Graduate Fellows and Project Description 2014-2015, "Networks of Exchange"

Zachary Bennett

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of History--Rutgers, New Brunswick


zb photoMy project examines rivers as technoscientific networks in colonial America. Rivers were among the most exploitable sources of energy for Atlantic cultures, and central to the political economy of Native Americans, Euroamerican colonists, and early industrialists. Each of these cultures during the colonial period had different visions of whether waterpower should be used primarily for harvesting fish, moving commodities, or turning mill wheels to process agricultural goods or later power factories. The very attributes which make rivers attractive to human societies—their natural energy capacity and ability to connect people across wide distances—also make them delicate ecological zones rendering accommodation between different uses nearly impossible. The employment of weirs, metal fishing implements, and dams to capture energy impeded on neighboring cultural groups’ methods by either overharvesting fish, blocking passage, or flooding fields. I argue that the various ensuing conflicts immediately concerning river use provide a previously overlooked window into a larger intercultural Atlantic debate regarding human’s proper relationship with the environment.

Christopher Blakley

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of History--Rutgers, New Brunswick


cmblakley rchanetworksMy project follows the North American and Caribbean itinerary of the gentleman naturalist Mark Catesby from 1722 to 1726. A circle of wealthy and ambitious elites financed the expedition, including Francis Nicholson, James Brydges, and Hans Sloane. These individuals invested their fortunes in mercantile and philanthropic corporations including the Royal African Company, the East India Company, the Royal Society, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. As he scouted the southeastern Atlantic colonies and the Bahama Islands, anonymous “Friendly Indians” and slaves, including a “Negro Boy”, served Catesby as navigators and research assistants. In 1729 he published the first volume of his findings titled The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. A cast of esteemed readers appeared in the subscription list of the book, bestowing credit to the author, including the British royal family, colonial governors, nobles, and planters. The Natural History served the aspirations and visions of Catesby’s patrons and readers by organizing geographical, hydrographic, and ethnographic observations on the colonies with an eye toward profits in the plantation complex and circum-Atlantic trade. Moreover, it laid out environmental data and cultural information necessary for ruling over distant lands. Natural history united the networks of mercantilism, evangelicalism, and colonial governance into a single field of analysis.
 

Satyasikha (Shikha) Chakraborty

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of History--Rutgers, New Brunswick


shikha rchaMy project broadly aims to understand how ideals and practices of domestic labor, household hygiene and non-kin intimacy were shaped and transformed in the colonial period through cross-cultural exchanges of discourses on domestic labor - both bonded and contractual, discourses on domestic health and the circulations of actual labouring bodies as well as of visual representations of domestic labourers. I am specifically interested in exploring the emotive creation of the idealized ever-faithful Indian nursemaid in British households and the late colonial and post-colonial incorporation of this figure into South Asian elite households. My project explores how far the inter-imperial circulation of cultural representations of romanticized non-white female care-givers was shaping British-Indian imagination. Examining colonial visuals and collectibles of Indian domestic labourers, I am exploring the question of how race was materially inscribed in these images/objects by looking at the networks of production and circulation of these collectibles that sustained the transcontinental networks of affect and nostalgia of empire.

Aries Dela Cruz

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of Anthropology--Rutgers, New Brunswick


Dela Cruz 1820-002-1As a doctoral student of anthropology, my project investigates the networks of exchange around agricultural biotechnology, from the development agencies and foundations with stated agendas to promote their use, the scientists and knowledge systems that are funded by these interests, to the farmers and activists that either oppose or adapt these technologies and interventions, as well as the lawyers and judges that litigate and make decisions on disputes between farmers and scientists. I am particularly interested in golden rice, a genetically-modified crop that biosynthesizes beta carotene, and its and implementation in the Philippines. Debates around golden rice reflects overall the frictions generated by the global movement of science and technology, movements that produce new and distinctive forms of social, ecological, political, and legal relations in societies that are often forced to grapple with the growing reach of neoliberal development. My project intends to analyze the linkages and networks of exchange between ecology, law and technology that is brought about by modernity in countries like the Philippines, a country which is the twelfth most populous country in the world and was recently ranked by the UN as the third most vulnerable country to climate change. I hope to answer whether the research and deployment of golden rice produces new forms of moral orders and networks of exchange in which seemingly innocuous practices are in fact repositories of power. I will research these networks ethnographically and ask how it is that the practices of scientists, technocrats, judges and lawyers have come to be seen as enabling the possibility of new forms of life that promises to bring about security from hunger, toil and disease, and how it is that networks of public authority, scientific production of knowledge and legal practices that deal with agricultural interventions can often shape complex rural realities and relations.

