Summer Scholars

Cecilia Ballí

Cecilia Ballí

Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Summer Scholar

“The Fence and the School: Border Enforcement in the Age of National Security”
Cecilia Ballí’s project examines the effects of a 2006 Congressional mandate, the Secure Fence Act, in one US border city. In 2008, the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College challenged the federal government’s plans to construct a fence along the southern edge of the campus, meant to separate the United States from Mexico. Ballí is following the university’s negotiations with the Department of Homeland Security and what these reveal about American conceptions of “border security” in the age of the so-called war on terrorism. She is tracing the historical, cultural, economic, and environmental consequences for a unique bilingual and bicultural region of the country, as well as the political implications for Americans more broadly. Ballí’s findings underscore the vulnerability of border regions as a result of centrist policies that attempt to stem global flows of people and licit and illicit goods only by enforcing the international line.

Find out more about Cecilia Balli by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

Minette C. Church

Minette C. Church

Cotsen Summer Scholar

“Archaeology of the Lopez Plaza: Childhood, Landscape, and Homeland in the Late-Nineteenth-Century Southern Colorado Borderlands”
Minette Church is completing a book-length manuscript on research at the Lopez Plaza archaeological site in southeastern Colorado. Memoirs by two people who grew up on the site provide unusually rich personal contexts for it, and flood deposits cap a discrete archaeological occupation there. The New Mexican family’s occupation of the site after the heyday of the Santa Fe Trail documents historically and archaeologically the lives of an underrepresented group during an understudied time period. Furthermore, because 12 children grew up there between 1880 and 1903, the site offers a unique opportunity to write an archaeology of childhood and parenting during a volatile time in a contested landscape of emerging post-Victorian capitalism. The manuscript, structured around the memoirs and driven by archaeological data, will provide interpretations in a format accessible to the public and to descendent communities, including heritage tour groups, which regularly visit the site.

Find out more about Minette C. Church by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

Erin Debenport

Erin Debenport

Christopher Smeall Summer Scholar

“Literacy, Perfectibility, and Temporality: Reconciling Pueblo Imagined Pasts and Futures”
During her summer scholar fellowship, Debenport examined the creation, content, and circulation of multiple versions of a language pedagogical text at a New Mexico Pueblo to explore issues of agency, temporality, and perfectibility in contexts of language revitalization and new literacy. She employed ethnographic fieldwork and linguistic analyses to explore three central research questions: Is the choice to use writing as a tool for the creation, revision, and circulation of a political text an affront to Pueblo language ideologies that privilege oral tradition? How does the author’s insistence on perfecting the text connect to other social processes in Pueblo communities, including language socialization, performance, and the importance of negotiation? And how can the temporal tension between “discourses of nostalgia” indexed by the text’s author and the accompanying vision for the future of the community be reconciled?

Find out more about Erin Debenport by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

Poornima Paidipaty

Poornima Paidipaty

William Y. and Nettie K. Adams Summer Scholar

“Tribal Nation: Anthropology as a Frontier Science in Colonial India”
Poornima Paidipaty is exploring the early history of ethnographic writing in the Indian subcontinent, tracing the development of modern anthropology to the contingencies of frontier pacification. A substantial corpus of ethnography in nineteenth-century India was written by soldier-scientists trained in cartography, geography, and military engineering. Such figures, deployed to politically volatile frontier areas, were responsible for managing both people and terrain. During this period, anthropology was largely a colonial technoscience, applied to the task of governing India’s restive tribal belt. Indeed, the seminal colonial sociological distinction between tribal and caste communities emerged around new governmental efforts to segregate tribal communities, both physically and juridically, from caste society.

Paidipaty is examining the work of key military ethnographers such as Samuel Macpherson, Edward Dalton, and John Briggs, in addition to military route maps and tour diaries, to trace the connections between ethnography as an emerging practice and other military sciences of the frontier. She also seeks to reconnect British Victorian anthropology to source material from frontier wars in South Asia.

Find out more about Poornima Paidipaty by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

Jason Pribilsky

Jason Pribilsky

William Y. and Nettie K. Adams Summer Scholar

“Culture’s Laboratory: Scientific Imagination, Applied Anthropology, and the Making of the Cornell-Peru Project at Vicos”
Jason Pribilsky’s project is a historical ethnography of the Cornell-Peru Project that melds a science studies approach with the history of anthropology. He explores a little-known, early Cold War history of the way a group of anthropologists assumed the lease and the role of patrón for an ailing hacienda in the Andean community of Vicos and transformed it into an ethnographic “laboratory” for the study of modernization and culture change.

The project probes what Vicos—and anthropology’s long-time engagement with the community—can tell us about the social nature of doing ethnographic fieldwork, with a particular focus on the scientific endeavors and research technologies of the project. A portion of Pribilsky’s residency focused on researching and writing about the diagnostic photography of John Collier Jr., who spent a year at Vicos creating an inventory of material culture to assess culture change.

Find out more about Jason Pribilsky by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

Daniel Usner Jr.

Daniel Usner Jr.

Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Summer Scholar

“Crafting a Traditional Community in Progressive America”
While at SAR, Daniel Usner Jr. worked on a book exploring the way Chitimacha Indian women of southern Louisiana experienced a reanimation of their basket-making tradition in the early twentieth century through a complex relationship with Mary Bradford and Sarah McIlhenny—daughters of the founder of the McIlhenny Company, makers of Tabasco Sauce—who facilitated a circulation of the rivercane baskets in homes, stores, expositions, museums, and publications across the nation.

By tracing communication among the women who made baskets, the women who promoted their production, and the dealers and ethnologists who purchased them, Usner situates the case study of Indian arts and crafts production and patronage within a wider discourse about culture and society in Progressive-period America. Archival material at the School for Advanced Research and comparative insights from parallel examples in the Southwest contributed to the project.

Find out more about Daniel Usner Jr. by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

Zoë Wool

Zoë Wool

Ethel-Jane Westfeldt Bunting Summer Scholar

“Emergent Ordinaries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center: An Ethnography of Extra/ordinary Encounters”
Zoë Wool’s dissertation focuses on the dialectic between the ordinary and the extraordinary that characterizes the daily experiences of US soldiers severely injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her goal is to elaborate the vital importance to soldiers of an ordinary life and the ways in which that life is denied and deferred. Framing her work in a theorization of the everyday and of the fluidity of marked and unmarked forms of life in a context haunted by violence. Wool suggests that a life felt and seen to be ordinary becomes central to soldiers’ physical and existential rehabilitation. Yet because of ontological transformations wrought by violence, and because of endless declarations of their heroism, patriotism, and sacrifice, soldiers’ ambitions to the ordinary are frustrated, challenged, and obscured.

Find out more about Zoë Wool by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

Follow us: