Engaged Anthropology Grant: Karen Allen

Costa de Pajaros viewed from above

Back in 2014 when Karen Allen was a doctoral student at the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, she received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Sustainable Development in Costa Rica: Understanding Values, Land Use Decisions, and Market-based Mechanisms for Conservation,” supervised by Dr. Ted Gragson. Dr. Allen was then able to return to the field in 2018 after receiving an Engaged Anthropology Grant to carry out her project, “Fostering Conservation Ethic Through Dialogue in the Bellbird Biological Corridor, Costa Rica”.

Notes from a brainstorming session in Costa de Pajaros

This project entailed coordinating and carrying out two workshops in the Bellbird Biological Corridor, Costa Rica. This is a mixed-use area and is part of Costa Rica’s relatively new biological corridor network (www.cbpc.org). The national network system as a whole aims to foster ecological connectivity and sustainable development across the country (www.sinac.go.cr/EN-US/correbiolo). The purpose of these workshops was to strengthen the connections between the conservation organizations that oversee the Bellbird Biological Corridor, and the people who live within the corridor. This project grew directly out of Wenner-Gren funded dissertation research, where I investigated the ways in which conservation policy influences land-use decisions within the corridor. It became clear early on in my research that very few people had actually heard of the Bellbird Biological Corridor, and the boundaries and objectives of the corridor where not clear. I devised these workshops with a dual purpose: to provide information about corridor objectives and the conservation imperatives, and to foster dialogue about the broader sustainable development objectives. Further, this process built the foundation, and the social capital needed to continue similar efforts into the near future.

Presentation by Bellbird Biological Corridor coordinator in Santa Rosa

The workshops took place in two different towns within the corridor. I chose the towns in collaboration with corridor organizations based on the strength of their past interactions with these towns, as well as my experiences and connections in each place. Because the towns were quite dissimilar (one was a coastal fishing village, and another a mountain agrarian village), the workshops were a bit different in each locale. In the fishing village, Costa de Pájaros, I organized and hosted a three-hour workshop in conjunction with the Asociación de Mujeres Mariposas del Golfo. We publicized this workshop through the community organizations, as the Asociación de Mujeres (women’s association) decided that it would be best to focus on integrating the various organizations in the region. There were approximately thirty to thirty-five people in attendance. This workshop began with an introduction to the Bellbird Biological Corridor, given by the current corridor director. We then split into groups, where they used maps of the corridor, and maps of the region, to identify social-ecological challenges and potential solutions. Each group presented a summary of their discussion. We then talked about particular initiatives that already exist in the corridor, and forged connections between the people who wanted to pursue those initiatives further and those coordinating the initiatives. We also made a “wish-list” of ideas that might be possible to undertake in the future.

Presentation on behalf of the Sendero Pacifico in Santa Rosa

In the second workshop, in Santa Rosa, we followed a similar format, but included a few more presentations. We publicized this workshop by visiting all houses in the town of Santa Rosa (approximately fifty) and explaining the purpose of the workshop. The local Asociación de Desarrollo (community development organization) decided that it would be good to make the workshop longer (about four hours) and include a few more presentations on different initiatives in the region. In total, we had approximately thirty-five people from Santa Rosa attending the workshop. In addition, three corridor representatives came to speak about the corridor initiative, and four representatives came from the neighboring community of San Luis to share their experiences with the Sendero Pacífico, a trail network (senderopacifico.net). There is a possibility of extending this trail network to Santa Rosa, and several people spoke to that effect. We also examined the social-ecological challenges in the region with this group, and established several follow-up initiatives for future collaboration. As in the first workshop, we spent time reviewing the initiatives that already exist in the region, and brainstorming future possibilities and collaborations. And of course, both workshops concluded with a shared meal – arroz con pollo!

View of Santa Rosa from above

Some of the more exciting things to come out of these workshops were the new ideas and connections that emerged. The organization leaders that I worked with have since commented to me that they have continued to contact people they met at the meetings. Further, we have begun to brainstorm future engaged projects that came out of these experiences. People seemed excited and motivated by the workshops and it is inspiring for me to see these events as the direct output of many years of more theoretical dissertation research. I see many possibilities for future engagement, and I plan to continue this work in the future.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Evren Dincer

While a doctoral student at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, Evren Dincer received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “The Reindustrialization of the U.S.: An Ethnography of Auto Workers in the American Rust Belt,” supervised by Dr. Shelley Feldman. In 2017 Dr. Dincer received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Situating Auto Work: Engaging with Community in the Rust Belt,” 2017, Buffalo, NY.

Thanks to the grant provided by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, I spent eight weeks in Buffalo, New York in the summer of 2017 between June 20 and August 16. During this stay, I accomplished two goals: revisiting my field site and organizing an international conference.