Julia Katz

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of History--Rutgers, New Brunswick


Jkatz photoDuring the last two decades of the Hawaiian monarchy, cultural, political, and economic struggles converged in the regulation of opium, and nearly every member or faction of Hawaiian society had a stake in the debate.  What made opium regulation such a salient site of struggle?  As with our contemporary War on Drugs, the discursive and empirical record of the regulation of opium tells us less about who was actually using and selling the drug than it does about who was already perceived to be criminal, which improper and abject subjects needed to be policed and purged.  The discourse around opium reveals a lurid imaginary, one preoccupied with the precarious fate of an island kingdom always on the precipice—whether of demographic failure, financial ruin, or annexation.  Opium, whose alleged tragedies and abuses circulated through rumor and published account across the imperial world, lent these fears a sordid urgency.  It became, in the eyes of the state and respectable society, a crisis of criminality in the case of the Chinese, a crisis of public health for the Native Hawaiians, and a crisis of governance for a protocolonial state unable to extend its reach into those corners of society deemed most threatening—the interiors of Chinese and Hawaiian life.  I argue that opium, when taken as an optic, reveals both the vexing blindspots of protocolonial governance, as well as its strategies of sovereignty, including sinophobia, paternalism, and exclusion.  Each tactic was crucial to the maintenance and extension of American hegemony in the islands.

Taylor Moore

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of History--Rutgers, New Brunswick


TMooreI am a second year PhD student in the History Department at Rutgers University, with a regional focus in Middle East and African History. I received my BA in Honors Political Science and Sociology, specializing in Middle East Politics, from the American University in Cairo. My research interests include the intersections of sexuality, public health, and racial science, particularly as they manifested themselves in non-Western colonial projects. I also am interested in the political and socio-economic transformations that took place in Egypt in the first half of the twentieth century, particularly their inflection in ethnographic and social science knowledge production, that resulted in the ‘de-Africanization’ of Egypt and Egyptian memory. My RCHA research projects looks at this process of Egyptian 'de-Africanization' through the story of peasant women in semi colonial Upper Egypt, particularly with regard to the ways in which the state attempted to medicalize their "superstitious" reproductive and hygienic practices.


Marika Plater

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of History--Rutgers, New Brunswick


mplater headshotThis year, I will be researching the St. John’s Guild’s Floating Hospital—a clinic on a barge in New York City that had its maiden voyage in 1874, its last in 2001, and continues to serve patients on land today. I will focus on the Progressive Era, during which time the hospital sought to provide medical treatment—paired with healthy sea breezes, sunlight, nourishing food, saltwater baths, and rest—to impoverished children. I want to understand how the Floating Hospital’s staff and benefactors thought about their work and their patients. I will consider interconnecting ideas about nature’s ability to cure, gender, class, and race at play in the Floating Hospital’s mission and actions—especially in contrast to other organizations of the time that also fell into the category then known as “fresh air work.” I also seek to understand how patients and their families thought about the Floating Hospital and its natural cures and why they lined up to board the “ship of health.” Thinking about the Floating Hospital as a network of exchange will help ground this work. At multiple piers throughout New York City, the barge connected medical providers with patients in need. Sick children and their families received free treatment, food, and perhaps fun while doctors and nurses gained important information about childhood health at a moment when pediatrics was still an emerging field. Studying this network, I hope to add nuance to conversations about nature, health, and the politics of reform in New York City’s past.

