Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Hone Mandefro Belaye

With the support of the Wadsworth International Fellowship Hone Mandefro Belaye will continue his training in sociocultural anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, supervised by Dr. Julie S. Archambault.

I have an interdisciplinary educational background with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology (Jimma University), a Master’s in Social Work (Addis Ababa University), and a Master of Arts in Development Studies with a Social Policy major (Erasmus University Rotterdam). Before moving to Montreal, Canada in 2017 as a Jeanne Sauvé Fellow at McGill University, I was a lecturer at the School of Sociology and Social Work and the Director of Community Services at the University of Gondar.

My research interests include urbanization in the Global South, politics of knowledge production, and community engagement in higher education. My research has been published in journals such as International Review of Sociology, Journal of Modern African Studies, Nokoko, and the Journal of Indigenous Social Development.

My PhD research examines the impact of changes in the built environment on social relationships among residents in Addis Ababa, a city experiencing rapid transformation in its physical landscape. Using a vernacular terminology of Gurbetena, roughly translated as neighbouring, my research looks at the impact of this transformation – which is moving people from single-story houses to flats in high-story condominiums – on the nature of relationships among neighbours. This research builds upon earlier projects including a European Union Erasmus and program-funded research on social capital in Ethiopian cities and CityInclusive, a social impact start-up I co-founded in 2017 to investigate smart city conversations through the lens of inclusion, engagement and social justice in Canadian cities.

I am passionate about bridging the divide between academia and practice. In 2016, I founded the Policy Issues in Ethiopia’s Development Trajectories (PROSPECT) seminar series at the University of Gondar. This series provided an opportunity for well-known Ethiopian academics to present their policy proposals to policy makers and others in the University of Gondar academic community. I have also leveraged my academic background over the past ten years to provide consulting support to several non-governmental organizations and write socio-political commentaries to, among others, Addis Standard and Ethiopia Insight.

I chose the interdisciplinary Social and Cultural Analysis program at Concordia University as it exposes me to a range of theories and methods while also grounding me within a broad ethnographic tradition. My supervisor’s (Dr. Julie Soleil Archambault) expertise on urban life and urbanization in Africa and ethnographic research is a perfect fit with my PhD research and played a role in my decision to join the program.

 

 

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Cal Biruk

Workshop attendees at the Centre for Social Research, Zomba, Malawi.

In 2007 Dr. Crystal (Cal) Biruk received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “The Politics of Knowledge Production in Collaborative AIDS Research in Malawi,” supervised by Dr. Sandra T. Barnes. In 2015 Dr. Biruk then received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on “The Politics of Vulnerability in the LGBT-Rghts/global Health Nexus in Malawi”. Most recently Dr. Biruk received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Workshops on Research with Key Populations.”

On 20-21 June 2019, in collaboration with Dr. Alister Munthali and Gift Trapence, I convened “Workshops on Research with Key Populations,” which drew 20 Malawian scholars drawn from fields such as anthropology, sociology, history, political science, and psychology. I formulated the concept for these workshops on the premise of facilitating open conversations and knowledge sharing on LGBTQI+ issues in Malawi amid state-sanctioned homophobic discourse. I hoped to provide a space for interested participants to network and gain deeper exposure to scholarly perspectives on these issues, and to share opportunities for future research and collaboration. Further, I anticipated that the workshops could build links between a local LGBTQI+ organization I work with and scholars of gender and sexuality, so as to enhance future potential collaborations and consultancies.

The workshops were held at the university to capitalize on nascent interest, observed by myself and colleagues, in LGBT issues. Given that the Global Fund in recent years awarded its largest ever grant to Malawi—contingent on inclusion of sexual minorities in HIV and AIDS programming and policy—it is a pivotal moment to generate interest among Malawian scholars and students in research questions that might enable local expertise and participation in the collection and analysis of empirical data pertaining to the health and other concerns facing men who have sex with men and other LGBT persons in Malawi. Nurturing the interest of a small community of Malawian scholars and students in LGBT issues, I think, can help dispel the general sentiment that ‘gay issues’ are the purview of white westerners and imperialism.