As for the first goal, I revisited the plant I conducted my original fieldwork, General Motors’ Powertrain Plant in Tonawanda, a suburb of Buffalo. I held a total of eight meetings with workers, union leaders as well as members of management to share my findings. These meetings occurred at the union hall (3), company management suite (1) and at the plant (2). I also organized two meetings outside the plant at Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations’ downtown Buffalo offıce. During these meetings I shared my findings focusing exclusively on three issues:

1. The issue of generational transition that occurred on the shop floor and its current trajectory. The generational transition in the unionized auto industry constituted the backbone of my dissertation. It basically explains the dynamics of workforce change in a protected labor market, which is largely called internal labor market in the literature. In the post-2008 crisis this meant the gradual replacement of the aging workforce with higher wages and extensive benefit packages with a younger workforce with less pay and limited healthcare. I shared the details of my findings in these meetings and we discussed the trajectory since I left the field site in 2015.

2. The second issue was the issue of space surrounding the plant, which is another central element of my dissertation. The trajectory of organized labor and their everyday lives in the Rust Belt is a critical issue to understand the shop floor relations as well as the larger context of organized labor today. During our meetings I shared findings from my work as well as from the literature on the Rust Belt to enable a better understanding of the condition of work today.

3. The third issue was NAFTA, which was a highly contentious issue at the time and continues to be so today. I had addressed competitive pressures in my dissertation, therefore parts of our meetings focusing on NAFTA featured discussions on NAFTA’s effects on the auto industry in the U.S. and its competitive nature. Workers, especially in the context of Trump’s victory, were quite sensitive to the role of Mexico. Given that about 40% of the UAW (United Auto Workers) represented workers who voted for Trump in 2016, it was difficult yet important to address the trade relations between the two countries.

Regarding the second goal, I organized an international conference on economic development in Buffalo.[1] In my dissertation, one of the central points and contributions to the literature on labor was to highlight the key connection between the shop floor and the socio-economic urban environment it is surrounded by. Labor-management relations in the unionized sectors were traditionally defined by internal labor markets which defined job progressions, formal pay and fringe benefit policies. Such policies shielded the internal labor market from outside effects for decades, such isolation was best visible in the auto industry until the 2008 Recession. However, following the recession the generational transition I mentioned above took place, and I showed how it was only possible with a long-term and in depth economic deterioration in the Rust Belt in general and the Buffalo metro area in particular. This conference, therefore, focused on the issues of economic development in Buffalo since the Great Recession in 2008 to help my interlocutors at the plant and outside to better situate their experiences and economic position with respect to the urban environment they reside and live in.

The grant provided by the Wenner-Gren Foundation helped me share my findings, reconnect with my interlocutors, and organize a professional workshop. However, it also helped me observe some of the recent developments (particularly the collective bargaining process in 2015 and the national elections of 2016) and the effects of these developments on labor in the U.S. today.

[1] The conference took place on August 14 and 15. The first day featured three sessions and took place at Cornell University’s downtown Buffalo premises, while the second day featured one session and took place at UAW Local 774’s union hall. The link to the program, titles and the list of participants can be found here: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/buffalo/worker-institute/events

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Dilmurad Yusupov

Dilmurad Yusupov received his undergraduate degree from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), Russia and an MA in Economics at the Graduate School of Economics, Waseda University, Japan. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in anthropology at the University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom, supervised by Dr. Magnus Marsden.

My research project deals with disability in Uzbekistan, where it is conflated with physical dysfunction caused by various impairments and state efforts are directed towards returning disabled people to ‘normal’ condition through medical rehabilitation. Current practices have been largely influenced by Soviet disability policies based on institutionalization and segregation. The purpose of my study is to explore the potential that community-based approaches hold for promoting inclusive development as an alternative to placing disabled people into specialized care institutions.

Through an approach based on participatory action research with adults with physical, sensory and learning impairments and critical ethnography, my goal is to understand how Soviet disability policies and practices, Islamic culture in post-Soviet Uzbekistan and related cultural stereotypes about disabled people  shape current understandings of disability. I am also deeply interested in learning how existing formal/ informal community networks in Uzbekistan promote or prevent social inclusion of disabled people.

As an economist by training, I used to practice quantitative research and hold  a positivist worldview. But after working with disabled people at grassroots levels on various projects implemented by Japanese international organizations in Uzbekistan, I gained an understanding of how  economics, with its numerous assumptions about human lives and focus  on numbers, can produce a distorted reality. This prompted me to undertake a PhD at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex where I could receive postgraduate training in anthropology and participatory research methods.

Drawing on social and medical anthropology, my research project adopts a constructivist paradigm. After completing a comprehensive literature review on relevant research approaches and methods, I have embraced critical ethnography and  view disability not as a medical but as a culturally and socially constructed concept. In Uzbekistan, anthropological education and research is heavily underrepresented and its potential is underestimated. Therefore, through this research and world-class training in anthropology, I aim to contribute to national academia and advance applied anthropology as a means to promote social development in Uzbekistan.

