Graduate Students' Research Interests and Activities
Current Research Locations
Celeste Alexander works at the intersection of political anthropology, the anthropology of development, and environmental anthropology. Her fieldwork concerns political possibilities and limitations presented by community conservation and related development projects in north-western Tanzania. Working with institutional actors who mediate engagements between, on the one hand, peoples living outside of protected areas, and on the other, a diverse set of regulatory actors, development practitioners, and private investors, her research explores competing notions of community and democratic governance in a context of increasing calls for decentralization. In particular, she is interested in processes by which claims to authority, to land, to livelihoods, and to development in various capacities are asserted, assumed, or subdued.
Quincy Amoah received a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies at the New School where he is also completing an MA in Anthropology. He is concerned with questions of cosmology and ontology and with interpretative approaches in medical anthropology and political ecology. Quincy plans to study the anthropology of gastrointestinal infections, excreta and dirt. He is interested in notions of dirt and their corresponding relations to order, space and politics, particularly in pastoral Nilotic communities in Kenya.
Nicole Berger is interested in human rights discourse, nationalism(s), and international migration. She plans to explore these issues in fieldwork with the Sri Lankan Tamil community in Paris, France. She holds a graduate certificate in International Cultural Studies and an MA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
Diana Budur is interested in the anthropologies of diaspora, transnationalism, kinship, gender and ethos with a focus on the Romany (Gypsy) people of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Budur is currently examining the making of Romany people into ethnically identifiable citizens of Brazil and the daily negotiations and constructions of a distinctive sub-national heritage through culture-specific honor and shame values. Budur's interest in feminist theories reflects in her analysis of women's negotiating the registers of two patriarchal cultures: the national Brazilian one, still reflected in the continued ban on abortion, and the Romany emphasis on male predominance as heads of families and political representation at the national level, despite the fact that women tend to be the family bread-winners through their card-reading practices.
Jessica's research focuses on the distribution of public health care through the criminal justice system. Specifically, Jessica's research examines the processes of specialized mental health courts in Northern California. These are specialized criminal courtrooms that seek to take mentally ill defendants out of jail and transfer them to community services for ongoing care out of custody. In other words, the mission of the court is to release those whom they have convicted of crimes and create other types of oversight. The defendants, though in the community, are required to come to court regularly; the criminal justice system oversees and implements the defendant's treatment plan rather than outsourcing it to other medical providers. Jessica's research attends to how the courts balance control and care in these new contexts in novel combinations of criminal law and public health care. How do these new formations reorganize the relationship (affective, legal, psychological) between citizen and state? How do psychiatry and law influence and direct one another in these spaces? Jessica is further interested in the types of subject produced through adjudication. How do these courtrooms perpetuate a particular model of the ideal liberal subject and what do defendants make of being asked to comply? What does it do to our understandings of public health care and criminality when the criminal justice system is a primary vector for the distribution of such care? Jessica is currently in the field and looks forward to exploring these questions, amongst others.
Benjamin Fogarty (Also known as Benjamin Fogarty-Valenzuela)
Benjamin’s dissertation research focuses on drug consumption and identity-making practices of urban youths who recently ascended to the new middle class in Rio de Janeiro. My project examines the social and political effects of drugs (and their perceived risk), and asks how middle class identity and consumption patterns are being remade through educational interventions and discourses on risk. I aim to explore how new middle class “future of Brazil” youth, articulate their understandings of drugs, “middle classness” and citizenship in relation to drug prevention and discourses on risk, against the backdrop of the ascent of 40 million citizens into Brazil’s new middle class, intergenerational change and the prohibitionist policies of the “War on Drugs.” He has continued to be interested in photographic visual work from earlier research on Christian drug rehabilitation in Guatemala and crack harm reduction in Brazil.
Onur Gunay is interested in political and economic anthropology, documentary filmmaking, critical theory, state and violence, immigration and labor, subjectivity and memory. For his PhD research, he is interested in exploring the ways ethnic difference allows certain populations to become the target of state violence. This difference is remade in its encounters with urban job markets and is re-structured through labor and class relations that order cosmopolitan urban spaces. Specifically, his work focuses on the ways Kurdish workers in Turkey deal, or fail to deal, with the unmaking of their lives by losses resulting from state violence. He also explores how a new Kurdish self-definition emerges in response. On the one hand, he seeks to locate Kurdish migrant workers in the political and cultural contexts of forced migration, structural and symbolic violence, memory and post-memory. On the other, he interrogates neoliberal flexible employment, the urban sphere and growing inequalities. Furthermore, he examines the complex ways in which these regimes of subjection are produced, leading to different reproductions of the self, culture and community.
