. Of course, marginalized subjects have their own situated understandings of truthfulness, and they often critique and transform dominant institutional narratives. My research foregrounds how these hegemonic and insurgent processes in truth formation play out in the context of racial inequality. I foreground the voices and perspectives of racialized peoples, such as Indigenous communities, as they challenge institutionalized commonsense in pursuit of more equal and just worlds.
While each of my advisees’ research is firmly multi-sited and tends to be multilingual, I want to take this opportunity to amplify their work. Gabriel Ellis works on the aesthetics of popular music and is completing a dissertation on the thematization of nonfeeling—numbness, coldness, and dissociation— in contemporary pop and hip-hop. After he files this summer, Ellis will begin a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago. Munir Gur centers makam, a melodic microtonal system shared between Greeks and Turks, to theorize a sensory citizenship cultivated by musicians on both side of the Aegean Sea. Planning ethnographic research in Poland, the Republic of South Africa, and Jamaica, Jenna Przybysz is interested in musical collaborations across racial difference, with attention to how musicians deploy specific music genres as material to cultivate transnational solidarity. Matthew Gilbert focuses on the relationship between sound and knowledge production in the American Southwest during the Spanish colonial period; his investigations of how missionaries located musicmaking as evidence of the rationality of Indigenous communities participates in the ongoing critique and genealogy of the human. My incoming advisee this fall, M. Ashkan Nazari, has already conducted ethnographic research on music and genocide in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The breadth of these projects reflects the structure of our PhD program in Ethnomusicology, which I began to design when I arrived at Stanford four years ago. The program is unique in relation to our peers in that our curriculum requires graduate coursework on race and ethnicity as well as a course on gender and sexualities. The curriculum also requires at least one graduate course in the Department of Anthropology. At least two of my PhD advisees are positioned to receive the PhD Minor in Anthropology when they graduate, and others have completed the requirements for the PhD Minor in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. We are at a particularly exciting moment in the program because we have the great privilege of welcoming Dr. Ioanida Costache as Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology this upcoming fall. Dr. Costache’s outstanding work on the cultural politics of race in Romani sonic expression will substantially impact the depth of our graduate program and breadth of our course offerings in ethnomusicology.
I am celebrating the completion of my PhD program in El Salvador during summer 2022. The photo is of me with a longtime research interlocutor--a local Indigenous leader--and his family.
Thinking about the topic of belief, credibility, and truthfulness. How does this topic play a part in your research?
Denise Gill- (cont’d from p. 24)
New Book The Way That Leads Among the Lost
Infused with profound ethnographic richness and moral urgency, The Way That Leads Among the Lost is a stunning work of narrative nonfiction, a book that will leave a deep mark on readers.
Race and Racism in Archaeologies of Chinese American Communities
Authors include Barbara Voss (Faculty), Jocelyn Lee (current PhD student), Veronica Peterson (former research staff and visiting graduate student) and Laura Ng (PhD alum)
New Civilizationisms: The return of civilization in public life
Authors include Thomas Hansen (Anthropology), Haiyan Lee (East Asian Languages and Cultures & Comparative Literature), Lerone Martin (Religious Studies), and Serkan Yolocan (Anthropology)
Thomas Blom Hansen
Twopanels honoring Professor Sylvia Yanagisako’s scholarship and teaching were held at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings on November 12, 2022, in Seattle, Washington. Together, the two panels showcased the diversity of ethnographic projects and lines of inquiry across sociohistorical, disciplinary and conceptual boundaries generated by Yanagisako’s decades of research, writing and mentoring. The panels were organized by two of Professor Yanagisako’s former students: Lisa Rofel (Professor Emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz) and Mei Zhan (Associate Professor, University of California, Irvine), and included papers by Yanagisako’s former students and colleagues.
The first panel, titled “Denaturalizing Domains of Power,” highlighted the way Yanagisako’s feminist anthropology has challenged naturalized domains of power to unsettle anthropology’s analytical conventions and generate new lines of ethnographic and theoretical inquiries. In the spirit of Yanagisako’s transgressions of sacred domain distinctions, Jacqueline Nassy Brown (Associate Professor of Anthropology, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY) discussed the pivotal role that Yanagisako’s teaching, scholarship and mentorship played in a transformative moment both for the discipline and for her, empowering her to navigate the myriad contradictions of race and gender that the academic life presents. Kath Weston (Professor of Anthropology, University of Virginia and British Academy Global Professor at the University of Edinburgh) picked up the interplay between generation and generations in Yanagisako’s work to discuss how money and credit propagate, in modes variously and socioculturally conceived as begetting, multiplying, or materializing “out of thin air,” to yield new generations of funds and financial obligations. Eda Pepi (Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Yale University) built on Yanagisako’s feminist analysis of kinship to read across the domains of kinship and the nation-state in Jordan’s policing of its internal borders by regulating mixed-nationality marriages involving refugees. Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús (Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and American Studies, Princeton University) extended Yanagisako’s call for “flexible disciplinarity” by arguing that we must situate the embedded structural racism of white supremacy within the discipline. Inspired by
Yanagisako’s encouragement to attend to the specificities in and of theorization as a set of material-semiotic practices, Mei Zhan (Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine) reflected on these commitments in relation to feminist inquiries into the violence of abstraction, drawing on her fieldwork on aspirational practices of being “human” in China’s changing healthcare landscape.
A Tribute to Sylvia Yanagisako
The second panel, titled “Unsettling Domains Of Inquiry,” focused on Yanagisako’s commitments to feminist critiques of power and inequality and how she has reimagined ethnography as a critical intervention in understanding and challenging established and naturalized social institutions, such as family, gender, sexuality, and economy. Inspired by Sylvia Yanagisako’s analysis of the role of sentiment in the production of capital, Akhil Gupta (Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles) and Purnima Mankekar (Professor of Gender Studies and Asian American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles) examined how affect and affective labor generate and, simultaneously, problematize, the very possibility of futurity/ ies in research with Business Process Outsourcing firms in Bengaluru, India. Karen Ho (Professor of Anthropology, University of Minnesota) described how Yanagisako spearheaded the creation of Gens: A Feminist Manifesto for the Study of Capitalism, which embodies the generative power of her feminist anthropology in unsettling and re-writing theories, methodologies and worlds through ethnography. Vivian Lu (Assistant Professor, Rice University), brought Yanagisako’s insights on kinship and capitalism to bear on her study of transnational commercial markets forged as fraternal and ethno-racialized geopolitical formations among Nigerian commercial networks in the Global South. Finally, through their collaborative project on transnational capitalism between Italy and China, Lisa Rofel recalled how Sylvia taught her how to further challenge scholarly critiques of capitalism through a feminist lens.
By Lisa Rofel and Mei Zhan Panels at 2022 AAA meetings in honor of Sylvia Yanagisako
April 19, 2023
The anthropology community gathers behind building 50 for Spring reception. Everyone enjoyed food, drinks, and lawn games. The party eneded with special farewells to retiring former chair, Sylvia Yanagisako.
March 2, 2023
Alumni Career Night Panel
Students gather in the Anthropology Colloquium Room to hear and learn about some of the different opportunities our distinguished alumni have taken throughout their careers.
The department revamps student lounge space by moving the Graduate student lounge to the second floor of Building 50. The Undergraduate student lounge opens in Building 40.
The goal of Capstone Course (Anth 193) is to help our graduating seniors integrate the anthropological concepts, theories, methods and modes of analysis they have learned in the courses they have taken in the department.
NEWS & EVENTS
A Dear Farewell
The past academic year has seen a number of major changes on the staff front.
In September 2022, Ellen Christensen decided to retire after serving the department in several roles for many years. Ellen was one of the pillars of the department for three decades. Ellen joined the department as an Academic Affairs Coordinator back in 1993 and later was promoted to become Department Manager, a position she held for several decades. Generations of students, staff, and faculty will have fond memories of Ellen as unfailingly helpful and someone with a deep and broad knowledge of Stanford’s multiple systems and procedures. Ellen always had the interest of the department in mind. She saw it through difficult periods of division and rancor and she played a key role in making the department a welcoming and smooth-running environment in the last few decades. Ellen will also be remembered for her kindness to students and her attention to their needs and well-being. She would always remind us that the students were our most precious asset and they are the reason we are all here in the department. Tony and Ellen opened their home and hearts to many of our international graduate students and faculty, hosting convivial Thanksgiving dinners and introducing non-American students to the passions and enjoyment of football games and other sports events.
The department would like to extend a warm thanks to Ellen for her many years of outstanding service and dedication. On behalf of the faculty, students and staff, we wish Ellen the relaxing and active retirement that she so richly deserves.
In April 2023, Shelly Coughlan left her job as Student Services Officer in the department to take up another job on campus.
Shelly has been another pillar in our department and in the graduate program for many years. Generations of graduate students have successfully navigated graduate school, and Stanford, by relying on Shelly’s deep knowledge of our program, our department, and the university.
For years, faculty relied on Shelly’s institutional memory and her capacity to come up with creative and fair solutions for each and every one of our students. Many of us have habitually prefaced most conversations with our graduate students by the question "Have you checked this with Shelly?" before offering any advice. Rightly so because in most cases Shelly would offer a perspective or a solution that we, as faculty, had not thought of.
The department will miss Shelly's competent guidance and unwavering support and advocacy for the graduate students. At Stanford, Anthropology has a well-deserved reputation for being very supportive of our graduate students. This is in no small measure thanks to Shelly’s hard work and diligence over many years.
We extend thanks from all of us in the department to Shelly for her many years of stellar service in our graduate program.
In January 2023, Christine Aguilar left the position as Assistant Department Financial Officer (ADFO) to take up another job on campus. We thank Christine for her services to the department and wish her all the best in her new role.