The workshops opened with three presentations on research and programming with key populations in Malawi, followed by a lively question and answer session. The presentations were given by Malawian experts with experience working with key populations in the sectors of academia (political science and medicine) and civil society, respectively (a programmes coordinator for a Malawian LGBTQI+ rights organization based in Malawi’s capital). Taken together, the three presenters covered in great detail existing research on sexual minorities in Malawi, ethical issues involved in working with vulnerable populations and within a homophobic environment, overview of national policies as they intersect sexual minority issues, and community-level responses and programming directed at the many needs of sexual minorities.

The workshops were a very fruitful space in which interested academics found opportunity for frank discussions on a sensitive issue. The general consensus of the group—following vibrant discussions and debates—was that it is the role of researchers to contribute to building a high quality and robust body of evidence that can shed light on issues facing key populations, and that can enhance existing programming and interventions and policies. Participants particularly enjoyed small group discussions centered on pre-circulated readings authored by African scholars of queer theory and gender and sexuality in Africa. Many of the concepts and themes drawn from these texts enabled participants to draw links between manifestations of “queer” across time and space, and to put forth examples and anecdotes that helped localize LGBTQI+ issues.

The most excitement in the workshops was around mobilizing the expertise in the room (qualitative and social science research) to fill important gaps in the research that has been undertaken up to now with key populations in Malawi (which has primarily been focused on HIV/AIDS transmission, biomedical issues, and health). In this regard, those present were interested in issues such as, for example, the history of homosexuality in Malawi, inclusion of ‘other’ LGBTI persons in research programs (lesbians, gender non conforming women, transgender persons) overly focused on MSM, issues around mental health and counseling or provision of safe spaces, access to justice, development and agriculture, indigenous forms of ‘homosexuality,’ issues around language/translation and naming (for example, as they pertain to the questions and tools used by Afrobarometer to measure homophobic attitudes in the country).

The workshops culminated in the formation of a “think tank” that has committed to using their expertise to bring important qualitative and social scientific perspectives to issues faced by key populations in Malawi, and, also, to mobilize evidence and data to erode stigma and homophobia in the general populace (through, for example, holding research conferences on the topic, or sharing findings in public venues like radio or media publications). This think tank has called itself “Key Populations Research Programme” and is based at Centre for Social Research in Zomba, Malawi. I will head up the Programme, in collaboration with my colleagues Dr. Alister Munthali (CSR, Malawi), and Gift Trapence (CEDEP). The think tank has put forth an ambitious plan to secure funds from foreign and local sources that can invest in research programs that draw on the expertise of the group.

Importantly, this workshop was a monumental moment in which CEDEP has built an important bridge with University of Malawi, facilitating dialogue, collaboration, and exchange of ideas and opportunities. One major problem faced by CEDEP—an LGBTQI+ NGO I work with in Lilongwe, Malawi—is the shortage of consultants they can draw on to undertake consultancies who are well versed in and familiar with terminologies, issues, and general contours of the key populations space. It is my hope that the bridges built at these workshops will help solve this problem, and also present opportunities to expand its existing research foci to include, as well, important social scientific inquiries that will inevitably lead to better informed and evidenced advocacy, better tools and instruments, better policy, and better interventions.

The Programme has, up to now, created a listserv and a Whatsapp group to facilitate staying in touch, and, in order to preserve momentum, is aiming to source funds to support future meetings for the group. The purpose of the meetings will be to strengthen the network, include speakers and presentations and training modules to enhance the knowledge and familiarity of researchers with key populations issues, terminology, etc., and enable gathering space to collaborate in person on relevant calls for proposals, sourcing funds, and developing research questions. The intimacy and interest in collaboration among participants was high, and enabled by informal socializing during tea breaks, lunches, and a dinner for participants held at a local restaurant.

We hope that the Programme will become a model for other countries, and that research and inquiries undertaken by the Programme will help build a robust evidence base to contribute to a multisectoral approach to the diverse and complex issues faced by key populations in Malawi. The event and ensuing excitement around these issues have been first hand evidence of the value of engaged anthropology that builds on momentum around research agendas and issues emergent in local contexts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Tuya Shagdar

Tuya Shagdar received her undergraduate degree from the University of the Humanities – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, as well as a Master of Arts in Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Master of Philosophy in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in social cultural anthropology at the University of Cambridge, supervised by Dr. David Sneath. Don’t miss out on the other entries in the series here.

