Select Page

Lawrence Cohen

Weatherhead Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Berkeley

PROJECT:

‘Operability’: Sterilization and Transplantation as ‘Surgical Citizenship’ in India

Through the burgeoning anthropological research on kidney transplantation, global organ trafficking, and the shifting medical definitions of life and death, Lawrence Cohen is focusing on the operation itself as a social exercise with implications far beyond the realms of medicine or health.

In Operability: Sterilization and Transplantation as ‘Surgical Citizenship’ in India, Cohen is following an intuitive thread through the web of relationships emerging from the commodification of organ transplantation. His early analysis of arguments by “so-called bio-ethicists” describing voluntary kidney sales as “a win-win situation” or “a gift of life,” illuminated the broader economic and political context within which this primary transaction takes place.

Bioavailability, operability, and as-if modernity are some of the terms Cohen uses to describe unprecedented aspects of experience created by this culture of commodified bodies. A progression of medical advances reducing and finally suppressing the need for matching tissue has allowed neoliberal entrepreneurs to troll for organ sale “recruits” in marginal and impoverished populations who are deemed bioavailable.

Noting that a previous government’s use of sterilization for development purposes linked that operation to access to social services, Cohen posits operability as the degree to which a person’s relationship with the state is mediated through invasive medical commitment.

With the concept of as-if modernity, Cohen explores how an operation such as sterilization enables the state to by-pass its failed project of transforming the reasoned practice of “the masses”—perceived as capable of passion but not reason—and produce “a body that performs as if it had undergone a transformation of reason, as if it were inhabited by an ascetic will.”

Cohen is interested in the operation as a kind of citizenship, “and by that I mean how a person secures a future in relation to the state. In some cases, the scar becomes a passport one uses to imagine a certain kind of body-future for one’s self and one’s family,” he says.

“If the operation becomes a form through which constitutively marginal, pre-modern subjects can secure some form of modern participation in the nation-state, it may become a critical desideratum.”

Jessica R. Cattelino

Weatherhead Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Anthropology
New York University

PROJECT:

High Stakes: Seminole Sovereignty in the Casino Era

Is gaming the “new buffalo” for Native American tribes? Do casinos lead to “cultural loss” for indigenous peoples? What is the relationship between gaming and tribal sovereignty?

In High Stakes: Seminole Sovereignty in the Casino Era, Jessica Cattelino examines the relationship between tribal casinos and Florida Seminoles’ efforts to maintain themselves as a culturally and politically distinct people. By investigating the layered meanings of culture, sovereignty, and citizenship, Cattelino illuminates not only the experiences of contemporary indigenous peoples, but also their complex relationships to American political processes and popular culture.

Seminoles opened the first tribally operated high stakes bingo hall in Native North America in 1979, “launching a gaming revolution that has built American Indian tribes’ political and economic power even as it exposes them to new scrutiny in American law, politics, and popular culture,” Cattelino says. “I argue that casinos emerged from and reinforce Seminole sovereignty and cultural distinctiveness; they are not mere moneymakers pursued at the cost of cultural continuity.”

Countering the view that gaming is against “native values,” Cattelino examines other economic regimes pursued by Seminoles in the twentieth century, including cattle, smoke shops, women’s commercial crafts, and men’s alligator wrestling. By “moving outward from the everyday politics and practices of indigeneity,” she develops a new social theory of sovereignty that recognizes Seminoles’ simultaneous efforts to both realize their independence and create economic, political, and cultural relations of interdependence.

In this first book-length ethnography of Native American gaming, Cattelino explores sovereignty as a world view, not simply a legal and political status.

Jason Yaeger

National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Los Angeles

PROJECT:

Tiwanaku and the Construction of Inka Imperial Ideology

Centuries after the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Tiwanaku abandoned this Andean city in contemporary Bolivia, the Inka Empire used the city’s impressive pyramids to express core elements of their own creation narratives in the mid-1400s.

“The Inka were incredible social engineers,” observes Jason Yaeger, whose research examines the layers of meanings sedimented in Tiwanaku’s history. They reconfigured the existing structures to accommodate the ritual activities required in their own cosmology, Yaeger says. Transforming these spaces into “memory theaters,” the Inka celebrated and materialized Tiwanaku as the place where Viracocha created the first couples of all ethnic groups and thus established the ethnic differences that formed one of the bases of Inka governance.

The Inka Settlement Program that Yaeger directed between 1999 and 2002 was the first study of Tiwanaku’s Inka occupation, despite two centuries of archaeological fieldwork in the area. He has focused his investigation on the Pumapunku pyramid and the activities that took place there. Although not the most imposing structure at the site, this pyramid was particularly attractive to the Inka and became the heart of their settlement. By the alignment of its axis, the Pumapunku unites the sacred mountain Illimani and Lake Titicaca, landmarks that even today anchor a series of dual oppositions in the cosmology of Tiwanaku’s current inhabitants, the Aymara people. Visitors to Pumapunku passed through a series of portals and gateways that framed the Illimani. “Given the Inka penchant for landscape mimesis, this alignment would not have been lost on them,” Yaeger comments.

Further, unlike other public spaces at Tiwanaku, the Pumapunku complex provided both a large plaza that would accommodate Inka ceremonial gatherings as well as a sunken court that formed a natural water reservoir for the canals and baths integral to Inka rituals. Finally, the Inka believed that fallen stone portraits of the city’s former rulers near Pumapunku were models of the first humans.

“My primary point of departure is that landscapes and monumental buildings form enduring structures that shape human experience, perception, and interaction in ways that are not entirely arbitrary. Prominent places are magnets for meanings, becoming symbols that accumulate meanings over time,” Yaeger says of his approach.