Ellen Christensen Former Department Manager
Shelly Coughlan Former Student Services Manager
Christine Aguilar Former Assistant Department Financial Officer
In December 2022, Emily Bishop joined the department as our new department manager and DFO. Emily comes to us from a position as Program Manager in the Stanford Archaeology Center. Before that Emily was a highly valued member of our staff in Anthropology for more than a decade, managing marketing, outreach, website and all things tech in the department. Emily brings to the department not just remarkable competence and efficiency but also a positive and inclusive attitude. We all look forward to working with Emily for many years to come.
In April 2023, John Arthur Lee joined the department as Assistant DFO. John comes to us from Freeman Spogli Institute’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), where he had been the Finance and Research Administrator Manager since 2018. Prior to CISAC, John was employed at various units at Stanford, including the Office of Research Administration, the SoHS Dean’s Office, and the Property Management Office. We welcome John’s deep expertise in financial management and grant management.
In November 2022, Julianne Spitler joined us as our new administrative associate in the front office. She will be overseeing operations, facilities and other administrative office tasks. Julianne comes to the department from administrative jobs in equity firms in Palo Alto and we welcome her to our department and community.
Emily Bishop Department Financial Officer
Julianne Spitler Administrative Associate
John Lee Assistant Department Financial Officer
guilt. Now, she could do time in prison. So on the morning of February 28th, I round the corner of Synagogenplatz, arriving early to watch the elderly nun stand trial.
By Noor Amr Doctoral Candidate
“Please keep me in your prayers! God be with you.” These are the words that Mother Mechthild leaves me with in our email exchange in which she encourages me to appear at her trial in Bamberg, Bavaria later that month. “We can’t reserve you a spot, but my lawyer says that if you arrive early enough, you will probably get a seat.” I am given the address and the time: Synagogenplatz 1, on February 28th at 3:15pm.
Since 2016, the abbess has offered sanctuary in her monastery to upwards of thirty individuals. Her court appearance is the result of steady campaign to limit the extent to which churches can protect asylum-seekers from deportation. Based on a 2015 informal agreement with the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees (BAMF), churches across Germany are tenuously permitted to shelter rejected asylum-seekers whom congregations believe would experience exceptional “hardship” in the event of deportation. In Berlin-Brandenburg, where I conduct the majority of my fieldwork, church asylum is relatively seamless. Retaining a strong relationship with local politicians, police, and immigration officials is a product of constant negotiation, but public contentions with the state are uncommon. By contrast, Bavaria is the most difficult German federal state in which to offer “church asylum” (Kirchenasyl), as local authorities have started to take nun after nun, priest after priest, to court. The heavily Catholic and politically conservative federal state has thus become the epicenter of a power struggle, at the heart of which Christian moral sentiments in the realm of migration politics are being actively contested.
Mother Mechthild could have paid a 2,500 fine, but according to her, this would have been an admission of
Security personnel at the entrance to the courthouse shuffle through every crevice of my backpack, plucking a long-forgotten pair of tweezers from the side pocket. “It’s good that you’re early,” one of them whispers to me excitedly. “We’re expecting a crowd.” Nervous that I may already be late, I hurry through the metal detector and approach a counter where an officer with 'Justiz' embroidered on the shoulder of his uniform fumbles lazily with his phone. As his gaze meets mine, an ugly smirk drags the corners of his mouth downward, forming the familiar expression I have learned to expect when speaking to deputized individuals who regularly deal with migrants. He barks at me, pretending not to understand my German, before eventually directing me to a seating area beyond an adjacent set of glass doors. I sit on a long wooden bench facing Room 24 and try to imagine what it will be like when everyone else arrives.
My thoughts are soon interrupted by the sound of metal scraping the marble floor. A dark-skinned man, with cuffs at the ankles connected by a long chain, shuffles across the hall flanked by two police officers. He takes a seat on the bench next to me as they disconnect the chain, instantly grabbing him by each arm and muscling him into a courtroom. The hall falls silent for some time, and I begin to wonder if I am even in the right place. A faint melody of friendly banter between the officer and a group of women at the reception desk can be heard in the distance. Floating through the glass doors, the women take their time searching for the room in which their own proceedings will soon take place. It alternates like this for the next hour. Each entourage disappears into rooms on either side of the one I am waiting to enter.
I wonder what it will be like for a nun to appear in such an environment.
A man in a black robe emerges from a corner room and murmurs to a few personnel that they are to expect “lots of press” in the next hour. As the time creeps near, more people approach the paper roster for Room 24 to confirm the location, pacing in anticipation. Four become eight, eight become thirty. Cameras and microphones burden the shoulders of seasoned journalists. Colleagues recognize each other and exchange greetings: “Ah, it’s you again!” “Yeah, yeah, you know, this is my beat.” [They chuckle.] Familiar faces enter the scene. Pastors, priests, and nuns, whose own church asylum cases I have followed in the news over several years, greet each other and members of their
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community. They are patted on the back heartily by their friends, veterans returning for another round of battle.
The hall falls silent: Mother Mechthild has arrived. Gliding across the floor in her habit, she pauses every few steps to clasp the hands of dear friends, gently thanking as many as possible before her lawyer ushers her into the room. The hall continues to swell. An entire locker system is transported to the center of the hallway. We are asked to cue up—media first, spectators second. The dog-faced officer, suddenly benevolent to all including me, swipes a hand-held metal detector across our bodies. The pens of some journalists are confiscated for being too metallic. I grab my most plastic-y pen and most paper-y notebook from my backpack before surrendering it. Although I am the first person to have arrived, I am fortunate to receive one of the remaining seats in the courtroom. ***
Mother Mechthild stands still, hands poised on the chair in front of her as we all get settled. A cross, inornate and unassuming, draws the eye up toward the wall opposite her. She does not look at it nor does she look at us: her gaze is elsewhere. The judge enters. We all rise and take our seats impatiently.
A pause before the production: some staging is in order. Journalists rush to the center of the room and try to find their footing. The judge stands firmly in place and poses for the cameras. They turn their attention to Mother Mechthild and her lawyer, who are similarly prepared to be photographed. An uncanny sensation washes over me as I realize that this is precisely the kind of framing that has allowed me to follow church asylum cases over the years with such investment from afar. Being there in person, today, feels like sneaking a peak backstage minutes before the start of a play.
At long last, the public prosecutor stands. Eyeing the
cross hanging on the wall behind him, I am half-expecting him to deliver a sermon to our little congregation. His hands tremble slightly as he reads from a paper, listing a series of residency laws that have been breached. Aufenthaltsgesetz section this, Aufenthaltsgesetz section that. 'Sogennantes Kirchenasyl' (so-called church asylum) is enunciated with the utmost contempt. He grows pink and incredulous. It is clear to him that the abbess has aided and abetted illegal residence for three rejected asylum-seekers in her monastery. For this, she must atone.
Mother Mechthild answers his inquiries simply and directly, like it is he who has failed to grasp the meaning of the law. Yes, it’s true, I sheltered three women from Eritrea, Iraq, and Afghanistan in my abbey. No, I was not aware of this minute legal technicality you’ve cited. I acted out of Christian conscience. No, I do not see this as transgressing the law. It was their last chance—they would have experienced unspeakable hardship. He briefly acknowledges the informal agreement between churches and BAMF, referenced in a single word as die Vereinbarung, yet presses on: churches are not and should not be above the rule of law. Mechthild is unbothered, countering that the location of the women she sheltered was known all along, per the agreed-upon dossiers sent to federal immigration authorities. Did the women not appear back at the camp, Mechthild asks, after they were no longer threatened with deportation under the Dublin Regulation? From the German state the women came, and to the German state they returned.
The judge rubs his temples and decides to suspend the proceedings. It happens so quickly that we are being ushered out before I can even process what has occurred. I had been told by interlocutors in Berlin that an acquittal would be likely. Yet I find it difficult to square the immense stage production with the quick and unceremonious conclusion. We exit the courtroom and are greeted with applause by those who could not enter—I wonder to myself how they could already know the outcome without yet exchanging a word with those on the inside. It begins to occur to me that actual prison time was out of the question, that prosecuting an elderly nun in Catholic Bavaria, the only German federal state in which all government buildings and courtrooms are legally required to display a cross, would not have stood the test of public support. Who or what, then, was on trial?
On the train back to Berlin, I map words like sanctuary, secular, the state, truth, and belief onto a notepad only to erase and redraw them into various, equally unsatisfying constellations. Eventually, I give up and let my mind wander back to the courtroom: my eyes on the cross, Mother Mechthild’s vision beyond.
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Letter from the Field
have commenced large-scale solar projects across the rural south, some of which aim to export energy across the Mediterranean to European markets. For the past eighteen months I have been studying the work of European energy companies to develop large-scale energy infrastructures, and their socio-spatial implications. El-Mathaba was one of many rural townships where these new energy production sites were to be developed. Sitting with Aisha by her roadside stand, I could see the site of the large-scale solar farm that was being built less than a mile away, which I watched while we chatted in between customers.
By Emilia Groupp
The town of El-Mathaba appears suddenly on the road, interrupting what seems like endless rolling fields. The abrupt emergence of a large speed bump indicates that you are entering a residential area, even though you can only see a few houses from the road. Most of the town’s buildings are hidden from view, making it appear much smaller than it actually is. It would be easy to pass by and never even notice it, similar as it is to many other rural towns in the south of Tunisia. Most of those driving past experience it as a mere pause in between vast stretches of flat agricultural lands, dotted now and again with olive groves and the haunted ruins of former French colonial farmsteads.
