Born on the Day of the Dead, 1980, I am a first-generation Guatemalan from a family of Catholic Colombians and Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Bulgaria and Palestine. I grew up in Guatemala City during a time of great political violence, coming of age after the signing of the Peace Accords (1996). I received my BA in International Studies and History (2003) from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA. For several years, I was part of the coordinating council of Unitierra (2003-2008), a grassroots think- and do-tank in Oaxaca, Mexico inspired by the ideas of Ivan Illich and the autonomist political practices of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca and Chiapas.
I recently received my MA in Latin American Studies (2013) from The University of Texas at Austin. My thesis focuses on elite retrenchment in response to the political and symbolic gains of black and indigenous peoples in postwar Guatemala. I characterize the emerging neoliberal governance project as “post-multicultural.”
My doctoral research interrogates the relation between whiteness, violence, securitization, affect, and evolving forms of social belonging in Guatemala. I draw from visual anthropology in order to examine the production, circulation and uptake of media artifacts, aesthetic forms and practices that might alternatively reflect the ascendancy of whiteness and the affirmation of life projects otherwise. As both a critical and an expressive component of my ethnography, I also seek to produce audiovisual artifacts in collaboration with my research subjects.
I have chosen UT-Austin for my graduate studies because it is one of the premier research institutions for investigating Guatemala and the broader Mesoamerican region. As pioneers in Activist Anthropology, faculty at UT foster research that is critical, rigorous and epistemologically innovative while remaining committed to the struggles for social change that its subjects and stakeholders undertake. The department also pushes the envelope in ethnographic writing, encouraging literary and audiovisual experimentation for more nuanced research-creation.
The Wadsworth International Fellowship provides the opportunity for students in countries where anthropological education is underrepresented to receive world-class training at a university abroad. In the first of a series of posts introducing this year’s new cohort of fellows, we meet Elisabeth Kago Nébié of Burkina Faso, a cultural anthropologist working on the social aspects of scarcity in natural resource management.
I was born on August 2, 1988 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. I am interested by the cultural politics of natural resource management in Burkina Faso. In 2010, I received a BA in International Public Relations from Université Libre du Burkina where my ‘mémoire’ examined how Burkina Faso tackles climate change as a sociocultural issue in the international arena.
In 2011, I received a Fulbright Scholarship for a Master’s degree in International Development and Social Change at Clark University in Worcester, Massachussets where I graduated on May 19, 2013. My stay at Clark increased my interest in the cultural dimensions of natural resource management, especially water. Water is a resource that connects human beings, but how does water scarcity impact self-identification and relationships among people?
I have been accepted to the doctoral program in anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) in order to explore this question. Through its pan-campus theme “Water in Our World”, UNC-CH makes major breakthroughs in water research and establishes lasting initiatives. I am particularly interested in working with Dr. Colin Thor West, whose work has concentrated on household adaptations to climate change in Burkina Faso. I would like to build on his research and add ‘joking relationships’, power and gender relations to the debate.
Burkina Faso lacks well-trained anthropologists and, more importantly, female professors and researchers. The few anthropology courses use texts written by ‘outsiders’ about customs and practices in Burkina Faso. It is time for contemporary ethnographies by burkinabe anthropologists to be part of the curriculum. I am determined to motivate the creation of an anthropology department at the University of Ouagadougou and be part of a research unit to help write contemporary ethnographies of Burkinabe.
I am very honored to be a Wadsworth International Fellow and look forward to contributing to anthropological debates and research.
Each year, the Wenner-Gren Foundation awards the Wadsworth African Fellowship to an African student to receive a international-level anthropological education at a South African university. We would like to extend our congratulations to the recipient of the 2013 fellowship, Edmore Chitukutuku of Zimbabwe, who will be pursuing a doctoral degree at Johannesburg’s University of Witwatersrand. Today we welcome Edmore as a guest-blogger to tell us a little more about his background and his future in anthropology.
I was born in Bindura, Zimbabwe in 1981. I hold a Bachelor of Social Science degree in Anthropology and Sociology from Great Zimbabwe University (2007) and a B.A. Honours (2011) and M.A. (2013) from Witwatersrand. I have worked for an international organization CARE INTERANTIONAL as a humanitarian field officer, Assistant Lecturer at the Great Zimbabwe University. I have been a Sessional lecturer in the department of Anthropology at The University of Witwatersrand in 2011 as well as in the International Human Rights Exchange Programme department in 2012.
My research interests are in understanding political violence as a complex social phenomenon in society. I am also interested in healing and reconciliation in the aftermath of political conflicts. My Honours, and Masters research have tried to make sense of political violence in rural Zimbabwe through understanding rural life and livelihoods. My Ph.D. research will continue to understand youth militia violence in rural Zimbabwe.
The University of Witwatersrand has been a university of choice to me because of the diversity it offers in anthropology. Wits University’s anthropology department has accomplished academics and researchers who have helped me to understand why anthropologists ask the questions they do and to get the interrelations of our scholarship with the questions that we face every day as citizens and as members of organizations and communities. This environment has further enhanced my genuine interest in thinking about the terms in which we can understand the organization of social and political life. The wits anthropology department hosts a colloquia presentation seminar every week where they invite scholars from all over the world to present and debate in emerging research and academic issues around the globe. The seminar offers a brilliant academic engagement forum that refreshes and enlightens our understanding of social phenomenon.
We would like to extend our congratulations to Albino Pereira de Jesus Jopela, the recipient of the 2012 Wadsworth African Fellowship. An archaeologist, Jopela will be continuing his studies at South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand concerning cultural-heritage management in southern Africa.