J. Kehaulani Kauanui

Katrin H. Lamon Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Assistant Professor
Department of American Studies and Anthropology
Wesleyan University

PROJECT:

Native Hawaiian Racial Formation: Blood Quantum and the Legal Construction of Indigeneity

Who counts as Hawaiian? Today’s fifty-percent blood quantum rule legally defining who qualifies as “native Hawaiian” was established in 1920 as part of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, a land allotment policy. Hawaiian people contest this exclusionary state definition because it undermines indigenous cultural practices that determine identity on the basis of one’s genealogical ties.

In her book The Politics of Hawaiian Blood and the Question of Sovereignty, J. Kehaulani Kauanui examines governmental understandings of Hawaiian depopulation and land dispossession. “I map the shift from an originally less restrictive definition of ‘native Hawaiian’ to the fifty-percent rule by exploring how the categories of ‘full-blood’ and ‘part’-Hawaiians emerged from the congressional debates leading up to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

“This shift from an inclusive definition of ‘native Hawaiian’ entailed a move away from the recognition of Hawaiians’ land entitlement to an emergent welfare-approach to rehabilitation where Hawaiian racialization was tied to notions of indigenous competence as citizen-subjects. I have also been able to trace how these different classifications worked to affirm white property interests.”

Using a comparative framework based on other US racial formations, Kauanui is examining the role of the state in the legal constructions of indigeneity and race, not only for Hawaiians but for Indians and African Americans as well. “We don’t generally think of Hawaiians when we think of blood quantum,” Kauanui observes. “We think of Indians and tribal membership, or the ‘one-drop rule’ for African Americans; but all of these things were going on simultaneously in the 1920s.” She is exploring how, over the years, the overarching system of institutionalized white supremacy in the US has interpreted questions of blood quantum, sovereignty, land rights, and citizenship in many different ways, creating arbitrary racial classifications.

Kauanui sees her research as contributing more than just a Hawaiian focus to the fields of anthropology, American Studies, Native American Studies and Pacific Studies, but opening up new lines of inquiry and territory in all these areas. “As this work addresses US colonialism in the Pacific and the making of new citizens, the project prompts the engagement with histories and contemporary policy on the legal construction of indigeneity,” Kauanui says.

Circe Dawn Sturm

National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology and Native American Studies
University of Oklahoma

PROJECT:

Claiming Redness: The Racial and Cultural Politics of Becoming Cherokee

In 2000, the U.S. Census revealed a phenomenal increase in the total American Indian population, a growth of 647 percent over forty years. This startling jump cannot be explained by natural processes such as birth and death rates. Instead, it appears to be dominated by what Circe Sturm calls “racial shifters,” individuals who have changed their racial identity from white to Native American. A disproportionate number of these racial shifters, Sturm has found, are Cherokee.

In Claiming Redness: The Racial and Cultural Politics of Becoming Cherokee, Sturm investigates the motivations and rationales behind this choice to move from a powerful unmarked social position to a less powerful one. She is focusing on “shifters” who base their Native American identity on a belief in ancestral blood ties that have been denied, sometimes for generations.

“I want to understand the deeper social and cultural values that lie behind this racial movement and why so many Americans, from so many walks of life, are now finding such deep personal and collective meaning in the process of claiming redness,” Sturm states. “This is something people were not so willing to do forty years ago, and the fact that they do so now, I believe, reveals much about contemporary race relations in the United States.”

Sturm finds that this unexpected social movement also exposes serious questions about “our vocabularies of difference,” and contends that words like race, culture, and ethnicity are now “imprecise and even redundant.” In an era of neo-liberalism professing a multicultural neutrality, these terms can serve to gloss over unique historical and political forms of oppression and have become, in fact, “power evasive.”

“What I am arguing is that neo-liberalism offers a thinly veiled racism of a new variety, one in which such claims can be made without being questioned, one whose very emphasis on culture, class, individualism, and choice paves the way for race shifting by denying the persistence of racism as well as the meaningfulness of race at all.”

Bruce M. Knauft

National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar

Affiliation at time of award:
Samuel C. Dobbs Professor
Department of Anthropology
Emory University

PROJECT:

Crisis and Culture in a Post-9/11 World

Stunned by the shocking events of September 11, 2001, Americans were immediately infused with the sense that “everything had changed.” Yet as Bruce Knauft charts the response of the United States to this crisis against the background of geopolitical history and the context of cultures around the world, he suggests that, in fact, much is the same.

“On the one hand, many things did change: our sense of being invulnerable, our perceptions of Bush and of radical Islam being an enemy, for instance. That’s the public cultural story and it has a powerful and important reality. On the other hand, the United States has been an imperial power for a long time using various ways to influence other countries to get its way,” Knauft observes. “In the wake of 9/11, the United States has projected a local crisis to a global scale. This event has become a mandate for the global deployment of political and military force, making the construction and dissemination of crisis of central importance to the United States.”

In Culture and Crisis in a Post-9/11 World, Knauft uses the “effect and illusion” of 9/11 to examine “how lines of geopolitical division, opposition, and crisis are culturally formulated, and how these divisions are influenced, willingly or unwillingly, by global forces, national agendas, and popular responses.” By tracking how other areas of the world have responded to and been affected by 9/11—including Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Mexico, and areas of Africa—Knauft will illustrate “how a relatively small event on a world historical scale—the death of approximately 3,000 people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001—has spawned geopolitical realignment backed by military force.”

A distinctively anthropological perspective on this issue seems particularly important, Knauft contends, “to complement the culturally narrower viewpoint of many political scientists, policy makers, and global analysts, on the one hand, and the less scholarly accounts of many journalists and mass media pundits, on the other. At larger issue is how ideologies of ‘progress’ and ‘development’ are re-negotiated, complicated, or resisted in a post 9/11 world.”