Aisha has lived in El-Mathaba her whole life. She has a small stand right after the speed bump that would force all passing traffic to an almost complete stop. Every day, she prepares batches of tabouna, a round, flat bread she bakes in a hand-built clay oven which she sells to those driving through. Since the new road had been built to facilitate greater connectivity between the rural south and urban north, the number of people travelling through had increased – along with shipments of goods heading north for export and military caravans heading south to the border. From the vantage point of the road, Aisha catches all the news from those passing by, and even updates from the northern capital courtesy of the louage (collective taxi) drivers who stop to buy bread from her. There was much to talk about, and she was particularly hopeful about the rapid changes the town had been going through recently. Many of these changes were connected to the massive expansion of infrastructure, including the new road but also power lines and solar energy sites that were being built adjacent to the town.
The powerful sunshine and topographic characteristics of southern Tunisia have increasingly attracted the interest of international corporations for its solar energy potential. Over the past few years, European renewable energy developers
Shortly after starting fieldwork, I had discovered thousands of pages of carefully documented information on this small town and its inhabitants that had been compiled by one renewable energy company working in the area. These records were incredibly detailed – notes on the personal lives of the inhabitants of El-Mathaba, its political leanings, its environmental characteristics – to the point that it nearly resembled ethnographic observations. That an energy company would produce data on local contexts in which they were working did not surprise me. In fact, they are often required to include some site-specific information as part of environmental and social impact statements mandated by the banks funding their projects. However, it was the intense specificity and sheer quantity of information contained in these reports that caught me by surprise, in addition to the focus on this small town, considered an out-of-the-way place even by those who lived there.
Over the course of several months, I had begun to grasp the extensive research machinery of the energy industry. In Tunisia, foreign energy companies track protests, municipallevel elections, online conversations, and comments shared on social media sites. They produce extensive and detailed information on infrastructures, political movements, and public sentiments. They generate demographic figures and employment statistics. Far from covert operations, most energy companies do not deny their extensive datacollecting activities, nor do they withhold (all) the data they collect. The energy industry itself publishes prolifically, including reports on environmental impacts, land use practices, public perceptions and emerging geopolitical trends or legal issues. There are online publications managed by the energy industry or industry affiliates that are easy to mistake for academic journals without careful attention. Some are even designed to look like journal articles, with appealing titles, abstracts and academic formatting. Only upon close inspection does it become apparent that these publications were produced by energy companies, industry consultants or associated think tanks.
Sometimes, these "studies" are used to influence policy or in lobbying efforts, despite the fact that it is often difficult to verify their methods or results. These findings are also used to rebuff academically-backed research,
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calling into question the validity of findings based on the industry’s own investigations. Moreover, the line between academia and industry is not always clear, and it is common in much of Europe for energy companies to openly fund or sponsor academic research. I have come across cases where academic researchers co-authored reports on social, political or legal aspects of energy development with energy company employees or consultancies, making it even harder to determine when, where and how the data for the study had been acquired (and by whom). I am also aware of academic researchers who have used data that they acquired from energy companies in their own research and writing.
for that matter) cannot control how the information they produce is used. Over the course of my research with both renewable energy companies and those impacted by large-scale renewable energy projects, I have found that such knowledge (or assertions of knowledge) can often provide an entry point for different claims and interventions that could not be anticipated or averted. Rather, reports, studies, and other forms of documentation produced by the energy industry can be drawn into a range of projects by differently-positioned actors. For example, the expansive environmental surveys conducted by energy companies to determine environmental impact are increasingly used by (perpetually underfunded) environmental activists and conservationists to forward arguments for expanding environmental protection zones or in advancing demands for financial support for wildlife rehabilitation facilities. The mapping and subsequent documentation of land and water resources have become particularly useful tools for rural landowners and laborers to forward claims of ownership or use rights, especially in cases where official cadastral surveys are lacking or inaccessible. Industry data on employment statistics can be used by precarious laborers to leverage claims to state-sponsored services or inclusion in political processes from which they have historically been excluded. Budgets for private infrastructure projects are passed around and used in turn to critique the misplacement of public funds, driving election campaigns or calls for changes in political leadership.
Yet, at the same time, it’s difficult to see the information produced by the energy industry as fake or illegitimate; on the contrary, energy companies invest significant time and resources in producing accurate information on which the success of their projects rest. Moreover, they typically rely on many of the same methods anthropologists use, including focus groups, interviews, and surveys. In fact, I encountered a number of anthropologists working for energy companies whose job it was to produce some of the same kinds of information that I myself have been documenting. The difficulty in engaging with this research for someone situated in academia is that much of it falls short of the standards of data collection and evidence to which academic research is typically held, including the credibility of sources, referencing, informed consent, and transparency, for example. Additionally, these studies are sometimes compiled hastily by contract researchers pressed for time or unpaid interns with little research experience, producing arguably inaccurate conclusions despite a genuine goal to produce reliable data. However, merely dismissing the knowledge produced by the energy industry – accurate or not – would risk overlooking the important ways in which it interacts with other projects of knowledge production and how it comes to matter in different social worlds.
For instance, despite arguments that the research machine of industry explicitly serves projects of capital accumulation and political domination, energy companies (or academics
Moreover, while it is easy to classify industry research and academic research as categorically opposing projects, the ways in which industry knowledge gains credibility and believability is often precisely because of its relationship to academia. The energy industry cites academic research to bolster its own claims, produces its own research to argue against claims made by academia, appropriates academic formatting, or draws on relationships with academic institutions to establish credibility. It is thus apparent that there are now substantial producers of knowledge outside of academia with whom we are engaging and whose knowledge projects are impacting our fieldsites in ways that are difficult to ignore. At the same time, it seems that academia still seems to retain a legitimacy that even some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet are struggling to acquire.
As I am wrapping up my field research and organizing my notes, I carefully separate out the documents, studies and reports I have collected that I know have been produced by energy companies. While the information they contain is difficult to verify, they are not useless in understanding how the development of renewable energy is entangled in changing socio-political landscapes. Perhaps someday I will even discover a file on myself, likely put together by another anthropologist observing my behavior as I go about studying the energy industry.
1. All names of interlocutors and rural villages are pseudonyms.
LETTERS FROM THE FIELD
By Shikha Nehra Doctoral Candidate
At around 9:30 pm at dinner in early August, I sat chatting away with people at the birthday party of my next-door neighbor’s 8-year-old son. It was the first day at my rented apartment in Guwahati, the biggest city in the state of Assam and the whole of north-east India. After multiple rounds of brief introduction about myself, what I do, where home is and why I moved to Assam, I was asked to explain what my research is. Unsure how to introduce my research to a non-academic group, I said that I am looking at Assamese history and language politics with reference to Muslim communities in Assam and their histories of assimilation such as Goriyas, Moriyas, and Bangla Muslims. I anticipated some raised eyebrows at the last group given that all the people in that room were either Assamese Hindus or non-Assamese Hindus, but most simply nodded in encouragement, saying it was an important topic. Then, one of the persons, who helped me with hiring domestic help for my apartment said, “You know you can start with her. She is a Bengali Muslim.” I presumed that she was genuinely encouraging me to talk to my help as an interlocuter until I heard what came next. “They are everywhere.” she said. I asked, “What do you mean?” to clarify the vague referent of “everywhere.” She responded, “You know, they keep coming to Assam from Bangladesh via Tripura and keep spreading across India like…what’s the word “termites.”” I was taken aback by the choice of words, which the Home Minister of India, Amit Shah, from the Hindu-nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party had used to refer to undocumented
Letter from the Field
migrants from Bangladesh in 2018, and promised to identify, disenfranchise, and expel them from the country. I stared at her for a couple of seconds as my expression turned blank and responded with a stern “I will find out in due time.” In truth, I already knew that Muslim communities of Assam who migrated from East Bengal during British colonial period have been eyed with suspicion as “Bangladeshis,” “foreigners,” “outsiders,” or “infiltrators,” both by the Indian government and local people alike. As I was alone and new in the building and the city, I thought it would be prudent not to engage in a confrontational argument about “facts” and routes of migration. Later, in different settings where I could feel safe enough to confront people on such statements by asking “How can they be Bangladeshis if they came to Assam half a century before the formation of Bangladesh,” the responses were frustrating and far-fetched. “They are actually Rohingya Muslim from Myanmar, not Muslims from British India,” for instance.
The fact-bending in these situations, or use of fantastical number of migrants crossing border every day by politicians, courts, and other state institutions, has always rendered me astonished, wondering where these misconceptions and narratives come from. In 2014, the massive bureaucratic exercise of verifying the citizenship through documents that prove lineage to parents of Indian origin and residence in Assam was justified because 4 million Bangladeshis were estimated
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to be residing in the state illegally. In 2019, the result of this verification, now believed to be full of errors, found only 1.9 million as foreigners out of a total of 33 million people. Among these supposed foreigners, Muslims are about one-fourth of those considered foreigners, while three-fourths are Hindus and other communities as per unofficial estimates.
There is a plethora of undeniable evidence in the form of government records and policies, well accepted by Assamese intelligentsia, on how migration of tea garden workers and agricultural laborers took place gradually in the 19th and 20th century from other parts of colonial India, how land was allocated by the state and families were settled, how spatial segregations between the migrant and local communities were maintained through land and revenue laws and so on. Yet, an average Muslim walking on the street is perceived as an undocumented migrant from Bangladesh rather than the descendant of legally settled and documented Muslim citizens.