I encountered anthropology in my thirties after I had done my MA in comparative literature. I was born in the former Soviet Union and my memories of childhood are entangled with both the relative stability of late state-socialism and the sudden fall of it. In the years that followed, wealth and fortune replaced old socialist tokens of success that were built around the notions of “yos surtahuuntai baih” (possessing high morals), “hudulmurch” (hard-working) and “soyoltoi seheeten” (cultured and being educated). Money had become an important pursuit in the age of the market as Soviet subsidies were cut off and new sources of income from development and foreign direct investment dictated a new set of pragmatist logic; privatization, liberalization of prices and cuts in state subsidies.

I recall my parents struggling to make ends meet as my mother’s research income was reduced and she was forced to take up a domestic caregiver job. I too worked three years as a live-in caregiver, thus delaying my graduation from university. The cuts in state subsidies had a devastating effect in Mongolia, which continues today. The 1993 privatization engineered by international banks left many women employed in state service and teaching positions vulnerable to the perils of the market economy. The privatization of large state enterprises benefited few and created the current state of wealth inequality. The experiences that I’ve lived have shaped my research interest in post-socialist wealth and how it is constituted by Mongolia’s transitioning from a traditional agrarian feudal society to modern state-socialism, and finally into a democracy with a neoliberal economy.

I am pursuing a PhD at Cambridge where my dissertation will focus on the notion of elite. In countries with advanced bureaucratic democracies with large-scale corporate economies elites are often classified in abstract terms like the “ruling class.” From the point of western democratic thought “elites” pose challenges to the egalitarian ideological framework. Being elite or showing elitist tendencies often have negative connotations in the west. However, in post-socialist countries like Mongolia, I observe how people look up to being elite as a positive character trait. This may have to do with the principle of meritocracy that the Stalinist regime advocated throughout socialist bloc countries following purges of the aristocracy and intelligentsia as a means to create a new “class” and promote them to positions of leadership. I seek to investigate how such positive views emerged and evolved, and assess whether the notion of elite carries the same connotation as in western liberal societies.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: William Lempert

Dr. William Lempert received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2015 to aid research on “Broadcasting Indigeneity: The Social Life of Aboriginal Media,” supervised by Dr. Jennifer Shannon. In 2019, Dr. Lempert returned to the field when he received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Palya Collaboration: After-Images and Visual Sharing in the Social Life of Kimberley Aboriginal Media.”

With the Engaged Anthropology Grant, I was able to return to the Kimberley region of Northwestern Australia in July-August to share the results of my primary dissertation fieldwork that took place during 2014-2016. This fieldwork includes a total of 30 months since 2006 with two Indigenous media organizations in the coastal pearling town of Broome, as well as in regional communities. Throughout this period, I followed the lifecycles of dozens of film projects through daily collaboration within production teams in order to understand the stakes of Aboriginal self-representation embedded within the process of filmmaking itself.

The projects I collaborated on included a wide variety of genres and topics, from documentaries following Dreaming stories and Songlines, to clay animation and music videos. These projects were broadcast locally, as well as broadly on National Indigenous Television and Community Indigenous Television. I was particularly focused on the relationship between the production of films that vividly imagine hopeful and diverse Indigenous futures, and the widespread defunding of Aboriginal communities and organizations.

Completing this trip was central to my primary goal of ethnographic practice: to engage at the deepest level of collaboration possible. This approach led me—after multiple consultation trips in 2012 and 2013—to follow the social lives of media projects at Goolarri Media Enterprises (Goolarri) and the Pilbara and Kimberley Aboriginal Media Association (PAKAM). I followed the biographical social lives of interconnected film projects from their initial idea through their circulation and beyond. In my dissertation, I discuss the Kukatja concept of “palya,” which translates to something done “the good and right way,” with an emphasis on process. Thus, my return in 2019 represented the completion of this process and the commitment I made with my collaborators.

In Broome, I hand delivered copies of my dissertation to key individuals at Goolarri and PAKAM, and discussed the next stage of turning it into a book. Their feedback was invaluable, and these dialogues will continue over the coming years. I was also interviewed twice by local radio legend Sandy Dann on Goolarri Radio; our discussion on the broader themes of my research was broadcast widely over the National Indigenous Radio Service.