Upcoming September Conferences

4th AIBR International Conference of Anthropology

September 4-7, 2018

Granada, Spain

After the success of our three previous editions, in 2018 the 4th AIBR International Conference of Anthropology will take place in Granada (Spain). AIBR’s yearly conference has become a meaningful and necessary gathering for anthropologists from many parts of the world, but specially from Iberoamerica (Spain, Portugal, and Latin America). This year we will meet around the general theme “Dialogues, Encounters, and Stories from the Souths”. This is a special edition of the Conference where we aim to bring together research, narratives and testimonies from non-Western scholars. We want to bring to the spotlight anthropology as it is practiced in countries and by scholars who situate themselves outside mainstream anthropological theory and practice. Focusing on narratives from the Souths brings us an opportunity to recognize diverse genres of research, writing, and scholarship coming from places and universities that are rarely mentioned in the top rated scientific journals of our discipline.

In the 4th AIBR International Conference we continue to build on the experience of our previous editions. In 2015, the II Conference was held in Barcelona, with sponsorship from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, where a total of 876 delegates met and 140 panels took place. The high turnout in Madrid (1st edition), Barcelona (2nd edition) and Puerto Vallarta (3rd edition) and the positive feedback received from the Conference participants showed that it was necessary to create further spaces for dialogue within Iberoamerican anthropology. In 2017 we were able to cross the Ocean. The Puerto Vallarta edition (Mexico) brought together scholars from 28 different countries. The 4th edition of this conference will be jointly organized by AIBR (Network of Iberoamerican Anthropologists) and the University of Granada (Department of Social Anthropology and Institute of Migrations). The conference aims to create a space that combines a range of traditional and innovative forms of dissemination of knowledge to inspire discussion and debate.

8th Annual European Society For The Study of Human Evolution Meeting

September 13-15, 2018

Faro, Portugal

ESHE, the European Society for the study of Human Evolution, promotes the broad field of research which investigates how humans evolved both biologically and culturally. Contributing disciplines typically include hominin palaeontology and palaeogenetics; comparative and functional studies of extant primates, using both morphological and molecular evidence; Palaeolithic archaeology; and applied studies of stable isotopes, dating, taphonomy, palaeoecology and palaeogeography.

ESHE aims to stimulate communication and scientific cooperation between scientists, and to improve public understanding of human evolution. Core activities of the society are: the organization of yearly meetings with a scientific programme, as well as a public-outreach event; encouraging and helping the development of international and interdisciplinary research proposals and projects, and initiating and supporting activities which increase the public visibility of human evolution studies.

The ESHE annual conference brings together an average of over 350 experts and graduate students that present the most recent research in human evolution and adaptation in Plio-Pleistocene contexts, including results from biological-physical research, archaeology, geoarchaeology, zooarchaeology, earth sciences, aDNA, isotopes, etc.

21st Congress Of The Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association

September 23-28, 2018

Hue, Vietnam

This 21st IPPA Congress will gather indigenous Indo-Pacific and other, mainly “Western”, scholars to discuss diverse themes in Indo-Pacific prehistory. As per IPPA procedure, convenors will organize sessions around topical themes in Indo-Pacific archaeology, cultural heritage, natural science, comparative linguistics, cultural anthropology and biological anthropology and genetics. The IPPA region extends W-E from Pakistan to Easter Island, and N-S from Siberia to Australasia. Conference topics can concern any part of this area.

IPPA congresses run every 4 years in collaboration with in-country institutions, most recently at Angkor with the Royal Academy of Cambodia and Khmer Archaeological Society in 2014. Past co-sponsors include the Institute of Archaeology in Hanoi (late 2009), the Philippines National Museum and University of the Philippines in Manila (2006), Academia Sinica in Taipei (2002), and the National Museum of Malaysia in Melaka (1998). The 21st Congress in 2018 is co-organised with the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre and the Institute of Archaeology in the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences.

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Jacob Doherty

Image 1: Small-Scale garbage collectors use customized equipment to reach hard to reach low-income neighbourhoods at affordable rates. How could these services be integrated into official waste management systems.

In 2012 Jacob Doherty received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on ”Keep Kampala Clean: Disposability, Environmentalism, and Garbage in Urban Uganda,” supervised by Dr. James Ferguson. In 2018 Dr. Doherty was able to return to his fieldsite when he was awarded an Engaged Anthropology Grant which gave him the opportunity to carry out his project, “Wasted Opportunities: Designs to Recognize Informal Waste Infrastructures in Kampala, Uganda”.

Using a small cart he designed and built himself, Didas collects rubbish from households throughout Banda, a mixed-income neighborhood in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. Filling a vital gap in waste management, he collects from houses large and small, rich and poor, from hostels housing dozens of students at the nearby university who benefit from the customized services he provides to mutli-occupancy households who cannot afford regular collection by private firms. For the last year however, he has been working under the cover of darkness, serving his clients at night to avoid the attention of representatives of a large private firm awarded a contract to serve Banda by the city government. Mistaking their contract for sole territorial rights to the neighborhood’s rubbish, they have impounded Didas’s equipment and threatened to take him to court.  This fits with a broader pattern in Kampala, where small-scale garbage collectors who provide critical infrastructural services are being criminalized, paradoxically, in the name of cleaning of the city.