This narrative of unchecked immigration from across the border has been around since 1960s when under the "Prevention of Infiltrators of Pakistani Nationals into India" scheme a border security regime was put in place which officially deported 192,079 people to East Pakistan without trial or notice between 1961-69. Today, there are 100 quasi-judicial bodies in Assam alone, called Foreigners’ Tribunals, to dispose cases of “doubtful” citizens reported by the border police. If declared “foreigners” by these courts, people are kept in detention centers awaiting deportation, except that there is no deportation because India-Bangladesh do not have an agreement on the matter. As these narratives cause havoc in peoples' lives, my field work has been focusing on the work Muslim communities are doing to challenge them and create counter narratives as they live through these trying times.
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Letter from the Field
Archival research, which is still ongoing, started and confirmed that this shipwreck was the Victoire. From the days spent in the Mauritius archive, I was able to shed light on the dynamics of the sinking of the Victoire, her involvement in the slave trade, information on other slave ships, and interesting documents relating to the slave trade in Mauritius (fig. 1).
By Stefania Manfio
I finally arrived in Mauritius to start my fieldwork. There were many things I had to achieve, to name a few: scouring archives and cataloging artifacts in museums. But the most important thing I wanted to do was dive to check out some interesting spots I had already mapped out during my first three years of research. Nothing had prepared me for this exciting discovery and the joy I would feel.
On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve 2021, my local colleague and maritime archeology expert, Dr. Yann von Arnim, called me and said: “So, this afternoon would you be free to go and see if we finally find this wreck?” The excitement was enormous!
We dive, and after half an hour, we finally spot something that could look like the ballast of a sunken wreck. We had to have more certainties, and after a while, we identified pieces of glass emerging from the ballast, and there we are… we re-discovered the Victoire (1804). I say re-discovered because this wreck was spotted for the first time in 1988. Still, since there was no GPS at the time, it was not possible to locate it with certainty on a map, and subsequently, it was no longer possible to find the exact site location. Therefore, the survey on December 31st revealed this submerged site—the best way to close 2021 and open 2022.
The Victoire was a 220-tonnage French ship. In 1804, Captain Jacques Genève led the Victoire on its last voyage from Madagascar to Port Louis. Its cargo consisted of enslaved people from Madagascar, gunpowder, glassware, cattle, and rice. Chased by the British ships HMS Tremendous, HMS Phaeton, and HMS Terpsichore, the vessel hit the reef at Pointe aux Canonniers and lost its rudder. Unable to navigate, the ship was finally stranded inside the reef, near the artillery battery of Pointe aux Canonniers. The crew disembarked the enslaved people and threw the cattle overboard so they could reach the mainland.
This discovery has not only given a turning point to the organization of my fieldwork but especially to the direction the thesis will take. Most importantly, it opened several collaborations and projects with my Mauritian colleagues. The Victoire, located in shallow waters, presented as an ideal site to continue capacity-building under the MUCH project initiated by the Department for Continental Shelf in 2019 in collaboration with Stanford University.
We managed to kick off the first reconnaissance study involving several Mauritian stakeholders. By collaborating with the government and the Department for Continental Shelf, it was possible to perform the first complete underwater study starting from the geophysical surveys carried out by the hydrographic department, followed by underwater exercises. These exercises included surveys, measurements, underwater photogrammetry, and environmental inspection (fig. 2). From this first survey, we identified numerous pieces of glass emerging from the ballast, parts of the hull, and other finds that can be connected to the ship structure.
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Seeing Intensely, Understanding Gradually: Holding onto Tenderness through Drawing in the Field
By Paras Arora Doctoral Candidate
Dotted with heavily detailed imitations of Indian folk-art traditions, the tiny office of my high school art teacher, Ms. V, was located right behind the school’s art room. Ms. V’s office was a dimly lit refuge for many “creative” students like me. Our creativity as students, however, indexed much more than our artistic skill. Since we were more likely to be bullied by our classmates for the rhythm of our gait or the pitch of our voice, we strategically (or rather, creatively) spent the proverbial “zero period” every day in Ms. V’s office.
Before the first period began every day, as per the instructions of Ms. V, we would carefully recreate highly ornate and popular, Indian folk-art motifs, ranging from Kalamkari peacocks to Mahbubani fishes. After looking at laminated printouts of exceptionally detailed artworks, our hands were supposed to mimic the dainty flow with which a peacock turned away from the onlooker without losing sight of how big the piece of cartridge paper in front of us was. Between looking closely at the original motif, measuring the space we had available, committing to the first stroke, erasing it, committing again, looking again at the motif, and looking at the ceiling; or “copying” as Ms. V’s critics put it; we were learning to see and be present differently.
While conceptualizing drawing as a practice of ethnographic description, Jasamin Kashanipour introduces the concept of the “gradual gaze”. For Kashanipour, drawing’s inherently mimetic impulse merges with the uniqueness of the subject drawn to produce a distinct form of gradual seeing, whereby, unlearning and learning congeal. We tend to unlearn as we must free the subject of our drawing from language to roughly sketch out its contours. But as we shift our gaze between the thing being drawn and the drawn thing, we begin to learn something new about how the subject comes into being in relation to “the environment and the people” according to Kashanipour. This shift from looking-at-being to seeing-becoming is also what John Berger refers to when he describes the process of drawing the face of his father after
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Illustrated by Paras Arora
Stressors for Young Adults: The Mauritian Scenario
By Ilina Rughoobur
“Mauritius is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country, located off the East Coast of Madagascar. The history of Mauritius is rooted in colonialism and diasporic movement of people. Despite being in an African context, it is uniquely positioned in the Indian Ocean with a mixed history of migration and a population of only 1.2 million.”
Growing up in Mauritius, I was surrounded by beaches, family but also mostly academics. My day would start at 7 a.m. and end around 7 p.m., especially in high school. I would only be in school and extra classes, go home and start working on homework. The rigorous academic scene made it hard for me to take care of my well-being. It would all crumble when I saw my peers struggle with everlasting sadness, suicidal tendencies, and negative emotions that we did not have the language to describe. When a series of suicides hit my all–girls high-school and we would barely have time to mourn one person before the next, I felt betrayed by the educational institution and by society in general.
Coming to Stanford, my mission has been to understand the stressors that young adults in Mauritius experience and argue that not only is it crucial but also lifesaving to provide the vocabulary and start conversations on well-being. My honors thesis has gone through immense changes throughout my research. As of now, the pertinent questions I explore are: In the transitional stage of college, how do social expectations and pressures about adulthood shape students’ mental health and well-being? What kind of stressors do students at the University of Mauritius display in the cultural context of Mauritius?
During the summer of 2022, I went back to Mauritius as an insider ethnographer. I was unfortunately met with a lot of limitations. I had not anticipated that it would be peak exam season for UoM students, resulting in their reluctance to be interviewed. When I visited campus, I could feel the palpable tension in the air – students studying for their exams and the ground bearing traces of hundreds of footsteps connecting and merging students rushing from one class to the next. I managed to meet 13 incredible students who shared their university experience at great lengths with me. At first, I was a bit skeptical because I had mentioned monetary compensation, but most of them refused to take it and were grateful that I was giving them a listening ear (I, of course, insisted that they take it saying that it was protocol, as an excuse). I audio recorded my conversations with my interlocutors, and since they were in Mauritian Creole, I spent hours translating and transcribing the recordings. Every time I listen to the recordings, something new strikes me and changes my way of thinking and writing. Meeting my interviewees in person, connecting with each other, and listening to their embodied experiences were valuable. Unpacking my experience in the field during the post field seminar class only made me realize even more the common themes that emerged throughout my conversations. There is a lot of information and data that I have gathered from my fieldwork, but only a few made it to my thesis due to the lack of time and space. I also understood that my honors thesis is not the end and fieldwork that only lasted 3 months is not enough to produce a comprehensive and in-depth analysis and understanding of the social structures and cultural modes that give language to stressors and shape students’ well-being. However, I plan to continue my work in graduate school in hopes of giving justice to this work and my interlocutors as well. Nevertheless, I have learned a lot in this short span of time. Here are some quotes from my thesis featuring different interviews which have truly stuck with me:
“Dude, no. I love my parents, but I really want–
My dream is to live apart and do my own thing. It is not only my parents: it is the aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, neighbors. I am trying to getoutofMauritius.Iactuallyhadafightwithmy grandmother about this yesterday.
Whenever there is an issue, everyone comes to my place: XYZ did this and that.
I am so burnt out from those kinds of pressures and ready to lash out.
I want to be able to make my own decisions and have my own life.
I call my house the headquarters.
I live with my grandma, and every problem is brought to my house.
People come and go every day. I don’t like that. I am so done with this.
My dad has to take action for everyone. And since it is family, you cannot say no. Constant meddling…Constant issues. Yeah, my family is quite codependent. I try to set my own privacy. I say I don’t want to talk. When people come, I sometimesjustgotomyroomwhichissad.Idon’t want to do that. It’s just me. I care about my own development. I do my own things and have my own stress, but people come and dump their stress on me.
enough places for the students. You have to run and get tables and chairs from other classes.”
“The first and only time I went to the counselor was because the situation at home was not so great, and the person I was dating broke up with me.Ifeltveryverydepressed,andIfeltcompelled to see the counselor. They gave me really shitty advice. They said ‘to mari tipti la. Garson la pa ti kontan twa. Sa laz la, kieter sa lamour?’ [You are still so little. The boy did not love you. At this age, what is love?]”
“Pu mwa, ene gran baryer seki mo parents poser se relizyon [For me, a big barrier that my parents imposeisreligion].Itreallylimitsmyfreedomand capacity to feel like an adult. When people are born in my family, they are born with a prayer book in their hands.”
“If you look closely at your left hand, it has the shape of our island. Mauritius’s future is in our hands. We are Mauritius.” Rahul brought his left hand forward and traced the shape of his fingers with his right index finger. “The left thumb represents Le Morne,” he said enthusiastically.
