An overview of the projects that the resident scholars, IARC interns and Native artist will be working on while in residence at SAR.
Shannon L. Dawdy, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, and Tamara E. Kneese. Lecturer, Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, University of California – Davis
How is the experience of death and mourning changing under conditions of growing religious plurality and secularization, technological mediation, and globalization? Cultures throughout history have deployed different media and objects to communicate with and remember the dead — from heirlooms, inscription, mementos, music, clothing and architecture to photography, telegraphy, television and the internet. This presentation provides an overview of seminarians’ work to address how the dead continue to shape the world around us through these forms — and, most importantly, how and why that assemblage is changing.
Melanie Yazzie, Assistant Professor, Department of Native American Studies and the Department of American Studies, University of New Mexico, and Katrin H. Lamon Resident Scholar, SAR
The defenders of Diné land have opposed large-scale resource extraction in the Navajo Nation for over forty years. Throughout their resistance, they argued that development is a violent arm of capitalism that seeks to destroy Diné life; in response, they created a politics of relational life to contest and ultimately reverse the decline of Diné ways of being. In this talk, Melanie Yazzie examines the historical and material conditions that gave rise to this politics of relational life and describes its central role in anti-capitalist decolonization struggles in Diné Bikeyah and beyond.
William Calvo-Quiros, Assistant Professor, Department of American Culture and Latino Studies, University of Michigan, and Mellon Resident Scholar, SAR
Narco saints and skeletons in hats. Mexican martyrs and executed rapists. What type of saints are these, and what do they really represent in the US-Mexico borderlands? William Calvo-Quiros spent ten years tracing the movement and evolution of meaning of popular saints from Mexico to the United States. Using a chronological approach, Calvo-Quiros analyzes five vernacular saint figures (Jesús Malverde, Santa Olguita, Juan Soldado, Toribio Romo, and La Santa Muerte) within broader discourses: the construction of masculinity and the state; the long history of violence against women in the region; the erasure of women from history; the major US demographic and religious shifts generated by the influx of new Catholic Latinx immigrants; the discrimination against nonnormative sexualities; and the United States’ and Mexico’s formal and informal control of religiosity in relation to migration. This presentation unveils not only the politics and struggles behind border popular religiosity, but also its sophisticated role in envisioning a future beyond oppression.
Mayanthi Fernando, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California – Santa Cruz, and Weatherhead Resident Scholar, SAR
Why are scholars more open to accepting mosquitos, mollusks, and mountains—rather than angels, djinn, and other spirits—as historical actors with whom humans are always in relation? How does secular knowledge focusing on “the real,” that which is material and visible, make it difficult to think of “the supernatural” as part of nature and culture? And how might we re-entangle the supernatural with the human and the natural? This exploratory talk examines how and why multispecies and post-humanist scholarship expands definitions of being yet restricts other-than-humans to entities that have been understood as part of “the natural.” Reading against the grain and alongside traditions like the Islamic sciences of the unseen, Mayanthi Fernando argues that recent trends in post-humanist scholarship offer epistemological horizons beyond those of secular materialism.
Giovanni Batz, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Miami University
Along with the global demand for natural resources and the influence of neoliberalism, foreign companies that produce energy and sponsor extra-activist industries in Latin America continue to grow. State officials, the private sector, and other supporters of megaprojects argue that these initiatives foster development, employment, and living conditions, as well as creating clean and renewable sources of energy. Yet many indigenous communities, human rights organizations, and other opponents claim that these industries do not further development and instead contribute to communal divisions, environmental degradation, human rights violations, and militarization. In Cotzal, Guatemala, the arrival of several megaprojects has been referred to as the “new” or “fourth” invasion—the three previous invasions being Spanish colonization, the creation of plantations at the end of the nineteenth century, and the Guatemalan civil war (1960–1996). In this presentation, Giovanni Batz will provide a historical account of these “four invasions” with an emphasis on the conflict surrounding the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Cotzal.
John Arroyo, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Where Mexican immigrants live in the United States plays a critical role in how they adapt to their host society—and how their host society reacts to their presence in a physical context. Over the past twenty years, the mobility patterns of surging Mexican populations across Georgia have had a major influence on suburban space. Based on two years of ethnographic research, John Arroyo examines how fear, invisibility, and agency manifest across the residential built environments of newly Mexican areas of greater Atlanta and explores how Mexican-origin people either adapted to or reshaped suburban housing at various scales. Additionally, he shows how the spatial ideals of Latino urbanism foment reactionary land use and zoning policies throughout small suburban municipalities on Atlanta’s periphery. In a twenty-first-century America defined by exponential Latino-community growth, this emergent case study illustrates how Mexican-origin populations navigate the challenges of urbanism when settling in places unprepared for seismic population shifts.
Beth Semel, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
What does it mean for machines to listen? What kind of listeners do the people who build artificial intelligence–enabled machines train them to be? After all, Amazon’s Alexa is only “listening” in the same way that she is a “she.” Drawing from extended ethnographic fieldwork with psychiatric and engineering professionals in the United States, Beth Semel argues that the concept of machine listening is both a powerful and strategically vague analogy that articulates taken-for-granted assumptions about human listening and the speaking subject. While listening technologies are central to contemporary debates about ethics and automation, Semel’s examination of the behind-the-screen labor through which a set of such technologies is assembled reveals their entanglement with deeper histories and political economies of engineering, speech science, and care work in the United States.