David Reid

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of History--Rutgers, New Brunswick


Reid PhotoMy project looks at a dispute over salinity in the Colorado River between Mexico and the US in the 60s and 70s. In 1961, a project to reclaim salt-laden irrigation lands in Arizona began pumping highly saline groundwater into the Colorado just upstream from the border, threatening Mexico's most important agricultural area, the Mexicali Valley. The salinity crisis dominated relations between the two countries for the next thirteen years in a dialogue that combined and conflated the environmental, technical, juridical, and moral aspects of the problem as each side tried to strengthen its case. I'm especially interested in the political consequences of the dispute, which were influenced by the Cold War and the Mexican regime's hold on power. Internationally, the Mexican government used (and even encouraged) farmers' protests in Mexicali as evidence that the salinity was catalyzing communist subversion to win concessions from the US (eventually a successful strategy). Domestically, it violently repressed those protests when they even slightly threatened the ruling party's dominance. Meanwhile, the US tied solving the salinity to a broader strategy of strengthening anti-democratic Latin American regimes in exchange for loyalty. The story is an interesting example of the connections between environment, politics, and international relations.

Eunkyung Song

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of Sociology--Rutgers, New Brunswick


Esong 1Through what process do digital texts on social issues gain salience and play out as shared, collective causes that are linked to efforts for political mobilization? More specifically, how can individuals develop common understandings that make possible, minimally, exchange of opinions, or more ambitiously, commitment to coordinated political practice (however individualized), if digital interaction tends to be dynamic? Drawing on the idea that ties in a given network carry multiple meanings that can change over time, this study examines the semantic and structural features of a large corpus of digital texts that circulated during the 2008 Candlelight Protests that took place in Korea.


Marian Ahn Thorpe

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of Anthropology--Rutgers, New Brunswick

My research examines practices of consent amongst Ngäbe (“NAH-bay”) indigenous communities in Panama as Ngäbe leaders Thorpe WebPhotoconsider whether to participate in climate change forestry projects. In 2011 and 2012, violent altercations between government police and Ngäbe anti-mining and anti-dam protesters eventually required mediation by the United Nations. Though government officials and Ngäbe leaders ultimately agreed to a mining and dam moratorium, Ngäbe remain sensitive to issues of informed consent and meaningful community involvement in development projects. Now, as Panama’s climate change forestry program (a national version of a controversial international program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD) enters its final planning stages, the concept of informed consent has once again emerged as a key issue amongst indigenous Panamanians. My doctoral project investigates the cultural, historical, political, and scientific contexts that shape how two key groups of actors, Ngäbe decision-makers and non-indigenous REDD planners, interpret the concept of informed consent. Through this research, I hope to better understand how indigenous communities and policymakers can work together to design just, effective processes of informed consent.

Erik Wade

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of English--Rutgers, New Brunswick


EWadeMy project examines how literary depictions of medieval sexuality were shaped by the diverse cultural interactions that characterized the early medieval English period (until about 1100). I analyze the transmission of medieval exotica narratives and collections, many of them translated or derived from non-English texts. These range from a forged letter from Alexander the Great describing India to an Egyptian saint's life. In these, descriptions of the wonders of the world produced a geography of the world that also served as a spacialized account of Christendom and its sexual/racial Others. I study how translated literature paradoxically became the basis for a sense of English identity, while English-produced texts imagined sexual and racial Others elsewhere in order to shore up this identity. I argue that this “English” identity was based on categories of the natural and the unnatural that served to morally differentiate sexual practices and different identities. In addition, I argue that depictions of sexual practices functioned as a form of racialization in Anglo-Saxon texts, producing a hierarchy of humanity with Christians at the top and in the center.

Hakim Zainiddinov

Graduate Fellow                                                                                                                                                                Department of Sociology--Rutgers, New Brunswick


Hakim RCHA photoFor the past two decades, following the dissolution of the Soviet regime in 1991, Tajikistan like other Central Asian countries has been experiencing the effects of globalization processes that have left their traces not only on political and economic spheres of the country but also on its religious life. Worldwide cultural and political processes impacted and shaped structures of religious organizations, as well as directed their conduct. But how have the other important components of globalization – advancement and flow of modern science, technology, and medicine influenced religion? The project explores the impacts of globalization on religion by looking at the interaction of religion with the outside world entrenched in the advancement of science, technology, and medicine. Religious entities turned out to be more isomorphic than one would expect given that religion usually shows strong resistance to changes enforced by modern science and technology. Overall, the project aims to seek answer to the following question: Does religion accommodate itself with the outside modern world through encouraging adoption of some elements of the modern world and opposing others?

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