When it comes to the theme of belief, at first, I was struggling with my positionality as a Stanford student who is also Mauritian and thus an insider ethnographer. I was quite pessimistic about the reactions that people would have, worried that they would lie to me and be reluctant to share their experiences and views. The only time I felt that way was when I interviewed someone who did not open up at all and only gave me short and polite answers they thought I wanted to hear. I almost gave up and it was very disheartening, but I was proven wrong very quickly. The rest of my interviews were enlightening, and I managed to build a trusting relationship with my interviewees.
There is a generation gap between me and headquarters,butIresist.Ichoosemyownbeliefs.”
“[...] the infrastructure is shitty. We got a new building for our faculty, and we got the ugliest building.”Sherolledhereyesandwebothchuckled. “We do computer science, but the computers are so outdated. We probably used this in primary school. The bandwidth is so small that the internet is so slow. You cannot even load up the websites for class. They restricted so many sites. It times out. The room is so dark. It’s like a “dispensaire hanter” [haunted dispensary]. From outside, they put pigeon nets all over the building. Apparently, pigeonsusedtopoopalloverthebuilding.Itmakes it two times more depressing. It’s so ugly – like a piratey vibe. Even for the classes, there are not
The work of an anthropologist is always going to be riddled with questions of belief, and there is no way to find out whether people were lying or telling the truth. We can only work with what we have experienced, observed, and talked about with multiple interlocutors. However, I think that what anthropologists do is important to understand social and societal structures embedded in cultural modes. As with any other field of study, believability and biases in data sampling are constantly contested. I believe that they only inform our work further, and these discussions create the opportunity for anthropologists to be more aware, intentional, mindful, and careful when doing an ethnographic study. As for me, I will continue to work on my thesis, trying to give my interlocutors an accessible platform where they can express their lived experiences. Together, we can understand the language/ vocabulary used to express stressors in Mauritius, encouraging other researchers but also the interlocutors and the community to think about, recognize and validate young adults’ struggles when it comes to well-being.
Picture shared by Interviewee: Moris Dan Nou Lame (Trans: Mauritius is in our Hands)
Alumni Spotlight: Kim Grose Moore
What is your educational background?
My formative educational experience was going to a radical, alternative K-8 school in New York City called Manhattan Country School. It was founded in 1968 with the vision of bringing to life Martin Luther King’s dream of a beloved community. The whole curriculum was the freedom struggle. I got a BA in Anthropology from Stanford, and then went to Jesus College, Oxford with a Rhodes Scholarship, and earned a MPhil in Social Anthropology.
Could you tell me about your work right now?
I am now the Executive Director of the GRIP Training Institute. GRIP stands for Guiding Rage Into Power, which is a comprehensive healing and accountability program offered to people in prison primarily serving life-sentences for violent crimes. It is an in-depth, year-long journey where participants are able to understand and transform their violent behavior and replace it with an attitude of mindfulness and emotional intelligence. In addition, GRIP graduates are trained to facilitate the GRIP program, becoming credible messengers in teaching others. We also work with survivors of violence to engage in healing dialogues with GRIP students and graduates, in a restorative justice process. Through supporting the healing, voice, and leadership of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, as well as survivors of violence, GRIP generates ripples of change that can transform the prison system from the inside out.
Since 2012 GRIP has graduated 1220 students, and at least 620 have been released and come home to their communities. Their recidivism rate is less than 1%.
I both lead the organization, as we grow and look to scale our successful model, and I facilitate the program as well at a state prison in Soledad, CA.
How did anthropology prepare you for this field?
Anthropology for me has been very much a mindset and lens through which I view the world -- putting people and culture first, and living through questions about them. Through studying anthropology I learned about cultural conditioning, how to map and understand power relationships in society, how change happens– all critical to my professional work in nonprofit leadership, community organizing, social and racial justice work.
What advice would you give other anthropology students in your field?
I benefited greatly from having people who believed in me and encouraged me to pursue my interests and passions. I know that was a real privilege. I also had some real mentors throughout my time at Stanford and in my early 20s. This is really important, too. Find and utilize mentors of all kinds. I got a lot of great training and experience working on various projects and with different community organizations through the Haas Center for Public Service. It is a huge resource both for learning and for networks of relationships that can help later professionally.
What is next for you?
GRIP is having its 10th Anniversary celebration this week, and I am excited for that. My hope is that we can bring the healing and accountability tools of GRIP out to thousands incarcerated in California and the country, and that hundred of our graduate Peacemakers will return to their communities and be the leaders to help transform our whole society.
I also have a daughter in high school in San Jose, and look forward to continuing to see her grow and develop into her full potential as a curious and amazing young adult.
ALUMNI NEWS Website: https://grip-traininginstitute.org/
Executive Director at GRIP Training Institute
MICHEL R. MANDEL, M.D. [A.B. 1961]
Forensic Psychiatrist. Assistant Professor of Psychiatry-Full Time-Harvard Med. School 1972-1981, Chairman and Director of Training-Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center 1981-1990, Forensic Psychiatry 1990-current.
ALAN HOWARD [Ph.D. 1962]
Professor Emeritus, University of Hawai’i. Since retiring in 1999 I have authored or co-authored 1 book, co-edited 1 other and 2 special issues of a journal, and 31 journal and chapter articles. Most of these publications are available for download on my personal website at http://www.alanhowardanthro.net
ROSANA (LESLEY LINEBARGER) HART [B.A. 1964]
Writer, Business Owner. I’ve written and self-published 3 books of my memoirs, available on Amazon or on my website zanahart.com. Currently working on my 4th one.
TOM PULLUM [B.A. 1964]
Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin; Senior Researcher with The Demographic and Health Surveys Program. My time as an anthropology major at Stanford was brief. I went on to graduate work at The University of Chicago in sociology and statistics, and became a demographer. I taught at several universities, mainly the University of Washington and the University of Texas at Austin. Since 2010 I have been a researcher with The Demographic and Health Surveys Program (DHS), a project of USAID based in Maryland. Although brief, my exposure to anthropology had a lasting influence on my career interests. For example, much of my work at DHS has focused on the quality of survey data collected in other countries, with a sensitivity for the interview experience and the demands placed on respondents. My non-professional interests in social history and genealogy have also connected with anthropology. Going to Stanford and switching my major from mathematics to anthropology were two of the best decisions I ever made.
ANYA PETERSON [A.B. 1968]
Chancellor’s Professor emerita, IU and Adjunct Professor, U of Limerick. Honors: Bicentennial Medal, for Distinguished and Distinctive Service, 2021. IU Tracy M. Sonneborn Award, for distinguished research, creative activity, and teaching, 2018. Medalla Binniza [Medal of the Zapotec People], given by the Fundación Histórico Cultural Juchitán for distinguished scholarly contributions to the Isthmus Zapotec, 2016. Publications: 2021 “Landscapes of the In-Between: Artists Mediating Cultures,” Ch.4, in The Artist and the Academy, a volume commemorating the 20th anniversary of the founding of The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Helen Phelan and Graham Welch, eds. Routledge. Three chapters in edited volumes, in press. Two photography projects: Famine cottages of County Clare, Ireland; color photography of the Burren (Ireland).
WALLING [B.A. 1968]
Artistic Director, Vancouver Moving Theatre; Associate Artistic Director Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival. 50 years of creative collaborations with my husband Terry Hunter: Terminal City Dance (1975-93), Vancouver Moving Theatre (1983-present), touring masked drumdance productions (1983-1997); researching/co-writing theatrical scripts; co producing community-engaged productions, public art, cultural ceremonies, festivals. I/ we collaborate with artists of many genres, traditions, ancestries to create productions and support projects that interweave localized content, accessible storytelling, spectacle, live music and/or living cultural practice. Most recent partnerships: “8th Symposium on Reconciliation & Redress in the Arts: Stories Have Always been our Governance”; “Intangible Treasures of the Downtown Eastside” (short shadow plays created on zoom platform with Runaway Moon Theatre); “The Prop Master’s Dream” ( a new fusion opera by Vancouver Cantonese Opera inspired by a true-life story); partnering with Nadine Spence on the Indigenous-led multi-year, multi-community, multi-generational “Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey” (ceremony, teaching, art,storytelling); co-producing the 19th Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival with a host of partners.
44 ALUMNI NEWS
MARTTI VALLILA [B.A. 1971]
Author of 8 “Bannana books”. Having returned to Mindanao after spending a year and a half in the US during the Covid lockdown I have completed the seaside home from which I intend to observe the reorganization of the world in a relatively safe place. My contribution to that world consists of two daughters and four grandchildren, all living in Boston, and continued efforts to commercialize a treatment for Alzheimers I found in Russia in 2006. Stanford’s Volunteers in Asia program introduced me to the Philippines in 1972, providing a teaching job at Mindanao State University that opened my eyes to the country destined to become my last home fifty years later. After living in Prague, Helsinki, Washington DC, Chicago, New York, Paris, Research Triangle Park, San Francisco and Boston, I have landed in a perfect place from which to think about these places (and others I travelled to), realizing that my anthropological education has provided a prism for appreciating them all.
MARY KELSEY [B.A. 1971]
Independent artist. Updated website for documentary drawing in Central and South America. Marykelsey.com
LIA WANGENHEIM [B.A. 1972]
Retired. Nursed my 13 + year old Labrador back from TPLO surgery. Nursed myself back from a 360 degree spine surgery and a hip replacement. We are both thriving.
KAREN ALLEN [B.A. 1972]
Retired from State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Celebrated 50 years of marriage with family and friends on retirement day.
ZAHER WAHAB [M.A. 1972]
Professor Emeritus, Lewis and Clark College. Professor and director of MA Ed and MA in Ed and Law at the American University of Afghanistan; Professor at Kabul University and Kabul Education University; Senior adviser to Ministry of Higher Education of Afghanistan; Professor at Lewis and Clark College
ROBIN HOLBROOK [A.B. 1974]
Director of Finance and Administration, Rejuvenation Technologies Inc. Although I majored in Cultural Anthro -
pology, my major accomplishment was to work for 36 years at Stanford in the School of Medicine supporting scientific research (first at the Stanford Magnetic Resonance Laboratory and then at the Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology), where I managed the research budgets, headed up the laboratory HR, and was the grants manager. After retirement from Stanford I assisted two of our postdocs start up a new biotech company, Rejuvenation Technologies Inc., where I continue to work part time. I am passionate about supporting cutting-edge research and proud to have been able to contribute. My second accomplishment is to have returned to community theater after retiring - a passion I put on the back-burner for years. I hope you will see me on stage again in the chorus of a musical in the near future!
HECTOR NEFF [A.B. 1975]
Professor Emeritus of Anthropology. I am in my third year of five permitted for a half-time retirement in the CSUs. My home base is still CSU Long Beach. I teach during the fall semester and then do fieldwork in Nicaragua during the spring and summer. I have a couple of publication projects in the pipeline, including a monograph on a field project in southern Mexico. I hope to continue fieldwork and writing for the coming few years.
ELLEN LEWIN [Ph.D. 1975]
Retired from University of Iowa, Depts. of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies and Anthropology. Pretty much the same as last year: I am enjoying retirement, especially given recent developments in gender studies, which are annoying, to say the least. I’m studying Yiddish, the language of my ancestors, reading a lot of books that have nothing to do with what I used to work on, knitting, and enjoying being alive, even as I dodder into old age.
MURRY NELSON [M.A. 1975]
Professor of Education and American Studies, Penn State University. I taught at Penn State for 33 years until retiring in 2008. During that time I received three Fulbright Awards to Iceland, Norway and Hungary, the latter two in American Studies with the one to Hungary from a Distinguished Chair. I have written more than a dozen books, most on American basketball history with my last to be published in early 2024, “Big Time: Big Ten Basketball, 1972-1992”, contracted to Indiana University Press. Stanford gave me the cultural strength to link sports and American culture.
T. NELSON [B.A. 1976]
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LAURETTE HAYDEN [B.A. 1980]
Psychotherapist in Private Practice. I continue to work as a psychotherapist in private practice here in Los Angeles, I am an adjunct therapist at a treatment/wellness center and facilitate support groups. I specialize in working with clients challenged by complex trauma, anxiety, depression, grief and loss, life transitions. I balance this by spending quality time with my family and friends, enjoying adventures throughout the city, volunteering with an equine-assisted therapy non-profit, watching the Dodgers and practicing the electric bass. My experience at Stanford and specifically within the Anthropology Department absolutely shaped my world view!
MICHAEL R. DOVE [Ph.D. 1981]
Margaret K. Musser Professor of Social Ecology, Yale University. Completed work on “‘Hearsay Is Not Excluded’: A History of Natural History”, due out from Yale University Press in January 2024; begun work on next book on volcanic hazard, human society, and climatic perturbation; given doctoral mentorship award by Yale Graduate School; developing new seminar on biopolitics of human-nonhuman relations.
PAUL ESPINOSA [Ph.D. 1982]
President, Espinosa Productions. Invited to present the 2022 Ernesto Galarza / Alberto Camarillo lecture at Stanford titled “Reflections of a Chicano Filmmaker: Looking Back at Stories Told,” along with a screening of my latest documentary, “Singing Our Way to Freedom”.
HELENE E. HAGAN [M.A. 1983]
President Tazzla Institute for Cultural Diversity. 2022 saw the publication of my eighth book, the first in French which is my native language, titled “AKHU: Essai Etymologique Sur Les Racines Amazighes de l’Ancienne Civilisation Egyptienne”. The Essay is a translation of my first book published in 2000, titled “the Shining Ones: Etymological Essay on the Amazigh Roots of Ancient Egyptian Civilization”, enriched by twenty years of further research on the archaeology, anthropology, mythology and history of Ancient Egypt and North Africa. All eight books can be viewed on my web site at https://www.helenehagan.com/ books - The Amazigh Film Festival USA which I created
in 2007 in Los Angeles will be presenting its 12th annual program of Berber and Tuareg documentaries and films in Boston in the fall of 2023.
GIGI PRITZKER PUCKER [B.A. 1984]
Founder CEO Madison Wells. Recently produced the Oscar winning film, The Eyes of Tammy Faye. On Broadway co-produced Hadestown and Shucked.
STEVE SELLERS [B.A. 1986]
COO at NatureServe. I’ve enjoyed working in the nonprofit sector for much of the last two decades, both as a consultant and in operating roles. I am also extremely proud of my three daughters (two living in Brooklyn and one in her third year of college) and grateful to be married to my wife Allison, who is a Professor of Sociology (but basically she’s an ethnographer) at UVA.
KAREN MARY DAVALOS [M.A. 1987]
Professor, Chicano and Latino Studies, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. With Tatiana Reinoza (UND), I co-edited Self Help Graphics at Fifty: A Cornerstone of Latinx Art and Collaborative Artmaking (UC Press 2023), which examines the ongoing legacy of an institution that has had profound aesthetic, economic, and political impact on the formation of Chicanx and Latinx art in the United States. With Constance Cortez (UTRGV), I launched a post-custodial, aggregating web portal, Mexican American Art since 1848 (maas1848.umn.edu), that compiles relevant collections from libraries, archives, and museum throughout the nation. This unique digital effort to make Chicana/o/x art more accessible rethinks conventional cataloging, metadata, art history and anthropology methods.
NONINI [Ph.D. 1987]
Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, University of North Carolina (as of June 2021). President-Elect, Critical Urban Anthropology Association, 2023, and CUAA Program Chair, AAA Toronto 2023. Books Published: Food Activism Today: Sustainability, Climate Change and Social Justice, co-written with Dorothy Holland. New York University Press, in press, 2023. The Tumultuous Politics of Scale: Unsettled States, Migrants, Movements in Flux, co-edited with Ida Susser. New York: Routledge, 2020. Recent Peer-Reviewed Publications: “The triple-sidedness of ‘I can’t breathe’: The COVID-19 pandemic, enslavement, and agro-industrial capitalism.” Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, 89:114-129, 2021. “China’s illiberalism and liberalism’s ills.” Critical Asian Studies, 52:4, 610620, 2020. “Encompassed by the Big Data Behemoth and the Whip of the Penal System? Reflections on Contem-
46 ALUMNI NEWS
porary Freedom and Slavery.” In States and the Processes of Enslavement, edited by Bruce Kapferer, Rohan Bastin, Marina Gold and Julia Sauma. New York: Berghahn Books, 2023, 26 pp., in press. “Instability.” In The Handbook of Economic Anthropology (3rd edition), edited by James G. Carrier. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 2022, pp. 379-391. “Introduction: The Tumultuous Politics of Scale,” co-written with Ida Susser, in The Tumultuous Politics of Scale: Unsettled States, Migrants, Movements in Flux, edited by Donald Nonini and Ida Susser. New York: Routledge, 2020, pp. 1-25.
STEPHANIE KEITH [B.A. 1988]
Freelance Photojournalist. Continue to work for The New York Times, Getty Images, Reuters and Bloomberg News in New York City on breaking news and editorial features. Recently covered former President Donald Trump’s historic indictment for Bloomberg News.
CHRIS MARTIN [B.A. 1988]
Vice President, Legal; Orum Therapeutics. Working inhouse in oncology and arthritis R&D.
NICOLE HOLZAPFEL [B.A. 1989]
Managing Director, JPMorgan Chase, and Adjunct Professor, Raritan Valley Community College. Currently teaching as part of Raritan Valley Community College’s RISE program -- Returning & Incarcerated Student Education. Raritan Valley participates in the NJ Scholarship and Transformation Education in Prisons Consortium (NJ-STEP), an association of higher education institutions in NJ that works in partnership with the NJ Dept of Corrections and NJ State Parole Board to provide higher education courses for all students under the custody of the State of NJ while they are incarcerated.
SHARON JOHNSON [A.B. 1991]
Computer Science Department Chair at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes Upper School.
DEBORAH PALMER [A.B. 1991]
Professor, School of Education, University of Colorado
Boulder. I have two co-edited volumes released in 2023: Critical Consciousness in Dual Language Bilingual Education: Case Studies on Policy and Practice (Routledge),
and Gentrification and Bilingual Education: A Texas TWBE School across Seven Years (Lexington).
HUGH GUSTERSON [Ph.D. 1991]
Professor of Anthropology & Public Policy, University of British Columbia.
PIA MORIARTY [Ph.D. 1993]
Retired, now Consulting Friend at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. With happy thanks to George and Jane Collier, I finally made it to San Cristobal Las Casas, Chiapas, México. Loved staying with Lacondon visitors at Casa Na Bolom.
DEE ANN JONES [B.A. 1993]
CEO, Espinoza Consulting Services. My company, Espinoza Consulting Services, celebrated 13 years in business. I obtained an Executive Masters of Business Administration. We have a new grandchild. I continue to serve on the board of the Rural Woman-Led Loan Fund for the First Southwest Community Fund and as an alumni prospective student interviewer for Stanford.
ALYSON GIARDINI [M.A. 1993]
Marriage and Family Therapist in Private Practice. Living in Rural Northern California. I am a small town therapist. Raising my kids and looking ahead to an empty nest very soon.