Image 2: Using recycled plastics, ECOaction created a mobile art gallery to stage a pop-up exhibit. Background: art installation by Reagan Kandole.

Didas was one of my key collaborators on “Wasted Opportunities: Designs to Recognize Informal Waste Infrastructures in Kampala, Uganda,” an exhibition I co-organized with ECOaction, a community organization based in Banda that works to tackle Kampala’s environmental and employment challenges by using waste to generate new livelihoods. Lead by eco-artist Reagan Kandole, who I first met while conducting dissertation fieldwork in Kampala, ECOaction has been in Banda for five years, engaging small scale garbage collectors, informal plastic recyclers, and young people in the community. Together, we spent a month organizing a pop-up exhibition highlighting the contributions these small scale waste managers make to keeping Kampala clean, and proposing new designs that offer an alternative to criminalization by integrating these services into the city’s official waste stream.

Waste on the Ground: Scenes from Kampala

Image 3: Photo elicitation image: “Sometimes it smells badly, because there are many things, different things, which they throw there. When you are eating and you feel a bad smell, you can’t get a good appetite. I feel uncomfortable because you can even catch some diseases from there because there are so many things in there.”

The first part of the exhibition featured photos taken as part of a photo-elicitation I conducted as part of my ethnographic work. Twenty residents of Kampala were given disposable cameras and asked to take photographs of their city. Prompted to photograph places that make them happy, relaxed, and proud, and places that make them fearful, ashamed, or uncomfortable, places that are changing quickly for good or for bad, as well as how they dispose of rubbish in the areas where they live, participants captured a side of Kampala that is rarely visually represented. After printing the images, they became the basis for a conversation, where the photographers explained what they had seen and captured. Neither a celebration nor an expose, the images showed the Kampala of everyday life, capturing the problem of waste for urban residents, and the ways that garbage is handled in low-income communities.

Integrating Small Scale Garbage Collectors

The second part of the exhibition included photographs of Didas in action collecting garbage from Banda alongside a model we developed together with Isaac, an ECOaction team member who is a designer and craftsman. The model offered one possible future for an integrated community waste management system in Kampala. It put small-scale collectors at the centre of a system that maximizes the reuse and recycling of waste materials, minimizes the volume of waste needing disposal at a sanitary landfill, and reduces the carbon footprint, fuel usage, and expense of collecting garbage, while creating new resources for use in a variety of community enterprises.

Image 4: The model showing an integrated waste management system for Banda, centered on small-scale collectors and waste re-use projects.

Around the world, cities are experimenting with a new way to simultaneously improve urban waste management and support the livelihoods of the urban poor. From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Pune, India and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, small scale ‘informal’ garbage collectors have organized themselves in innovative new ways to demand inclusion in official solid waste management strategies, in turn, improving urban cleanliness and sanitation, while improving the livelihoods and capacities of marginalized urban populations. While not organized to the same extent, Small scale collectors are a fact of life in most Kampala neighborhoods. Recognizing this fact, this model proposes integrating them into official systems in a way that is mutually beneficial to the citizens who are their clients, government, private companies, small-scale collectors themselves, and to the environment.

The model shows the movement of waste from households, hostels, and local businesses to a community sorting facility where garbage collectors will be able to safely and hygienically sort waste into appropriate categories driven by local markets and community projects: plastic, metal, and paper recycling, urban farming, chicken, goat and other animal rearing, bio-mass briquette production, composting, and plastic bottle architecture projects. These projects bring income into the community, by linking household waste directly to industries and activities that repurpose it. The remaining waste would be taken to a skip situated at a roadside for easy collection, saving the capital-intensive trucks from time spent idling.

ECOaction Plastic Collectors

Image 5: ECOaction team members interviewing a plastic collector.

The third part of the exhibition highlighted ECOaction Plastic Collectors, new initiative that aims to foster co-operation among plastic collectors in Banda community so they can improve the services they deliver, maximize their earnings from collecting, improve their working conditions, overcome discrimination, and save money to invest in new projects and in their families’ health and education. The exhibition featured portraits and biographies of eight plastic collectors, written in collaboration with Arnold, Fiona, and Zahara, three young ECOaction members who learned how to conduct and write up life-history interviews.

Image 6: A workshop discussing the possibility of forming a co-operative to facilitate pooling collected materials and a scheme to save collectors’ earnings.

Plastic Collectors remove tons of recyclable material from the waste stream on a daily basis, providing the basic inputs for recycling factories in Kampala, protecting Uganda’s waterways and soils from plastic contamination, and reducing the global need for new raw resources. Despite their enormous contribution to the urban and the global environment, they face a number of significant challenges in their work. Foremost is the low price they receive for their collections. While at the top of the value chain, prices are set by global markets, within Kampala small-scale collectors are unable to benefit from economies of scale and so sell their materials at half the possible price to brokers. Through co-operation, ECOaction Plastic Collectors seek to overcome this challenge by gathering individuals’ collections together, collectively investing in transportation, and selling directly to factories by the ton instead of individually selling to brokers by the kilo.

