The School of Anthropology congratulates the recipients of four graduate dissertation write-up fellowships for the 2020–2021 academic year: the Haury Graduate Fellowship (established in honor of Emil Haury); the Dr. Keith A. Dixon Graduate Fellowship; the Emil W. Haury Archaeology Award; and the newly established Andrew William Amann, Jr. Award. The Graduate Fellowships Committee received a large number of very impressive applications. Congratulations to all of our new fellows!
Haury Graduate Fellowship
Title: The evolutionary origins of representational and motivational hallmarks of human social cognition
Committee: Evan MacLean, advisor; Stacey Tecot, Mary Peterson, and Laurie Santos, committee members
Abstract: Whether, and to what extent, non-human animals understand others’ mental states is a longstanding question in comparative cognition. As adult humans, we recognize that others can have desires, knowledge, or beliefs that may differ from our own. In addition to representing others’ mental states in this way, humans also often share mental states with others. For example, even the simple experience of taking a walk with a partner depends on a shared understanding that both oneself and someone else are simultaneously and interdependently committed to the same activity. My dissertation will explore whether humans’ abilities to represent and share mental states are unique to our species. More specifically, my dissertation will examine whether non-human primates mentally represent others’ knowledge and ignorance states in the same way as humans (Article 1), when non-human primates’ understanding of others’ knowledge states breaks down (Article 2), and whether dogs, like human children but unlike non-human primates, re-engage cooperative partners in shared activities when these activities are interrupted (Article 3). Collectively, this work will advance our understanding of potentially human-unique aspects of social cognition and help to inform us about how our social-cognitive representational and motivational capacities may have evolved.
Title: Diabetic Living: Senegalese Women’s Experiences with Metabolic Illness
Committee: Ivy Pike, major advisor; Mark Nichter, minor advisor; Susan Shaw, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Janelle Lamoreaux, committee members
Abstract: This dissertation draws on the lived experiences of metabolic illness among women in Senegal, West Africa. Existing literature on noncommunicable diseases in low-and-middle-income countries is scarce, while simultaneously these countries are poised to experience the highest disease burden. This project addresses this lacuna of information through 15 months of mixed-methods research in Saint-Louis, Senegal, including participant observation, interviews, and surveys, centering women’s experiences of hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease/failure in Senegal. I illustrate the nuanced ways noncommunicable diseases are shifting individual notions of self, kin structures, and social communities. This dissertation also addresses the ways in which current health infrastructures are and are not prepared to deal with this rise in noncommunicable disease. Interviews with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, traditional healers, Ministry of Health officials, and demographers, illuminate clinical, national, and epidemiological approaches to rising disease burdens.
Title: The Social Life of TBI: The Embodied and Constructed Meaning of Moderate-Severe Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States
Committee: Eric Plemons and Monica Casper (GWS, Sociology), Co-chairs; Susan Shaw (University of Massachusetts Amherst) and Brian Silverstein
Abstract: A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a common injury that occurs when an external force or object strikes the head, damaging the brain inside. TBI’s multiple effects on the bodies and lives of those that survive them are largely invisible, poorly understood, and in moderate-severe cases are almost always life-long. My dissertation begins where biomedical treatment and understanding of these injuries end, harnessing work in medical anthropology and multiple academic disciplines to explain how “TBI” becomes disconnected from the event that it ostensibly names and gains new meaning in social interactions outside of formal rehabilitation. Building on participation in weekly support groups and activities for survivors and their families and friends, numerous interviews and case study development, and extensive participant observation in the city of Seattle as both an anthropologist and severe TBI survivor myself, I follow the acronym as it is taken up and used across four distinct but related levels: 1) individual survivors; 2) those closest to them; 3) governmental and non-governmental actors, programs, and policies; and 4) community organizations and support groups. The resulting confusion and lack of coordinated action between these levels can lead to potentially devastating consequences for survivors and those around them, who may lose their well-being and even lives as a result. Ultimately, my analysis of the social construction and embodied reality of TBI sheds light on other chronic health conditions, whose meanings and effects are bodily and social, medical and political, particular to individuals and shaped by their surroundings, often going unnoticed and ignored despite their large prevalence and societal impact.
Keith A. Dixon Graduate Fellowship
Title: Decisions and Identities en route: a diachronic analysis of migration during crisis scenarios in the Mediterranean
Committee: Eleni Hasaki and Megan Carney, co-chairs; Emma Blake, Charlotte Pearson, and Gary Christopherson, committee members
Abstract: This dissertation consists of a diachronic investigation of migrant decision-making and identity in the
Mediterranean. I build on current archaeological and anthropological research to examine migration responses during crisis. Taking a broad approach to “crisis” I consider both anthropogenic and natural disasters including volcanic eruptions, climatic change and instability, warfare, and political unrest as factors which have contributed to individual and collective decisions to migrate. Through the examination of crisis-related migration, I seek to understand spatiality as a key factor in dynamic migrant journeys which represent powerful adaptation strategies. This is accomplished through the analysis of both ancient and contemporary migrations and reflections on the long continuity of adaptation by migration.