My dissertation is a study of generations, schooling, and desire for education in post-war Liberia. The project is based on sixteen months of fieldwork I conducted in Liberia, with a grant from the Wenner Gren Foundation. In the field, I moved between households and schools, younger and older generations, road-side market stands and kickball games, palm orchards and movie clubs, birthday parties and story-exchanging sessions, and rural and urban areas. I am writing my dissertation with support from the Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars. I have research interests in the following areas: education; kinship and gender; the anthropology of politics and markets; colonialism and post-coloniality; media; peace and conflict studies; and West Africa.
Janet's work is in the anthropology of science. She is particularly interested in ethics, governance and language in relation to biomedicine and biotechnology and in conceptual and cultural issues in the life sciences. She is currently writing her dissertation on the regulation of stem cell research in Canada, focusing on the intersection of institutional research services and scientists' professional practices.
Peter Kurie is interested in theatrical practices of American community. He is currently doing fieldwork in the "model town" Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Pablo Landa studies personal and group histories as narrated in relation to objects, buildings and landscapes. His work in Mexico and Brazil is located at the intersection of modern architecture, nation-building and social security policies, museums, utopian imaginings, religion, colonial chronicles, and the historiography of anthropology.
George Laufenberg works at the intersection of medical anthropology, political anthropology, and the anthropology of religion; he is interested in relationships between embodied practices of spirituality, healing, and community formation in contemporary North American life. His fieldwork explores modes of knowledge production and representations of experience in the teaching and learning of metaphysically-oriented practices of ‘Complementary and Alternative Medicine’, as well as the connections practitioners make to healing traditions in native North America and European esoteric traditions.
Kelly McKowen received a BA in Literary Arts and International Relations from Brown University and was a Fulbright Scholar in Norway. He is interested in political anthropology, European globalization, the ethnography of welfare states, and interpretative theories. Kelly plans to do a comparative study of identity and belonging in the social democratic welfare regimes of Scandinavia.
Maria McMath examines how French citizens of immigrant descent engage what has been consistently referred to — on both sides of the Atlantic — as “the culture of hip hop.” Maria also produces and studies television, feature, and non-fiction film. She was the associate producer of Emmy-award nominated "Justice for my People: The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Story," and was commissioned in 2004 by the SHARE program at McCosh Health Center to produce a documentary on sexual assault and alcohol misuse at Princeton. Maria is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow (Swarthmore College), an ancienne élève of l’École Normale Supérieure in Paris, and a Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars recipient. Maria has had various academic and administrative appointments at Haverford College, University of Pennsylvania, and Starr King School for the Ministry. Please visit drhiphop.wordpress.com for more details on Maria.
Nikos Michailidis is interested in the process of the transformation of sounds into meaningful acoustic symbols defined as music by individuals in particular sociocultural contexts. He currently works on an ethnography of music-making and belonging in contemporary Turkey. Based on extensive fieldwork and archival research conducted in Trabzon, Istanbul and Ankara, Nikos focuses on the rise of the "ethnic music" phenomenon in Turkey with special interest in a genre called Karadeniz/Pontian (Black Sea) music. His research creatively bridges anthropology with historiography, politics, ethnomusicology, Hellenic and Turkish studies in a project that deals with the complex, dynamic interconnections between practices of music-making, listening, remembering and the construction of belonging in one of the most "multi-cultural" Islamic countries of the Middle East. His broader research interests include political anthropology, social theory, history of ideas, historiography and the anthropology of memory, research methods, ethnomusicology, and European and Mediterranean Studies. His dissertation research has also been supported by the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT). Also an amateur musician himself, Nikos concurrently develops a music project named Argatia that comprises of musicians from Greece and Turkey aiming at targeting audiences in the two countries through concerts, public lectures and musical productions.
Shinny is currently looking at, on the one hand, the revival of humanities scholarship outside the mainstream higher educational institutions in S. Korea and, on the other, its participants' relation to other social movements. She is also interested in the historical comparison of urban space and night-time wherein people in Korea have sought and developed alternative modes of socialization and political subjectivation. Her other interests include study of intellectuals in anthropology, social recognition of crisis or critical events and invention of sacrifice.
Nick Nuñez student works in southern Germany on questions pertaining to family owned businesses and the relation between enterprise and familial ties. His research explores the patterns of inheritance and intergenerational relationships in German society and how the family firm serves both as a model of and a model for the family. He also focuses on theories of kinship and exchange.
Anna Offit received an MPhil in Social Anthropological Analysis from the University of Cambridge in 2009, and a J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2012 after which she was admitted to the New York and New Jersey Bar. Anna's dissertation on federal jury selection will be the first anthropological study of the United States jury system. She is interested in exploring similar themes abroad, and has been awarded a 2015-2016 Fulbright grant to expand her research to Norway-- a country contemplating the elimination of the jury system.