Image 7: ECOaction Plastic Collectors attending the exhibition read their biographies.

Along with these displays, staged on a mobile art gallery designed and built by the ECOaction team using recycled plastic, the exhibition also included two stunning art installations by Reagan as well as demonstrations of ECOactions other livelihood projects: an urban farm, an eco-salon, a tailoring workshop, an animal rearing project, and their signature construction projects using plastic bottles.

Trust the Process

Image 8: Plastic collectors check the weight on scales as their collections are pooled together to sell.

While the exhibition itself was successful – attracting an invited audience representing the municipal government, NGOs, artists, architects, educators, academics, and local community leaders – the month-long process of organizing and preparing it was the more fully engaging activity. In the build up to the event, ECOaction and I organized discussion workshops with plastic recyclers and residents of Banda, learned new skills ranging from welding to interviewing, deepened relationships among plastic collectors often distrustful of one another and between collectors and the broader community, and laid the groundwork for two new initiatives that ECOaction will develop over the coming year: a pilot project testing the uses of a co-operative model for plastic collectors and a business plan to engage in plastic construction and education projects with schools throughout the city.

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Simone Mestroni

Dr. Simone Mestroni was awarded a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2017 to aid filmmaking on After Prayers. We’re thrilled to announce that After Prayers has been selected to appear at the Society for Visual Anthropology Film and Media Festival in San Jose, California this November. Please enjoy the trailer and blog post below!

trailer after prayer_2017 from Rizoma on Vimeo.

After Prayers

Fejo Postdoctoral Fellowship

During the three months fellowship the post-production of After Prayers, a documentary based on Phd research on Kashmir’s conflict, has been completed. More specifically the final editing has been carried out at Rizoma Film studios in Rome with the collaboration of Donatello Conti. Subtitling, titling and color correction were also realized at Rizoma’s during February 2018. At the end of February, the trailer, meant to be used for festival submissions and promotion, was also realized with Conti’s editing support. Audio mixing and designing were then realized in Trieste at A-Lab studios, by a team composed by Francesco Morosini, Emiliano Gherlanz and their assistants. I have been personally following all these operations as beside the technical aspects of the audiovisual editing, many of the creative aspects of the documentary came as a result of the final stages of the post-production.

Beside some editing adjustments and audiovisual polishing the structure of the film hasn’t radically changed from the rough cut version which was presented for the grant application. The basic idea of conveying ethnographic findings into the visual language was accomplished, and After Prayers seems to be able to give an immediate feeling of what the conflict is in the daily life of Kashmiri people, describing the ways violence perpetuates into the valley’s routine throughout ideological, emotional and embodied layers. More than making theoretical findings explicit, the film aims at representing the sensorial and affective aspects of the conflict, so that the audience will be able to empathize with the characters, feeling the pain of a martyr’s mother, as well the rage of a rioter throwing stones at Indian soldiers, or the moral strength of a maimed mujahideen.

Since March 2018, when the film was almost finished, I have started preparing the festival submissions plan, trying to find a balance between different type of events: marked-oriented, ethnographic and human rights related. At the present time After Prayers has already been selected for Doc/player, the online industry oriented platform of Sheffield Doc Fest. This means the film has been shortlisted among the best 200 among thousands applications, and has been privately screened in front of very specialized audience. Notwithstanding this the premiere status is still intact.

At the moment After Prayers has been submitted at almost forty documentary and film festivals and I’m actually waiting from upcoming notifications. Among the ethnographic festival After Prayers will run for Filmes do Homem (Portugal), Jean Rouch (FR), SVA (USA), RAI (UK), Ethnografilm (FR). Considering the academic background of the film I have decided to give a priority to these festivals even considering the chance to hold a premiere in a very specialist environment: the ethnographic dimension can become the documentary’s strength in a broader panorama, and this specific curricula can become a good kick to achieve access to other networks.

At the same time I have already discussed screenings of After Prayers in academic contexts, as Dublin’s School of Law and Government, University La Bicocca di Milano, University Roma Torvergata,University of Messina, University of Catania, University La Sapienza. These screenings are still to be fixed according to festival’s plan and  premiere  requirements. In Italian Universities the documentary will be presented along with the discussion of my ethnographic book on Kashmir’s conflict, Linee di Controllo (Lines of Control), which is going to be published by Meltemi in September 2018. Regarding the dissemination process, the book and the documentary are meant to work in a synergy, ideally pulling the film’s audience into the book’s reading and anthropology students into the audiovisual language, so to blur the borders between the two fields, hopefully opening a fertile dialogue.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Rabia Harmansah

Exhibition space

In 2011, while a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, Rabia Harmansah received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Social Forgetting in Post-Conflict Landscapes in Cyprus” supervised by Robert M. Hayden. In 2018, Dr. Harmansah had the opportunity to share the results of her fieldwork when she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to organize an exhibition titled “Remembering Forward: An Anthropological Exhibition on Shared Sacred Spaces in Cyprus.”