I have worked with the Nulungu Research Institute through the University of Notre Dame Broome Campus since 2012. During this recent trip, I presented an hour-long lecture through their “Talking Heads” public seminar series, located just across the street from Goolarri and PAKAM. This series emphasizes plain spoken discussions of long-term regional research and provided a forum to articulate my ethnographic results to the broader Broome community.

As a PAKAM volunteer, I drove their Toyota Land Cruiser from Broome to Balgo—my second primary fieldsite—located in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia. I gave copies of my dissertation to key collaborators, including Kukatja elder Mark Moora, women elders at the Kapululangu Women’s Law and Culture Centre, and community members at the art center. We discussed the process of developing this into a book over the coming years.

Young Kukatja men filming a music video on a mobile 4WD vehicle stage just outside of Balgo.

As part of my volunteer work in Balgo, I collaborated on a community men’s health and music project. This centered around a trip out of Balgo with a large 4WD truck—built and operated by Broome musician Staf Smith—that ran on solar power and vegetable oil, and which transformed into a powered mobile music stage. Local musicians played above a waterhole to their brothers and cousins, who were cooking dozens of kangaroo tails in an earthen oven nearby. The musicians played on this stage around the community—including locations like the basketball court and the art center—and recorded their songs in the local music studio. I worked with Staf and the local PAKAM media crew to integrate this audio and footage into an extended music video, which aired nationally on Indigenous Community Television.

The mobile music stage from across the waterhole outside of Balgo.

Since last visiting Balgo, I completed final video editing for multiple films featuring local hand signs, which I had facilitated with community members through PAKAM and National Indigenous Television (NITV). I held multiple screenings in Balgo that included the official community premiere of these programs. Following proper cultural protocols, I first held a private screening at the women’s center, which included the elders most closely involved with the projects. After that, I organized a community film festival featuring these and several of our other collaborative media projects from the last several years. This provided an interactive forum to watch and reflect on our past videos, as well as to consider ideas for future projects.

Visual sharing was an essential part of this return trip, as it provided key opportunities for engagement that were inclusive and aligned with the “palya” process. As I describe in my dissertation, the social lives of films do not simply end when they have been screened and circulated. Rather, they often give birth to “after-images,” which are new projects and ideas that have other multiple and rippling lives. Thus, my dissertation and this follow up trip represent such after-images, which are themselves embedded within the social lives of these media.

NYAS Lecture 10/21: Urban Centers: Surprisingly Sustainable?

On October 21st the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series returns when Dr. Monica L. Smith, Dept. of Anthropology, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, will present, “Urban Centers: Surprisingly Sustainable?” Dr. Richard M. Leventhal, Executive Director of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania will act as discussant. The event will be held at 5:45 PM at the Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065.

Please note: the lecture begins at 6:30 PM, and while the event is free to attend pre-registration is required for entry into the building. Early registration is strongly recommended, since seating is limited. For the buffet supper, registration is also required.

Cities are paradoxically resilient: even the ones that eventually failed in ancient times were occupied for hundreds of years, and even the most fragile modern ones continue to be inhabited. Using an archaeological perspective, this lecture will examine the many ways in which ancient cities constituted resilient social and economic networks that provide a blueprint for our own sustainable futures. Such futures are not unproblematic, of course, because cities necessarily draw in food, water, and raw materials from the countryside. Urbanites’ comfortable assurance of resiliency can mask a neglect of rural needs and realities, resulting in significant and sometimes deleterious social, economic, and political consequences.

About the Speaker:

Monica L. Smith is a professor in the Department of Anthropology and in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, where she also holds the Navin and Pratima Doshi Chair in Indian Studies. She is an archaeologist with research experience in India and Bangladesh, as well as Egypt, Italy, and Tunisia. She is the author of A Prehistory of Ordinary People (2010) and Cities: The First 6,000 Years (2019).