LORETTA VICTORIA RAMIREZ [B.A. 1994]
Assistant Professor of Latinx Rhetoric & Composition at California State University, Long Beach. Has published two journal articles in the past year: “Self-Loving in the Epidemic Years: Carmen Machado’s Rhetoric of Woundedness,” Journal of Lesbian Studies, vol. 26, 2023, pp. 1-15. DOI: 10.1080/10894160.2023.2178727; “Unmaking Colonial Fictions: Cherríe Moraga’s Rhetorics of Fragmentation and Semi-ness,” Rhetoric Review, vol. 41, no. 3, 2022, pp. 168183, DOI:10.1080/07350198.2022.2077017. Book will be published in Spring 2024 by Penn State University Press: The Wound and the Stitch: Latinx Rhetorics from Medieval Iberia to SoCal Arts and Life.
ALEJANDRO LUGO [Ph.D. 1995]
Affiliate Faculty and “2019 Star of Arts and Sciences”, New Mexico State University (NMSU). In the last two years, in addition to having three chapters in upcoming edited books, including “The Border Reader” (2023) https://www. dukeupress.edu/the-border-reader and exhibiting my ethnographic photographs at the Krannert Art Museum https://kam.illinois.edu/resource/my-latina-roots-saman -
tha-solis , I have contributed to national public engagement through several Letters to the Editor on issues of national and international concern at the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Sun-Times. I also serve as Vice President of the Board of Directors of “Ngage New Mexico” https://www.ngagenm.org/, a non-profit that focuses on improving the education outcomes of marginalized children and youth in southern New Mexico. My last doctoral student graduated in 2020 from UIUC anthropology department, where I taught for 20 years, and is currently assistant professor of gender and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado– Colorado Springs.
VICTORIA SANFORD [Ph.D. 2000]
Lehman Professor of Excellence, Lehman College, City University of New York. My latest book investigates the unsolved murder of a female law student and the pervasive violence against Guatemalan women that drives migration: Textures of Terror - The Murder of Claudina Isabel Velasquez and Her Father’s Quest for Justice (University of California Press, 2023). I testified as an invited expert in the Inter-American Court on a significant Maya land rights case: https://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/tramite/comunidad-indigena-maya-qeqchi-agua-caliente.pdf
ASHA MEHTA [A.B. 2000]
Founder, Global Delta Capital. My Wiley-backed book, Power of Capital, hit #1 in October 2022. The book showcases the rise and relevance of emerging countries, as told through my stories across the globe from Cambodia to Colombia – speaking with heads of state, taxi drivers, and village dwellers alike. The book’s optimistic thesis is that private sector capital can be a powerful tool in delivering peace and prosperity to the world’s furthest corners.
ROBIN BALLIGER [Ph.D. 2001]
Lecturer, Stanford Anthropology Department. Current research project is on arts, culture, and racial politics in the context of urban restructuring in Oakland, CA. Recently published two scholarly articles on artists and gentrification debates, and has an article in peer review on policing, disinvestment, and mutual aid in Oakland. Also, completing a book manuscript for a broader audience. Through personal narrative, the book tells the story of two blocks in West Oakland over the first twenty years of the 21st cen-
tury, and how people in a poor neighborhood endured the subprime moment, foreclosure crisis, and gentrification both individually and collectively. After my institution (San Francisco Art Institute) closed suddenly last year, I was excited to return to the Stanford anthropology department in 2023 to teach two graduate courses, “Policing and the Carceral State,” and a course on public sphere mural and monument controversies.
ROGERS [B.A. 2003]
LifeStance Health Marketing Manager. My husband and I adopted two children from Colombia, South America. Then, unexpectedly we got pregnant and had a beautiful baby girl. I feel blessed to raise three amazing children while working full time for LifeStance Health, promoting affordable, accessible, and high-quality out-patient mental health care.
KAREN MORRIS [Ph.D. 2005]
Associate Professor, Department of Visual & Critical Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2019, I co-founded The LGBTQ+ Intergenerational Dialogue Project (www.generationliberation.com). The project brings together diverse cohorts of LGBTQ+ younger and older adults (60+) for storytelling, themed dialogues, collaborative art-making, and shared meals. The project has grown into a long-term partnership between the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ+ Community Center and queer faculty at three Chicago-area colleges and universities (School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Chicago). The project aims to bridge divides (especially along lines of age, race, class, and geography) within the LGBTQ+ community by bringing people together who usually would never interact. We have recently been awarded a Large Research Grant on Education from The Spencer Foundation for a multidisciplinary 3-year study of the project to assess the impact of community-engaged intergenerational learning on LGBTQ+ participants’ well-being and the potential of intergenerational dialogue as a tool within LGBTQ+ education.
KRISTA SCHOPPY [B.A. 2006]
Pediatric Otolaryngologist, Division Chair of Otolaryngoloy at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children.
FRANCISCA JAMES HERNÁNDEZ [Ph.D. 2007]
Faculty and Dept. Head, Ethnic, Gender, Transborder Studies & Sociology, Pima Community College. Completing sixth year of heading a department I co-founded of Ethnic, Gender & Transborder Studies, the first of its kind in Arizona and with few equivalents nationally.
48 ALUMNI NEWS
JENNIFER M. CHERTOW [Ph.D. 2007]
Teacher (substitute) at Evanston Township High School and Francis W. Parker; Tutor (self-employed). Built website and established self-owned tutoring business in all AP classes, humanities, social sciences, STEM, and special education/ needs (Autism, Anxiety, ADHD, etc.). Website: ivyleaguetutor.net migrating to jenniferchertow.com
JERRY ZEE [M.A. 2007]
Assistant Professor, Princeton University.
SANAH PARVEZ [B.A. 2008]
Physician. Practicing as a Hematologist/Oncologist in New Jersey.
CORA LEE GARCIA [M.A. 2008]
Adjunct Instructor, Merritt College. I am starting law school at the University of Victoria, in their transsystemic JD / JID (Juris Indigenarum Doctor) dual degree program, which integrates the study of Canadian common law with Indigenous legal orders from various Nations across Turtle Island.
ERIKA ALVERO [B.A. 2013]
PhD anthropology student at the University of New Mexico
YVETTE TETTEH [B.A. 2014]
Graduate. From March through April 2023 I am swimming 450km of the Volta River as part of the Agbetsi Living Water research and environmental expedition. The Volta River (including the Volta Lake) is the largest and one of the most important waterways in Ghana; allowing for trade, transport, and holding spiritual and cultural value. However, like most ecosystems, the Volta River is increasingly exposed to global contaminants, including synthetic microfibers. These microfibers originate from atmospheric deposition or from local human activities—namely wearing, washing, and drying clothes. We are building on existing research about the ecotoxicological impacts of secondhand clothing waste on the environment. This research, which is carried out by The Or Foundation, an organization working at the intersection of environmental justice, education, and fashion development, includes how pollution from clothing consumption is felt in communities and ecosystems throughout Ghana—especially in Accra where tons of foreign textile waste inundate communities.
LAUREL FISH [B.A. 2014]
BRYN WILLIAMS [Ph.D. 2011]
Director of Antitrust, Colorado Department of Law. Recently became the head of the Antitrust Unit of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office where I represent the people of Colorado in a number of significant antitrust investigations and enforcement actions.
LOVELEE BROWN [B.A. 2011]
UCLA Assistant Professor of Medicine. Assistant Designated Institutional Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for Graduate Medical Education.
KAREN ACEVEDO [B.A. 2012]
Sr. Clinical Operations Manager - RubiconMD; Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Represented the LA Chapter of NAPNAP as their Chapter President at the National Conference geared at improving Pediatric Health nationwide.
DOLLY KIKON [Ph.D. 2013]
Associate Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia
Lead Organizer, Spokane Alliance. After eight years in the labor movement, I transitioned to leading the Spokane Alliance, a coalition of congregations, unions, and non-profits in my hometown. Recently, we’ve worked to build local leadership in order to defend funds set aside for affordable housing, win regional investments for childcare affordability, and train new leaders for participation in civic life....all that, plus raising a toddler and bringing a new baby, Sylvie Renee into the world!
ANNA MALAIKA TUBBS [B.A. 2014]
Author. My book The Three Mothers became a New York Times bestseller and I recently signed a two-book deal for my next two non-fictions with Flatiron Books.
JESS AUERBACH JAHAJEEAH [Ph.D. 2017]
Associate Professor and Director of Inclusive Innovation, Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town. After three years working in higher education in Mauritius, I went home to South Africa in 2020 and taught anthropology for two years at North-West University close to Johannesburg. In that time my PhD-monograph was published ‘From Water to Wine: Becoming Middle Class in Angola’ (UoT Press) which was quickly translated into Portuguese by the Brazilian Anthropology Association and
49 ALUMNI NEWS
taught across Brazil. A second book on the South African response to the pandemic ‘Archive of Kindness’ came out in 2021. I recieved university-level research and communtity engagement awards. In 2022 I moved to the University of Cape Town (UCT) where I am now based. Recieved a rare Presidential Award for emerging researchers, is an Iso Lomso (‘eye of the future’) Fellow at the Stellenbosch Centre for Advanced Study. Returned to the Bay Area in 20222023 as a Visiting Professor at the University of California Santa Cruz.
YASEMIN IPEK [Ph.D. 2018]
Assistant Professor. Has received a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. As a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellow, I am on leave in 2023 to complete my current book project. My book, titled “Crisiswork: Activism, Class-Making, and Bounded Futures in Lebanon,” is a study of emergent forms of activism and political subjectivity in contemporary Lebanon in relation to lived experiences of crisis. Having spent time with activists in different spaces of everyday life such as work, family, and leisure, I theorize diverse and competing meanings of being an activist by drawing on decolonial approaches and interdisciplinary debates on crisis, social class, ethics, affects, and temporality. In addition to demonstrating the complexity of everyday struggles and civil society activism in Lebanon, the book will provide an analytical framework for understanding how people continually generate new political imaginations and (un) belongings in the context of ongoing precarity.
