Fung fellows to focus on ethnic politics and identities

May 29, 2015 2:30 p.m.

Six exceptional early-career scholars from around the world will come to Princeton University in the fall to begin a year of research, writing and collaboration as the third cohort of Fung Global Fellows.

The Fung Global Fellows Program, administered by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, brings together international research scholars from the social sciences and humanities around a theme.

For the 2015-16 academic year, the theme will be "Ethnic Politics and Identities" and Deborah Yashar, a professor of politics and international affairs, will direct the program.

"We live in a world where ethnic politics is deeply salient," Yashar said. "It can shape who is a citizen, how people vote, where they live, and whether they have access to quality social services, labor markets, legal recourse and social networks. While ethnic politics can construct a deep sense of identification and belonging, it can simultaneously lead to a deep sense of exclusion. Thus our very understanding of contemporary politics requires that we consider the role of ethnic politics — both as cause and consequence of the politics of contemporary nation states."  

The six fellows selected for 2015-16:

  • Sandra Brunnegger, a fellow in law and anthropology at St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom;
  • Elena Gadjanova, a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Germany and a lecturer at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Switzerland;
  • Laavanya Kathiravelu, an assistant professor in the Division of Sociology at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore;
  • Amy Niang, an assistant professor in international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa;
  • Tamara Pavasovic Trost, a junior lecturer of research methodology at the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana in Slovenia; and
  • Matthias vom Hau, an assistant professor in comparative politics at the Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals (IBEI) in Spain. 

"The Fung Program is hosting six international scholars conducting cutting-edge research on ethnic and identity politics in Africa, Asia, the Balkans, Latin America and the Middle East," Yashar said. "We are delighted to invite these talented scholars to join the Princeton community next year, where they will pursue their research, workshop their ideas and participate in various University activities."  

The program is funded by a portion of a $10 million gift from Princeton alumnus William Fung of Hong Kong that is designed to substantially increase the University's engagement with scholars around the world and inspire ideas that transcend borders.

The first group of fellows came together around the theme of "Languages and Authority" — an examination of how languages interact with political, social, economic and cultural authority. The second cohort, which is completing its work, focuses on "Global Diffusion," an examination of how certain policies, specific modes of social categorization and cultural templates spread to nations around the globe while others never catch on.

The following is more information on the newly appointed Fung fellows: 

Brunnegger received a Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Vienna in Austria. Her research interests include human rights, indigenous legal systems, environmental conflict, social movements, violence and transitional justice. Ethnographically, her research focuses on Latin America, with particular emphasis on Colombia. Her current work examines how legal discourses are underpinning the formation of political identity in Colombia.  

Gadjanova received a Ph.D. in political science from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Her research explores ethnic politics and the process of identity formation from a comparative perspective. Her publications have examined the political claims advanced by ethnic groups across a wide range of cases. She is working on a book exploring how political contenders in Sub-Saharan Africa reach across ethnic lines in places where ethnicity is salient, but there are electoral incentives to seek broader support.  

Kathiravelu received a Ph.D. in sociology from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Her research sits at the intersection of international migration and contemporary cities. Her earlier work explored connections between the rapid urban development of the Gulf emirate of Dubai and the role of migrants within those reconfigurations. Kathiravelu's current research focuses on quotidian experiences of metropolitan diversity within the highly migrant-centric city-state of Singapore.  

Niang received a Ph.D. in politics and international relations from the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. Her research is informed by a broad interest in the history of state formation and related processes. She also investigates substantive questions around theory-formation, representation and knowledge-making in and regarding non-Western societies, particularly in reference to Africa. During her time at Princeton, Niang is interested in engaging with a variety of ways of rethinking "identity politics."  

Trost received a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University. Her research focuses on constructions of ethnic identity through textbooks, media, religious institutions, sports and similar means, with a geographic focus on Southeastern Europe. At Princeton, she will examine the relationship between class, nationalism and ethnic exclusivism in the Western Balkans.  

Vom Hau received a Ph.D. in sociology from Brown University. His work is centrally concerned with the relationship between identity politics, institutions and development, with a regional focus on Latin America. He has published widely on how states construct a sense of national belonging, how civil society actors negotiate and contest official nationalisms, and to which extent ordinary citizens subscribe to official and counter-state identity projects. His most recent line of work critically re-examines the influential scholarship that establishes a negative relationship between ethnic diversity and public goods provision.