All talks in this series take place at Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065. A dinner and wine reception will precede the talk: Buffet dinner at 5:45 PM. ($20 contribution for dinner guests/free for students).  Lectures begin at 6:30 PM and are free and open to the public, but registration is required

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Etni Zoe Castell Roldan

With the support of the Wadsworth International Fellowship Etni Zoe Castell Roldan will continue her training in sociocultural anthropology at Dalhousie University, supervised by Dr.Elizabeth Fitting. Be sure to check out the earlier entries in the series.

I obtained my BA (2008-2015) in Social Anthropology from Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México (UAEMex) with a thesis that interrogated education, social inequality and class mobility in The Montaña zone of Guerrero, Mexico. Later, I earned a MA in Sociocultural Anthropology (2015-2017) in Benémerita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) with an award winning thesis (Premio San Bernándino de Sahagún INAH 2018) regarding labor and precarity in Mexico’s City meat industry. From 2015 to the present, I have participated in the Power, Class and Culture Research Seminar (Seminario Poder, Clase y Cultura ICSyH-BUAP), where I have developed new interests and advanced my knowledge of themes like political economy in anthropology, commodity production processes and the relationship between class and culture.

My PhD research seeks to engage these critical themes. By analyzing The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) in Canada, I aim to explore the relationship between the migratory routes of Mexican workers to Canada and the suffering of laborers who harvest and package food commodities. I am interested in focusing on processes of domination and dispossession of vulnerable populations and how they can trigger substantial changes in the migration, diets and foodways in the Global South. I chose Dalhousie’s University PhD program in Social Anthropology because I know that I will receive the training I need to undertake this project by combining critical theory and ethically based fieldwork in a fulfilling, effective way.

After the completion of my degree, I expect to return to Mexico and work towards strengthening Anthropology undergraduate programs and continuing to analyze the political conditions of Latin American workers, in Mexico specifically.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Daniel Rodriguez Osorio

Daniel Rodriguez Osorio received his undergraduate degree at the Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia and thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a Ph.D. in archaeology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul. We invite you to check out the earlier entries in this series here and here.

My research examines politics, ecology, and landscapes through an exploration of anthropogenic environments, place-making practices, and the constitution of subjectivities in Northern South America. Over the past eight years, I have conducted archaeological and ethnographic research in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a glaciated mountain located in northern Colombia that was inhabited in pre-Hispanic times by several indigenous communities known as the Tairona (200-1600 CE). My research explores the practices that shape human groups’ perceptions of “nature,” the political objectives that produce landscapes, and the ways that non-human actors and organisms (e.g., forests, cultivated plant species, soils) become objects of concern or value in human politics.

I draw on approaches that conceive of space as a political construct that people perceive in different ways depending on their social position. I also apply historical and political ecology to explore how diverse environmental contexts and non-human actors recursively shape distinct kinds of human experience. My interest in urbanism and intensive agriculture seeks to understand how discrete configurations of places and things constitute the structuration of specific landscapes and subjects and how physical conditions can also shape subjectivities and political life, leading to a variety of overlapping landscapes occupying the same space.

I am pursuing my Ph.D. to gain the theoretical and methodological training I need to understand the relationship between ecological and sociopolitical variables that contribute to the production of landscapes. Given the interdisciplinary structure of UMN, which allows graduate students to create their own program of study, I combine Anthropology, Geography, and Forest Resources. UMN faculty members specializing in ecology and cultural heritage also offer me an exceptional opportunity to consider issues of environmental, political, and archaeological stewardship and management in the SNSM. Moreover, UMN’s strong methodological focus on digital archaeology and environmental mapping provides me with the empirical tools I need to trace, document, and model land modification features in the Tairona area.

After completing my degree, I expect to return to Colombia and pursue an academic position that will allow me to train future generations of archaeologists and sociocultural anthropologists. I hope to use my interdisciplinary background to empower students to think about the materials and built spaces that constitute the present and past and the ways they mutually shape human experience.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Suma Ikeuchi

Dr. Ikeuchi delivering an oral presentation to the members of the church community in Toyota, Japan, where she conducted her dissertation fieldwork.

In 2013 Suma Ikeuchi received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Brazilian Birth, Japanese Blood, and Transnational God: Identity and Resilience among Pentecostal Brazilians in Japan,” supervised by Dr. Chikako Ozawa-de Silva. Dr. Ikeuchi was able to return to the field in 2019 when she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Jesus Loves Japan: Workshops on Migration, Religion, and Citizenship in Japan and Brazil”.