The project develops an exhibition on shared sacred spaces in the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It features brief historical information about six Orthodox Christian and Muslim sites, a variety of personal accounts, and visual material related to the sites, where sharing occurs or used to occur in the past. The exhibition is based on the ethnographic fieldwork project I conducted in Cyprus between 2010-2012, which examines the practices of memory-making and forgetting at sacred sites in Cyprus after the ethnic conflict and 1974 partition of the island. The exhibition is designed to share this research with the people of Cyprus and to stimulate a bi-communal dialogue on shared spaces and ‘alternative’ readings of the past.

Exhibition opening night

The exhibition is a collection of diverse readings of the past, present, and future through the loud silence of sacred spaces. The past is highly fractured and strategically reassembled in Cyprus. The memories of the past have been transforming since the Greek and Turkish communities fell apart in 1974. On the one hand, there is longing for a lost past and for a lost future, and on the other hand, a need for creating a new present and future. The reference to past is omnipresent in all narratives related to now and onward. Temporalities turn into permanence, permanence is absent and only imagined.

By introducing the practices at the shared sites and the transformation of them, the exhibition is designed as an invitation to explore the disregarded communication and exchange at these sacred sites before and after the division of the island in 1974. The exhibition creates a new avenue for the local people to contribute with their own stories, and memories that could both expand the dissertation research on shared sacred sites and also foster dialogue between the two communities on a topic that is relevant to them in their everyday lives.

Rabia Harmansah and Aslı Tanrıkulu in front of the exhibition space

The exhibition covers six religious sites, where both Orthodox Christian and Muslim communities visit and assert claims: Apostolos Andreas Monastery (Karpas Peninsula), Hala Sultan Tekke (Larnaca), Holy Forty (east of Nicosia), Hz. Ömer Tekke (east of Kyrenia), Saint Barnabas Monastery (Famagusta) and Saint Mamas Monastery (Morphou). The physical sharing of sacred sites has been restricted since the de facto division of the island in 1974, but they have started to be visited again by both communities with the opening of the dividing Green Line in 2003. Two of the mentioned sites (Saint Barnabas and Saint Mamas Monasteries) have been functioning as museums since their re-opening after the division.

Each site expresses a different story; manifests a deeper and shared history, bringing to view the complexity of exchanges for Cypriot people. The exhibition takes a fresh look at the Cyprus conflict and highlights both the coexistence and conflict happening at the shared sites. It aims at communicating the themes of sharing and understanding without defaulting to the hollow rhetoric of ‘peaceful coexistence and tolerance.’ The stories and memories harmonize with one another as much as they contrast. In that sense, the project goes beyond the sterile picturing of shared sacred sites in scholarly debates that approach these sites either as sites of tolerance or conflict. In some cases, the multivocality of holy sites provokes discussion over the identity and politics of these places. In other cases, Cypriots, whose cosmologies about these polysemic holy places are embedded in a land of many cultures, have been going beyond the political and ethnic boundaries with their shared cultic practices.

Visitors at the exhibition

This public anthropology work is designed in the form of an exhibition, not only for involving people in the research endeavor but also for questioning and rethinking social science methodology. I seek to reconceive methodology to bridge the conceptual gaps between disciplinary approaches, and between art and science. I collaborated with two artist-curators in this exhibition, Aslı Tanrıkulu, a graphic designer and a painter, and Ersan Ocak, an urbanist, a (visual) cultural researcher, and an independent filmmaker. This has provided an excellent opportunity to widen my perspective for thinking through the data collected in the field as well as the alternative ways to share the research with the public.

Visitors’ comments on the

The exhibition was held between June 19th-26th, 2018 at the Home for Cooperation, a space easily available to Greek and Turkish Cypriots for bi-communal activities in the Buffer Zone in Nicosia. The exhibition is intended to be moved to several other locations in both parts of Cyprus, including the Bedesten in North Nicosia, Eastern Mediterranean University in Famagusta, and Peace House in South Nicosia. It is also invited to be displayed at the Ruhr Universität Bochum in Germany and TED University in Ankara, Turkey. The stories were displayed in three languages, English, Greek, and Turkish. Visitors were provided cards to express their opinions about the exhibition, contribute their own memories about the sites, or answer the question “what would you like to remember forward about Cyprus?” The exhibition is complemented by an interactive website, which was launched to promote the project, and to provide a platform for exchanging ideas, memories, and photographs.