I was born in 1982 in Maputo, Mozambique. My research is focused on issues of conservation and management systems of Heritage, especially in relation to rock art sites in Mozambique and southern Africa. I received my BA Honours in History (2006) from Eduardo Mondlane University (Mozambique); a BA Honours (2007) and Masters Degree (2010) in Archaeology from the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). My Masters dissertation looked at traditional custodianship practises for archaeological sites in southern African heritage management and considered how the social context of heritage management has changed. This research uncovered the mismatch between public policy makers (formal heritage management systems) and local communities’ perceptions (traditional custodianship systems) in terms of the meanings and notions of ‘heritage’ (e.g. the value and meaning of rock art for contemporary African communities). My PhD research at the Department of Archaeology and the Rock Art Research Institute (RARI) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) is a direct outgrowth of this research. I have chosen Wits University for my PhD training because Wits is a worldwide recognized institution for its research on Palaeo-archaeology, the Stone Age, pre-colonial farming and herding societies and the formation of modern cultural identities in the last 500 years. RARI is one of the world’s largest specialised rock art institutions and has over 25 years of expertise in rock art survey, recording, interpretation and management.
I hold a permanent position as Archaeologist and lecturer at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Eduardo Mondlane University (Mozambique). I am also the Director of the undergraduate programme for Archaeology and an active collaborator with the National Directorate for Cultural Heritage of Mozambique, which is responsible for advising on policies and strategies regarding the conservation and management of cultural immovable heritage in the country. I have also worked as a UNESCO Consultant on missions in Mozambique and Angola.
Rayed Khedher is a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. A graduate of the University of Tunis, Khedher received the Wadsworth International Fellowship in 2008 to aid training in socio-cultural anthropology at UCLA co-supervised by Dr. Sondra Hale and Dr. Susan Slyomovics. We reached out to Rayed to learn more about his education, his research on undocumented migrants in the Mediterranean, and to get an anthropologist’s perspective on recent happenings in his country.
If one day People want to live, Destiny must surely respond
Darkness must disappear, Chains must certainly break
Abu-Al Qacem Al Chabbi
(The Tunisian Poet of All Times)
1. What is the most unexpected way that your research interests have been influenced by your experience at UCLA?
During my four years in the UCLA anthropology Ph.D program, co-supervised by Prof. Sondra Hale and Prof. Susan Slyomovics, I gained a substantial knowledge in key theoretical classical and contemporary trends in anthropology which highly broadened my academic and personal perspectives. I critically re-explored the interplay of theory and ethnography in the development of anthropology into its contemporary form in dealing with socio-cultural research. My experience at UCLA in addition to the events taking place in North Africa, the Middle East and the world today are continuously shaping and re-shaping my knowledge and perspective about my doctoral research topic. For my study, I am investigating the impacts on male migrants of the mass irregular migration to Italy following the 2011 Tunisian uprising. My research interests have evolved in parallel with the recent developments in the North African region especially in light of the massive irregular movements of Maghrebi migrants to Italy. It is totally unexpected for me to deal with my topic in such a very timely context in which events in North Africa and the Arab region are unfolding every minute and every second. In light of what is happening, I am now focusing on the scrutinization of the potential of greater human rights abuses perpetrated by the Italian authorities and the resulting irregular Tunisian migrants’ reactions and strategies for resistance. My objective is to explore the human dimension involved in these trans-Mediterranean Sea crossings by examining two levels of human rights abuse: 1) human rights abuses by the Italian authorities at the point of entry within the police stations and detention centers; and 2) violations of human rights by non-state actors (smugglers, employers and the public) to which the Italian government fails to respond. I discuss this topic by ethnographically exploring the construction of the Tunisian Muslim irregular migrant as the “violent other” and the “potential criminal” or the “hidden terrorist.” I ask whether, in the face of this criminalization (in discourse and practice), the Tunisian migrant is able to turn the discursive power relations and oppression characterizing the host society into a collective form of resistance.
My proposed research on the 2011 post-uprising Tunisian irregular migrants in Sicily explores some of these politically racialized cultural identities and subjective vulnerabilities and investigates whether they lead to xenophobic/islamophobic migration sentiments and further human rights violations. The primary goal of this project is to examine the strategies and tactics irregular migrants employ to convert the stigmatized and criminalized self and crippled identities into collective forms of resistance. I hypothesize that those stigmatized representations could translate into valuable social, cultural and political resources that can be used in various alliances that provide opportunities for the migrant to fight the myriad forms of social violence and discrimination he faces from formal and informal institutions. The existing literature on North African irregular migration, violence and human rights abuse has had little to say about how migrants’ resistance strategies, particularly collective ones might alter their situation. Through in-depth ethnographic research in the field, I propose to fill this gap which has major repercussions for the understanding of the subjective experience of the irregular migrant in ways that touch not only on basic theoretical aspects of migration research, but also on policy. If, as I hypothesize, in a context of socio-political turmoil the vulnerability of the Tunisian migrant is able to develop a sense of agency thanks to changes in the political situation at home, and if he is empowered to act with others to protest or alter intolerable conditions, a whole new way of dealing with the transnsational development of the migrant as a subject emerges.
My training at UCLA consolidated my knowledge of the key theoretical debates in the study of international migration and gave me new tools to examine the interdisciplinary and methodologically pluralist nature of the migratory phenomenon and its connections with the larger conceptions of nationhood, identity, citizenship and the state. In addition to taking classes and TAing, my overall experience at UCLA has been deeply enriched by participating in a number of lectures and various Conferences in anthropology as well as in other disciplines of primary interest to my research. I participated in several meetings of the Migration Study Group and I presented various papers and gave talks on the issues of illegal migration, human rights, social change in North Africa etc focusing on the power of people to stand up against injustice, inequality as well as economic, social and political corruption.