The spatiality of migration is a key concept in this research, comprising both the spatial variability of factors which contribute to migrant decision-making and the physical spaces across which migrant journeys unfold. Migration as adaptation is also emphasized within this work. Migration is considered as a response of resilience during which rational agents make choices and actively work to adapt to new scenarios, with lasting impacts on their identity. Ultimately, I seek to answer the following questions: How do migrant journeys unfold, and what factors are considered when choosing routes of migration and final destinations? How does the spatial variability of social and environmental factors shape migration choices? How do migrant journeys reflect dynamic decision-making and adaptations on the part of migrants as active agents? How do migration journeys and experiences impact identities?
Drawing on data from ancient and contemporary crisis-related migrations, I examine the complex process of migration which links people, communities, and cultures across vast distances and political borders, and which is affected by a wide range of social, political, environmental, and spatial factors. Our understanding of migrant decision-making and identity will benefit from this diachronic study in which past and present migrations are brought into dialogue with each other. Archaeology provides a depth to the critical human behavior of migration which cultural anthropology has difficulty accessing, while sociocultural anthropology lends greater explanatory power to the motivations and impacts of migration, and provides insights into the full and complex process of migration which can be difficult to see in the archaeological record. Thus, the integration of ancient and contemporary data emphasizes migration as a common human experience and contributes to a holistic understanding of human migration.
Emil W. Haury Archaeology Award
Title: Coalescence and Colonialism in New Mexico, A.D. 1300–1700: Social Network Analysis of Puebloan Regional Interaction
Advisor: Dr. Barbara Mills
Abstract: Archaeological research on both coalescence and colonialism has focused primarily on the social consequences of increasing social heterogeneity and inequality, yet the relationship between the two processes has not been explored in depth. This relationship is especially relevant in the U.S. Southwest, where coalescence in the Pueblo IV period (A.D. 1300-1598) created the social landscape into which early Spanish colonists (A.D. 1598-1700) inserted themselves. This project will evaluate the social consequences of both coalescence and colonialism in the Eastern Pueblo region of New Mexico in these periods. Concerns taken from a body of post-colonial theory help to focus the research questions of the project on the impact of Indigenous political-economies in structuring the colonial encounter. These questions include: 1) was there significant continuity in the structure of the regional economy from the Pueblo IV into the early Colonial Period?; 2) how did this structure of the regional economy impact the resilience of Puebloan communities to the challenges posed by Spanish colonial rule?; 3) how were cooperative actions between Pueblo groups, including the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, impacted by the structure of the regional economy? Social network analysis will be the primary method used to answer these questions. Networks of sites will be generated based on three types of ceramic data, representing different scales and types of interaction between Puebloan communities: ceramic ware and type, petrography of rock temper, and isotope analysis of lead glaze paint. The combination of compositional and ware data will help to understand the complexity of nested and overlapping social relationships resulting from both coalescence and colonialism. These multiple lines of evidence will be combined into a series of multilayer networks to help compare regional organization at multiple scales and through different types of interaction between communities.
Andrew William Amann, Jr. Award
Title: Bodies of Dirt and Humor: Everyday Life at an Anal Dysplasia Clinic
Advisors: Eric Plemons and Susan Shaw (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Abstract: Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork at an anal cancer prevention clinic in Chicago, USA, this dissertation explores a uniquely queer kind of anxiety at this clinic—a combination of dirt, shame, embarrassment, stigma, sexuality, and health, all oriented around caring for/about the anus. This anxiety creates and enacts particular kinds of bio/necropolitical knowledge as well as normative embodiments of gender, sexuality, race, and class. The dissertation begins by reinvigorating Mary Douglas’ theoretical work on dirt/pollution, taboo, and risk by infusing it with insights from queer theory. Douglas’ oeuvre provides an ideal framework for analyzing how these queer anxieties and bio/necropolitical clinical projects of anal cancer prevention (re)produce as well as resist the body symbols and thought styles of heteronormative biomedical institutions. Through the quotidian rituals at this clinic emerge a queer phenomenology oriented toward/around the experiences and management of vulnerability, stigma, shame, risk, and discomfort/pain. I describe the everyday discourses and actions in the clinic that express, reveal, and/or manage these anxieties, most notably humor, which was omnipresent in the clinic though it was utilized in varying ways by different providers and from patient to patient. In addition to data from both patients and providers, I analyze my own experience of undergoing the anal cancer screening procedure to better understand the embodied sensations of the procedure as well as the anxieties around it. The dissertation concludes with a discussion about the potential bio/necropolitical outcomes of the work at the clinic with an eye toward the potentiality of reducing shame and stigma around anal cancer.