 

Upcoming August Conference

15th Biennial European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)

August 14 – 18, 2018

Stockholm, Sweden

Recent times, for much of humanity but not least in Europe, have been marked by dramatic mobility. It has taken many forms: refugee streams and labor migration, but also pilgrimage, tourism, and the transnational leisure migration of retirees. It is continuously in the news. Mobility has long been a topic in anthropological research. In view of the range and importance of its current forms, mobility is a suitable main theme of the 2018 conference of EASA. The conference will not only focus narrowly on the forms of spatial movement, but willl reflect the variety of its backgrounds, forms and contexts, and longer-term implications ranging from communities left behind, infrastructures of mobility, and the meaning of home, to the relationships between mobility and social media, and the public uses of anthropology. While providing opportunity for reports on ongoing and recent research, this will in addition inspire future anthropological investigations.

The conference brings together scholars and students from across Europe and beyond;
thus creating new formal and informal relationships and collaborations. The Department of Social Anthropology at Stockholm University has a longstanding extensive engagement with EASA. The Department is prominent internationally not least through its teaching, research and publications on globalization and migration. Building on this, the 15th EASA conference will be an excellent opportunity to further develop this international network, and encourage scholars, especially young ones and students, to broaden the scope of their collaborative networks.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Jane Lynch

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While a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Jane Lynch received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2010 to aid research on “Fashioning Value: Materiality, Cloth, and Political Economy in India,” supervised by Dr. Webb Keane.  In 2016 Dr. Lynch received an Engaged Anthropology Grant which allowed her to return to the field and carry out her project, “Beyond Art and Labor: Representing the Everyday Politics of Weaving in India”.

Last summer, I began work on a collaborative project, organized and executed together with textile weavers in a town in Central India.  This project emerged as an outgrowth of my dissertation research, substantial parts of which were based in this town, which is famous for the eponymously named “Chanderi” cloth produced there.  Many of my collaborators were thus old friends and informants.  The focus of our work was to create a temporary “pop-up” exhibition, which aimed to re-envision—and present, as a catalyst for dialogue—the ways in which the practice and process of handloom weaving are represented.

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The 34 photographs included in the exhibition were exemplary of phenomena that weavers and traders showed me during my research to explain the work they do, the ways in which business is conducted in Chanderi, and the possibilites for reimagining both.  These photographs challenge conventional representations of handloom weaving in Chanderi, which emphasize a predictable, unidirectional technical process.  Put differently, they foreground dimensions of the weaving process that at first, appear to be either outside of or deviations from a normal course of production but are in fact integral to the making of cloth.  We organized these images into three groups, focusing on: (1) the homes and domestic lives of weavers; (2) the organization of business and profit; and (3) how weavers create value through the reuse of cast-off yarn and cloth.  Together, these photographs drew attention to aspects of Chanderi weaving that are often hidden from public view and discourse.

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These photographs revealed the work of weaving in Chanderi as part of domestic life.  Everyday activities—such as caring for children, bending down in prayer, and counting to see if enough cash has been saved for school fees—are interwoven with the production of cloth.  Looms are the foundations of homes in which weaving is the family business.  Both the technical skill and business of weaving are learned within families, often while sitting next to a parent (Image 1).  Looms also reveal traces of the people who spend long hours sitting in front of them working.  The stickers of political parties, cricket players, and gods adhered to their wooden frames offer one example of this (Image 2).

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These photographs also documented the organization of business and profit in Chanderi’s weaving industry.  These activities are rooted in social values and expectations.  One articulation of this is the principal and aspiration of shubh labh, which—in the words of one trader from Chanderi—translates into English as “profit with goodness” (Image 3).  These photographs show how account books (i.e., both the ledgers kept by traders and middlemen as well as the small diaries, referred to locally as sargas, kept by weavers) are used to record exchanges of raw materials, finished cloth, and cash (Image 4).  We also documented the aspects of the weaving process (e.g., street-warping and the dressing of the loom) that are unaccounted for in these ledgers, but which nevertheless carry a cost, typically borne by weavers.

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At the end of each warp, weavers in Chanderi are left with and collect scraps of cloth.  They acquire remnants in other ways too.  For example, cloth that has been rejected in processes of “quality control.”  Such cloth—particularly that which has been put to new use—challenges the representation of weaving as a predictable and uni-directional process with a neatly defined beginning and end.  For example, one photograph showed a red salwar suit made from leftover material (Image 5).  From the remnants of her own weaving, this weaver stitched the clothing that she wore on her wedding day.  Another photograph showed a men’s dress shirt tailored out of “corporate scraps” (Image 6).  This cloth had originally been woven as curtains for the retail company, Fabindia, but was rejected during the “quality control” process.  Remnants are also used by weavers to give as gifts, to decorate their homes, and save for future needs.

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In conceiving of and planning for the pop-up exhibition, I invited weavers and others in Chanderi to participate in the project of re-envisioning and representing the practice and process of weaving.  The exhibition was also organized so that it could be viewed freely.  Instead of displaying the photographs in a private, interior space, we used a broadly accessible, public space.  The openness of the exhibition was, in part, an effort to dispel concerns on the part of some weavers that a more formal event would be dominated by the interests and presence of local traders and middlemen.  By using walls in the town’s central market, Sadaar Bazaar, as the site of the pop-up exhibition, we sought to encourage spontaneous experiences of viewing, discussion, and engagement (Image 7).  All visitors were invited to ask questions, share their thoughts, and write down their reactions as part of the formal record of the event (Image 8).