With the Engaged Anthropology Grant, I was able to travel to Japan and Brazil to share the results of my dissertation fieldwork conducted from 2013 to 2014. The yearlong fieldwork investigated why the Pentecostal Christian churches have flourished among the Japanese-Brazilian (i.e. Nikkei) migrant communities in Japan by probing the connections between their ethnic, national, and religious identities. State-sanctioned return migration is a growing phenomenon in Asia today, with major nations such as India and South Korea legally facilitating the “return” of foreign citizens descended from their emigrants. As part of this trend, Japan introduced a new type of visa in 1990 for foreigners of Japanese descent, which triggered the mass-migration of Nikkei Brazilians from Brazil. While Nikkeis benefit from the visa policy that confers the right to settlement virtually as a right of blood, they often feel discriminated in Japan for their ethnic ambiguity and working-class profile. In this context of racial tension and contested belonging, many have been converting to Pentecostal Christianity—a religion that has grown exponentially in Latin America since the 1970s and subsequently flourished among many Latino migrant communities across the globe. The fieldwork examined this transregional intersection of Asian return migration and Latin American Christianity.

One of the church members with Dr. Ikeuchi and her book, after he discussed with her how the data from the interview with him appear in the book.

In July 2019, I returned to the main research site in Japan—a Pentecostal church in Toyota City attended by roughly 500 Brazilian migrants—to hold an informal workshop with the people who had participated in my study. The main purpose was to receive their feedback for the two main final products of the research. Since the completion of fieldwork in 2014, I have been able to edit a short ethnographic film In Leila’s Room (2016) and publish a book Jesus Loves Japan: Return Migration and Global Pentecostalism in a Brazilian Diaspora (2019 Stanford University Press). First, I screened In Leila’s Room to a group of core participants, including the main protagonist Leila, followed by Q&A. Some expressed a sense of amusement about the fact that the film incorporated what they considered to be banal interactions, such as family members speaking about barbecue. A vibrant conversation about observational cinema ensued.

Flyer for Dr. Ikeuchi’s lecture in Portuguese at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Unlike the film, which is mostly in Portuguese, Jesus Loves Japan is in English, a language that the participants in the study cannot read. To make the book content accessible, I prepared a four-page summary in Portuguese and Japanese (many younger migrants prefer Japanese) and distributed it to the community members at the church on Sunday. In addition to the summary, they also received a fifteen-minute oral presentation in Portuguese from me about the significance of the study results and how their cooperation contributed to it. In total, I had roughly 250 people in attendance on this day, many of them previous participants in my study. “What do Americans think about us?” This was one of the most common questions, now that they have seen the book in English and heard about my representations of them in it. Although Toyota City has been a frequent destination for social scientists (both Japanese and Brazilian) who took interest in this migrant community over the years, some Brazilian residents there told me that they had never heard back from these scholars about what was done with the data afterward. As a result, many in the audience were excited to find out how the stories of their lives were recounted in the book, now circulating in an unfamiliar language. We continued our conversations in the church canteen even after the presentation was over. Many interviewees had the chance to see where in the book their remarks appear and listen to me explain how I incorporated them into my overarching argument about the relationship between migration and conversion. In these dialogues, the findings of greatest interest were about how the various church initiatives about “family restoration” seem to address the challenges that many migrant families face as they cope with distance, demanding work, and language barriers in a foreign land.

A screenshot of one scene from Dr. Ikeuchi’s ethnographic film “In Leila’s Room.” Leila, in the red shirt in this photo, watched the film and discussed it with the researcher.