Lindsay examines conflicts around oil and gas development, particularly in the United States and Ecuador. Over the last nine years she has conducted a number of ethnographic investigations focused on debates about toxicity, liability, and human rights in relation to major oil spills. Her investigative work draws from previous experience as a multi-media correspondent out of Ecuador and from various collaborative relationships with non-profit and community-led organizations concerned with peace and justice. She has published with TeleSUR English, RealitySandwich.com, the United Nations Association, and New York University’s Journal of Global Affairs and has provided documentary post-production translation and editing support for Mangusta Productions. Prior to coming to Princeton, she worked on solar energy policy analysis for the City of Boulder and on a multi-disciplinary initiative to research the effects of hydraulic fracturing on Colorado communities at CU-Boulder’s Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences. She received her BA from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Studies and completed her MA in anthropology with a certificate in environment, policy & society at CU-Boulder. She is currently a Lassen Fellow in Latin American Studies.
“The whole problem in these small towns is the families that move in to be close to the inmates,” a Corrections Officer said to me in the prison’s parking lot. According to the muscly officer, the prison itself was not “the problem.” Instead, what followed the prison into town was “the problem.” Contrary to popular opinion, prisons are not stagnant structures, concrete and barbwire fences, that simply house transplanted offenders and employ local residents. Instead, prisons are things that leak from all sides—Corrections Officers that go back to their neighborhoods and families after work, “illicit economies” that attach to the prisons and create new pathways in these towns, and families that move from urban environments to these rural environments, to name only a few. My ethnographic fieldwork is an exploration of these things that leak. My project is an attempt to expand on the research revolving around the Prison Industrial Complex. Much of the current conversation explores the topic as if it is self-contained and stable, a phenomenon to be studied on its own. And though this research has been and continues to be invaluable for understanding the larger, historical picture, it leaves many lingering questions. What happens in the actual (often rural) towns where federal prisons are built? When a family with an imprisoned loved one moves to the “prison town,” how do they negotiate their new landscape? These are only two (of my many and always-expanding) questions, but they help to localize the conversation that can sometimes appear detached and immaterial. My work is an effort to continue exploring the “whole problem” at the local level.
Daniel Polk is interested in the history and current practices of water management in the American Southwest. Informed from his past work on human rights conflicts on the U.S./Mexico border and natural resource management in Costa Rica, his research seeks to uncover the multiple regimes of power that affect fresh water's use within social, political and ecological relations.
Erin Raffety's research explores the significant growth of Chinese domestic adoption and foster care over the past two decades, and considers the intersection between traditional practices of Chinese kinship with the modern, global processes of international adoption. Her dissertation fieldwork takes place among Chinese foster families in the capital city of Nanning in the Guangxi Autonomous region of China. Ms. Raffety also holds an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a B.A. in Anthropology from Davidson College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her blog littlesacredspace.wordpress.com.
- Spring 2011. “Anthropology and Adoption: What Culture Can Teach Us.” The Adoption Constellation.
- 8 October 2010. “‘Out of the Mouths of Babes:’ Children, International Adoption, and Disaster Relief.” American Anthropological Association Blog: http://blog.aaanet.org/2010/10/08/international-adoption-and-disaster-relief/
- Spring 2010. “Cultural Contingencies: U.S.-China Adoptions Reconsidered.” Princeton Asia Review. Princeton University. Vol.2 (2):5-6.
Sebastian Ramirez is interested in the conflation of urban transformation, state intervention, displacement and citizenship. Specifically, I am interested in the ways in which internally displaced persons in Colombia come to occupy and transform spaces in the country's major cities and how their presence dovetails and/or distorts public discourses of violence and reconciliation. Furthermore, I want to explore the ways in which current displacements bring previous histories of forced movement to the fore and how the articulation of these histories can be wielded to produce new claims to citizenship and belonging.
Igor Rubinov studies the transformation of politics, policies and ecologies in the resource-poor states of post-Soviet Central Asia. His MA work focused on circulating Kyrgyz remittances as a means of reconstituting local spaces and promoting collective cohesion. His upcoming dissertation fieldwork will explore Tajik communities that navigate between international agencies and state actors to enhance ecological and cultural resources.
Migrant Assemblages: Building Postsocialist Households with Kyrgyz Remittances. Anthropological Quarterly (forthcoming).
Review of Under Solomon's Throne: Uzbek Visions of Renewal in Osh by Morgan Y. Liu. Central Asian Survey. 2013.