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By bringing the diverse perspectives of weavers to the foreground, this project aimed to help cultivate more equitable and inclusive conversations about the stakes and significance of handloom weaving.  Rather than looking at textiles as they fit with formal representations of their processes of production, the exhibition revealed instances where the purposes and possibilities of cloth were reclaimed, reconceived, and reimagined by weavers.  Calling attention not only to what is hidden by conventional representations of the production process, but also to what is imagined in this process, this approach brings to the center of analysis the uncertainty, possibilities, and fantasies bound up in the process of production.  As an anthropologist, the “dialogic editing” involved in this project unsettled aspects of my original ethnography, even as it came to ground my new analyses—and imaginings—of it.

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Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Paul Wolffram

The flow of great content continues from our Fejos fellows! Dr. Paul Wolffram was awarded a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2014 to aid filmmaking on What Lies That Way? We are proud to share the following trailer and blog post for his project.

WHAT LIES THAT WAY – Official trailer from Paul Wolffram on Vimeo.

What Lies That Way?

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Production Stage.

January 3 – February 25, 2015

The production period of this project was undertaken in the months of January and February 2015. The cinematographer and I were able to spend almost seven weeks in the Lak region of Southern New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. In an environment where transportation and communication are often unreliable we were very fortunate to complete the production stage without any significant problems. The cinematographer and I both managed to maintain good health and returned to New Zealand in late February without contracting malaria. This is the first time I have returned from Lak region without malaria! Much of our video, audio and computer equipment did not return in such good order. The heat and humidity of the rain forest played a heavy toll on both of our audio recorders, one of our cameras, an external hard drive, and the computer we took to log footage. Fortunately, I anticipated the conditions and was able, through the support of this grant, to take backup hard drives and spares for the other essential equipment. I have never taken so much electronic equipment into this region before and providing power to the equipment also presented a significant challenge. We were able to recharge most of our equipment on a daily basis using a solar panel. We shot several hundred hours of footage totaling almost three terabytes of audio and video recordings.

The proposal for the film involved my own initiation into the sorcery practice locally known as Tena Buai. The Tena Buai master whom I hoped would conduct this initiation with me and guide me through the process was insistent that I actually initiate with a more senior sorcerer. Fortunately, I had previously met this master and he was also happy to conduct the initiation process. The initiation itself was a particularly arduous undertaking. I was required to fast in isolation in the rain forest for four nights and five days. During this period of no food and no water I experienced extreme dehydration. I consumed the Buai substances on the second day and was able to endure the initiation process without incident. Throughout the initiation I was frequently visited by the master sorcerer and his assistance. The cinematographer visited the location every second day to film key processes and I was able to record some of the isolation stages myself with fixed cameras.

The insights and understandings gained through this process, the weeks of preparation in the region before the initiation and the two weeks in the region following the initiation, combined to form an amazing experience. This experience of deep engagement with another way of thinking about the world, spirituality and shamanistic practice has been captured in some unique footage and sound recordings. As this account suggests, this was an extreme experience, and one that I only felt able to undertake following what is now more than 15 years of working with that Lak people. The Fejos fellowship allowed me to conduct this highly participatory oriented research with adequate funding support to cover many of the potential contingencies that arose in the course of this fieldwork.

Post-Production Stage.

July 2015 – May 2016

Returning from Papua New Guinea in late February 2015 I was only able to backup footage before returning to teaching duties between March and June 2015. With the support of the fellowship and my host institution I was able to dedicate a total of six months on the post-production of this film from July – December. I spent a total of four of these six months logging, syncing, and preparing the footage for editing. This process took much longer than I anticipated. This was in part due to the addition of conforming footage from earlier shoots into a usable editing format. It was late October 2015 before I was able to begin the first assembly process and late November before editing proper began. Working with a very experienced supervisory editor, Annie Collins, from the early stages of logging and binning I was able to push through the early labor intensive stages. I have also been fortunate enough to have the experience of a renown local producer, Catherine Fitzgerald, who co-produced my last feature documentary.

Editing continued into 2016 and was finally completed with a ‘locked off’ film in May. Between May and October final coloring, sound design, and audio mixing were conducted. The film has also been subtitled in English, German, French and Italian with the assistance of Victoria University of Wellington’s translation services.

In November I returned to my host communities in the Lak region and was fortunate enough to be able to screen the film for all the key participants over several weeks. The film was met with much interest and has certainly invigorated interest in the traditional practices associated with Buai shamanism throughout the region.

Final Comments

This has been an incredible projet that has resulted in a unique film work that explores not only the spirituality of the Lak people but also my own ongoing relationship with the people as an ethnographer and film maker. I believe the film has the potential to reach a wide viewership, and to engaged both ethnographic viewers and a general audience.

I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Fejos Fellowship team for your support.