The grant also enabled me to organize workshops and deliver lectures about Jesus Loves Japan at five universities—one in Japan and four in Brazil—so that I could engage the scholars interested in the study results in their respective languages. I participated in a workshop about my book in Japanese at the Nanzan Institute of Religion and Culture in Nagoya in June 2019. The talk was followed by the comments by two Japanese scholars and Q&A. Since one potential shortcoming of the book is that the majority of references cited are in the English language, their sharp feedback informed by the sources in Japanese constituted valuable and much-needed inputs. In August 2019, I traveled to Brazil to speak at The University of São Paulo, The Federal University of São Paulo in Guarulhos, The Federal University of São Carlos, and The University of Brasília. This time I delivered the lectures in Portuguese, followed by Q&A in a mixture of Portuguese and English. The audience consisted of Brazilian scholars and students, many of whom were deeply interested in the global expansion of Brazilian Pentecostalism due to the growing political power associated with the religion with the recent election of President Jair Bolsonaro. The comments and questions I received from the scholars based in Brazil were very different from those from the researchers in Japan, probably because of the diverging social positions of Protestant Christianity in the two respective societies. For example, some interlocutors inquired if the migrant churches I studied sought any political power in the mainstream society. I responded that doing so is more difficult in a non-Christian society such as Japan, especially for a foreign migrant minority such as Nikkei Brazilians. Overall, the feedback I received in Japan and Brazil demonstrate that different scholarly communities can bring to the table different analytical strengths informed by their respective intellectual and political backgrounds. The bilingual lectures in the two countries reaffirmed the importance of intellectual exchange across linguistic and national boundaries, and I am grateful for the Foundation for enabling me to advance such an initiative.

Meet Our New SAPIENS Public Fellow: Eshe Lewis

Wenner-Gren is proud to introduce Eshe Lewis, the Foundation’s first recipient of our newly launched SAPIENS Public Fellowship.

Eshe Lewis holds a BA in Latin American Studies from the University of Toronto, and an MA in Latin American Studies and a Ph.D in Anthropology from the University of Florida.  As a Black Canadian of Trinidadian descent, Eshe took an early interest in the African diaspora in the Americas and has spent the past ten years working in Latin America with Afro-descendant populations.  She has conducted numerous ethnographic research projects in Peru on Afro-Peruvian activism, identity and inequality, and women’s issues.  Eshe’s dissertation research was the first study of Afro-descendant women in Peru who reported cases of Intimate Partner Violence in Women’s Emergency Centers in the Lima.  Her research was carried out over 22 months and is being reviewed by government ministries as interest in social inclusion for minority populations increases.  Eshe is dedicated to conducting feminist, anti-racist and interdisciplinary research that can help improve policy.   She is a founding member of Mujeres Afroperuanas: Presencia y Palabra, an Afro-descendant Black Feminist women’s collective based in Lima.  Since graduating, she has conducted more research in Peru through a private research institute, and has taught courses on Afro-descendants and on women in Latin America.  Eshe is excited to join and learn from the SAPIENS team as the first Public Fellow in 2020.

NYAS Lecture 10/7: 21st Century Plantations and the Sustainability Fix

On October 7th the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series returns when Dr. Tania Murray Li, University of Toronto, will present “21st Century Plantations and the Sustainability Fix”. Dr. Jerome Whitington, New York University, will act as dissusent. This event will be held at 6:30 PM at its new location, Pratt Manhattan, Lecture Hall Room 213, located on 14th St. between Sixth and Seventh Avenues on the south side of the block, closest to Seventh Avenue.

It is the 21st century and plantations are back. Colonial-style large scale corporate monoculture of industrial crops is again expanding in the global south. The land dimensions of this renewed expansion were thrust into public debate in 2008-9, when there was a spike in transnational land-acquisitions dubbed a global “land-grab.” Plantation proponents stress the need for efficient production to supply food and fuel for expanding populations, and to bring jobs and development to remote regions. Critics highlight the loss of indigenous lands, flexible rural livelihoods, diverse ecosystems, and carbon-absorbing forests. Implementing product-based sustainability standards seems to be favored as a win-win solution that enables plantations to expand but checks their worst excesses. Drawing on ethnographic research on Indonesia’s massively expanding oil palm plantations, this lecture explores the human dimension of 21st century plantation life and explains why sustainability standards cannot fix it.

About the Speaker:

Tania Murray Li teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, where she holds the Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy and Culture of Asia. Her publications include Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier (Duke University Press, 2014), Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia (with Derek Hall and Philip Hirsch, NUS Press, 2011), The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics (Duke University Press, 2007) and many articles on land, labor, development, resource struggles, community, class, and indigeneity with a particular focus on Indonesia.