VIVIAN CHENXUE LU [Ph.D. 2018]
Assistant Professor. After 3 years at Fordham University, in Fall 2023 I will be starting as Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rice University.
SAM HOLLEY-KLINE [Ph.D. 2019]
Assistant Clinical Professor, University of Maryland. Awarded an ACLS Fellowship (2023 cohort).
JOSH COBLER [B.A. 2020]
University of Oxford — Student. Since graduating in 2020, I have been working towards an MPhil in Politics (expected graduation June 2023) and a second BA in Law (expected graduation June 2024) at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and I have remained active in Filipino diaspora activist work mostly based out of London. During the pandemic years, I also mastered my chicken fried rice recipe (a little fish sauce goes a long way!).
LAURA NG [Ph.D. 2021]
Assistant Professor of Anthropology.
DEAN CHAHIM [Ph.D. 2021]
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Texas at El Paso. I will be beginning as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at New York University next academic year (2023-2024).
JASMINE LIU [B.A. 2021]
Reporter-Researcher at The New Republic.
LILITH FRAKES [B.A. 2021]
Master’s of Science student in Primate Behavior from Central Washington University. This June, I will graduate with an MS in Primate Behavior, completing my thesis research in paternal behavior in captive orangutans. Next fall, I am excited to begin my PhD in the History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz!
SADIE BLANCAFLOR [B.A. 2022]
Program Director, Arctic Encounter.
JASMINE REID [Ph.D. 2022]
User Experience Researcher at Zenni Optical; Researcher at Smithsonian Center for Restorative History.
50 ALUMNI NEWS
LETTERS FROM THE FIELD
Stefania Manfia- (cont’d from p. 39)
Such a campaign was so successful that the government allowed us to proceed with the excavation.
After some postponements and with the fear of the cyclones, the excavation of a portion of the wreck started. This campaign, which began under the MUCH project, also included a training component in maritime archeology. At this stage of my career, it has been so rewarding and professionally enriching to share my knowledge of maritime archeology and introduce others to this discipline.
We opened a 2 by 2 m section, and the wreck’s hull emerged under the layer of ballast, sand, and sediment (fig. 3). More than 2600 artifacts have been recovered and consist mainly of shredded glassware, but also ceramic, iron and copper nails, copper sheathing, wood samples, a bone. Interestingly, the pieces of glass were covered with a black patina, a sign of fire. The captain had set the ship on fire to avoid capture by the British when she ran aground. The artifacts, therefore, show traces of the dynamics of the sinking (fig. 4).
These artifacts are now under conservation treatment, and their study will represent the last stage of my
fieldwork. Indeed, I will be traveling to Mauritius again in July to begin the final cataloging and interpretation.
After almost two years of fieldwork, I can say that it was the best moment of my Ph.D., and in the truest sense of the word, an exciting and educational journey. When I left for fieldwork, I was afraid I did not have enough data, but instead, it turned out to be quite the opposite. Now I have over 8000 artifacts between the Victoire and Coureur shipwrecks to investigate and a fabulous collaboration with my Mauritian colleagues which is leading to the creation of future projects!
he passed away. When Berger drew his dead father’s face, he could feel “the history and the experience” which made his father’s eyelids the way they were.
By asking us to redraw a relatively lifeless drawing of a peacock by intensely looking at it, Ms. V was perhaps training us in the art of gradual gaze. By making us so intensely present between those two sheets of paper, Ms. V made us momentarily absent from the school. We were accompanying the coming-into-being of that peacock, with its distinct history and location, into a newer peacock for our school’s display boards. We had to imagine where that peacock came from and where it was going. And to do that, we were escaping the immediate by intensely seeing it. Maybe as one of the only unmarried, middle-aged women in our school, Ms. V knew how much her “creative” students needed to embody this different kind of gaze and presence to survive that school.
I thought a lot about Ms. V and her lessons when I was conducting preliminary ethnographic fieldwork on familial and institutional care for autistic adults in Delhi, India. Her lesson to see intensely and understand gradually helped me when I chose to visit some of the most morally overdetermined spaces in my field: residential care institutions. Having emerged over the last decade in India, residential care institutions are privatelyrun entities that offer day-to-day care to autistic adults away from their familial home in the form of some respite for their ageing and vulnerable parents. Often imagined to be spaces that represented the failure of families to care, institutions declare themselves as images of violence and destitution in the mind of the visitor before the actual visit. Drawing tender exchanges of care between autistic residents, who weren’t just passive care-receivers but each other’s brethren away from home, inside institutions allowed me to see and understand care differently.
Paras Arora- (cont’d from p. 40)
Nancy Ogden Ortiz Memorial Prize for Outstanding Performance in Anthro 90B Theory in Cultural and Social Anthropology
The Joseph H. Greenberg Prize for Undergraduate Academic Excellence
The James Lowell Gibbs, Jr. Award for Outstanding Service to the Department in Anthropology
The Robert Bayard Textor Award for Outstanding Creativity in Anthropology
The Michelle Z. Rosaldo Summer Field Research Grant
“End of Life for Cancer Patients through the Lens of Palliative Care and Narrative Medicine”
“The De-Ideologization of Dravidian Politics: Investigating the Dialectical Relationship Between Tamil Nationalism and Hindutva”
Franz Boas Summer Scholars
“Discourses on Homelessness”
“Denaturing Species, Degendering Kinship: The significance of companion species in China”
“Worker Ownership in Cincinnati, Ohio”
“Settler Colonial Legacies: The Co-Presence of National Parks and Abandoned Uranium Mines on Navajo Nation”
The Bernard J. Siegel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Written Expression by a Ph.D. Student in Anthropology
The Robert Bayard Textor Award for Outstanding Creativity in Anthropology
The Anthropology Prize for Academic Performance
The Anthropology Prize for Outstanding Graduate Research and Publication
The Anthropology Prize for Service to the Department
School of Humanities and Sciences Centennial Teaching Assistant Award
New Job Placements
Pablo Seward Delaporte
2023-2024- Postdoctoral Research Associate, Brown University
2024- Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Saint Louis University
2023- Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, UC Los Angeles
2023- Postgraduate Fellow, Harvard University
2023- Lecturer, Washington University
Environmental Anthropology; Materiality; Political Anthropology & Political Economy; Science & Technology Studies
Lisa Curran Professor
Research Areas: Colonialism & Indigeneity
Paulla Ebron Associate Professor
Anthropology & the Arts; Environmental Anthropology; Materiality
James Ferguson Professor
Research Areas: Colonialism & Indigeneity; Environmental Anthropology; Political Anthropology & Political Economy; Race, Ethnicity, & Collective Identity; Science & Technology Studies
Ayana Omilade Flewellen Assistant Professor
Research Areas: Anthropology & the Arts; Colonialism & Indigeneity; Gender & Sexuality; Materiality; Race, Ethnicity, & Collective Identity
Anthropology & the Arts; Colonialism & Indigeneity; Environmental Anthropology; Materiality; Medical Anthropology; Political Anthropology & Political Economy; Race, Ethnicity, & Collective Identity; Science & Technology Studies
Anthropology & the Arts; Anthropology of Religion; Colonialism & Indigeneity; Environmental Anthropology; Gender & Sexuality; Materiality; Medical Anthropology; Political Anthropology & Political Economy; Race, Ethnicity, & Collective Identity
Thomas Hansen Professor
Anthropology of Religion; Colonialism & Indigeneity; Political Anthropology & Political Economy; Race, Ethnicity, & Collective Identity
Research Areas: Linguistic Anthropology
Lochlann Jain Professor
Research Areas: Medical Anthropology
The Department of Anthropology is committed to fostering a diverse community in which all individuals are welcomed, respected, and supported. Additionally, with over 40 projects at international locations around the globe, our faculty are engaged in more projects outside the U.S. than any other department and are at the forefront of global studies at Stanford.
Richard Klein Professor
Research Areas: Colonialism & Indigeneity
Matthew Kohrman Associate Professor
Environmental Anthropology; Gender & Sexuality; Materiality; Medical Anthropology; Political Anthropology & Political Economy; Science & Technology Studies
Tanya Marie Luhrmann Professor
Anthropology of Religion; Medical Anthropology; Science & Technology Studies
Liisa Malkki Professor
Research Areas: Anthropology of Religion
Kabir Tambar Associate Professor
Research Areas: Anthropology of Religion; Colonialism & Indigeneity; Linguistic Anthropology; Political Anthropology & Political Economy; Race, Ethnicity, & Collective Identity
Sharika Thiranagama Associate Professor
Colonialism & Indigeneity; Gender & Sexuality; Political Anthropology & Political Economy; Race, Ethnicity, & Collective Identity
Mudit Trivedi Assistant Professor
Anthropology & the Arts; Anthropology of Religion; Materiality; Political Anthropology & Political Economy
Barbara L. Voss Professor
Research Areas: Anthropology & the Arts
Research Areas: Materiality; Race, Ethnicity, & Collective Identity; Gender & Sexuality
Serkan Yolacan Assistant Professor
Anthropology of Religion; Materiality; Political Anthropology & Political Economy
Poornima Rajeshwar and Mercedes Martinez Milantchi
NEWSLETTER DESIGN & LAYOUT
Evan Dennis via Unsplash
WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL OF OUR CONTRIBUTORS
For more information on department programs and events, contact us at: Tel: 650-723-3421 Fax: 650-725-0605
Stanford University, Department of Anthropology Main Quad, Building 50, 450 Jane Stanford Way, CA 94305 Phone: (650) 723-3421