Joel Rozen is a former journalist whose forthcoming research considers entrepreneurship and matters of neoliberalism, hybridity, and development in post-revolutionary Tunisia. More peripherally, his interests include parallel economies, visual media, subalternity, historiography, and French colonialism. He is currently at work on an article on martyrdom and the informal telling of history following the Tunisian revolution.
Saul Schwartz is beginning fieldwork on professional legitimacy in endangered language documentation, focusing on Siouan languages and linguistics. His research interests include professional cultures, disciplinarity, expertise, and language ideology. With his advisor, he recently co-authored a review essay, “Collaborative Methods: A Comparison of Subfield Styles,” which will appear in Reviews in Anthropology 40(1). He is also working on an article about trade and material culture at Iowaville, an 18th and 19th century Ioway Indian village site on the lower Des Moines River. Alongside anthropology, he enjoys fortune cookies and country music.
Marissa Smith is writing about relationships of "international friendship," relationships which involve reckonings with difference that include work to understand and become like others as well as to cultivate trust in conditions of uncertainty. She conducted fieldwork at Mongolia's Erdenet copper-molybdenum combine, established with the Soviet Union in the mid-70s. While maintaining the enterprise's joint Mongolian-Russian ownership and management, mining "specialists" at Erdenet, hailing from a diversity of Mongolian nationalities as well as former Soviet ones, also pursue multiple research and development projects with miners from Western countries and involve themselves in nomadic pastoralism. Marissa is active in bringing this ethnographic work to bear in conversations on alterity and translation, corporations, nationalism, development, and social mobility.
Megan Steffen studies unpredictability, accountability, and trust in the People’s Republic of China. She did her fieldwork in a large city in Henan Province and on trains throughout the PRC. In addition to harboring an obsession with infrastructure in general and mass transportation in particular, she’s also interested in how the material symptoms of the PRC’s rapid economic development—such as commercial apartment complexes, increased traffic, and private dining rooms—are linked to changes in social norms and interpersonal relationships. She’s currently writing up and preparing to return to the PRC to do more research on the precariousness of personal wealth in the wake of President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.
Serena holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.Phil in Development Studies (specializing in International Health and Development Economics) from the University of Oxford. Her research gathers around the future of food systems and health, drawing from cultural and medical anthropology, international development, political economy, science and technology studies, and critical theory. Past and current projects converge on broad themes of food and nutrition security, global food infrastructures, and governance; health disparities, poverty reduction and social inequalities in cities and peri-urban locations; environmental sustainability and political ecology; as well as humanitarian assistance, community-based health models and indigeneity. In her dissertation, Serena tracks historical and emergent South-South/North-South development partnerships and technical cooperation related to global health, food aid and agriculture technologies, involving multi-sited and mixed method fieldwork in Brazil, Mozambique and the United States. In related work, Serena is also an analyst of health and food policy, social enterprise endeavors, community-based participatory action, and international philanthropy that aims to address sustainable development.
Shreya works at the intersection of visual anthropology, political anthropology and STS. She is interested in the transformation of society mediated by high-tech interventions within the spheres of healthcare, warfare, and dissent.
Shreya’s research explores the development and testing of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by engineers and the impact of these objects on the legal, cultural, political, ethical, and sensory phenomena that emerge within communities that are both directly and indirectly connected to their use. This multi-sited work seeks to engage with the politics of borders, the visualizations of bodies, as well as the relationships between technoscientific and state imaginaries.
Mazdak Tamjidi received his BA in Anthropology from University of Tehran. His research interests include temporality, social movements, political and economic anthropology, critical theory, political economy, social theory and historical anthropology.
William Vega works on handicap accessibility and caretaking in France, where he explores the relationships that develop between the handicapped and their at-home caretakers. A central concern of the work is asking what happens when care and empathy are envisioned as a service and how these feed into larger debates in France and beyond about notions of autonomy, care, and advocacy. France’s commitment to social care has created the possibility for access to at-home care in ways unimaginable in the US, except among the especially wealthy; yet this very commitment leads to fraught and contradictory relationships when liberal individuality is brought into question by the necessity for dependence on another, whether that other is envisioned as a caretaker or the state itself. In light of the post-colonial context in which largely West and North African immigrants migrate in order to care for French nationals, notions of dependence and vulnerability also demand special attention. Other interests include phenomenology, ethics, and fieldwork methods.
Alexander Wamboldt (post-fieldwork) works on law, kinship, and ritual in Israel. He examines the confluence of neoliberal lifestyles and romantic ideals with legal and religious regimes upon the lived experiences of individuals and families. He is interested in how people navigate their personal trajectories through these institutions throughout their lifetimes, and how these choices affect the nation-state, governance, Judaism as a religion and as a culture, gender, ritual meaning, and the assemblage of the social.