Dissertations

 

Dianne M. Schindler

Transgender Kinship: Transforming Family

This dissertation focuses on the process of negotiating and redrawing concepts of relatedness, kinship, group membership, and citizenship for transgender people. Examining relationships in the context of family, friendship, interest groups, and law, I explore how relationships are defined, challenged, and transformed in the context of gender transition. By conducting structured interviews of transgender people and their family members, and engaging in participant observation in support group meetings, conferences, and social events, I was able to collect a robust data to utilize in my analysis. I sought to understand the ways in which transgender people identify the place of kinship in their own lives. My analysis includes an examination of how transgender people experience social connections unbounded by notions of kinship, and how those relationships (friendship, transgender connections, and citizenship) are experienced and conceptualized. I pay careful attention to the power dynamics that are embedded in relationships, and the ways in which they are transformed during and after gender transition. I argue that as transgender people move from one gender to another, they find themselves in a state of liminality, where familial, social, and legal rights can no longer be claimed or guaranteed, but must be petitioned for instead. This difference between ‘claiming’ rights and ‘petitioning for’ them is the difference between having ones dignity recognized, and having it denied (Osiatynski 2009). This loss of power and dignity has a significant impact on transgender peoples’ well being and how they conceptualize and challenge hegemonic notions of transgender identity. The ways in which transgender people are portrayed collectively has a significant impact on how individuals conceptualize their own place in the family and in society. The collective tendency to portray transgender people as ‘outside’ of the family has a negative impact on transgender notions of selfhood and contradicts the lived experience of transgender people. By closely examining the lived experience of kinship connections and social inclusion, I work to expand understandings of kinship, family, friendship, and citizenship in the context of transgender lives.

Tiziana Matarazzo

Micromorphological Analysis of Activity Areas at the
Early Bronze Age (EBA) Village of T.A.V. Afragola in Southern Italy

In Europe, the Early Bronze Age (EBA) is an important transitional period characterized by emergent social complexity, the beginning of labor specialization, and arguably, an increasingly stratified social system. There is controversy surrounding the timing of these events on the Campania Plain of southern
Italy however, and some scholars argue that this level of social complexity did not occur until the Middle Bronze Age. This research utilizes micromorphological analysis of thin sections of undisturbed sediment collected at the EBA village of Treno Alta Velocitá (TAV) Afragola.on the Campania Plain in Southern Italy to understand how people used living spaces, organized daily activities and related to other members of the village. In particular, micromorphology is used to identify the type and range of human activities, the function of features and buildings, and the intensity of site occupation. The remarkable preservation of the village of TAV Afragola and neighboring sites on the Campania Plain is unmatched in Europe. The site was buried in nearly a meter of volcanic ash during the Avellino eruption of Vesuvius in 3,950 cal BP. The site boasts a large number of well-preserved structures, built features and organic materials and thus provides a laboratory-type setting in which to investigate variability in artifact distribution and activity areas across a single village.

Micromorphological analysis reveals a general lack of material remains embedded in the occupation surfaces at Afragola. This result is surprising, given the complexity of the site as evidenced in the multiple buildings utilized for storage and domestic activities. More specifically the presence of large quantities of burned seeds in one structure suggests that Afragola was an established agricultural village.
One explanation for this disparity is that the village was occupied only briefly before the Avellino eruption destroyed it. No clear archaeological or micromorphological evidence for socio-economic differentiation or specialized production of materials, such as metals or pottery, has emerged from Afragola. Each domestic structure at Afragola is equipped with a calcareous fire ash accumulation and a concotto, a surface deliberately constructed for cooking. Both features suggest that small-scale pyrotechnological activities routinely occurred within these domestic structures. There is little evidence of variation within the activity areas of all domestic buildings, suggesting that their use was not specialized. Similar use of the habitation structures and the domestic nature of the activities that occurred there suggest a lack of social differentiation or social hierarchy. The micromorphological analysis at Afragola provides a unique example of a briefly occupied agricultural village with what appears to be minimally stratified social organization during the EBA of southern Italy.

Robert Allen Booth

Museums at the Margins of Europe: Slovenian Museums as Sites of Identity Apprehension

In this dissertation Robert Booth examines historical and ethnographic museums as sites of national identity construction within the Republic of Slovenia. He demonstrates that there are ambiguities felt by many citizens regarding Slovenian ethnic or national identity as well as anxieties tied to Europeanization. As museums are considered important “memory institutions” that shape civic and national identity, Robert Booth approaches the question of whether and how such historical and ethnographic museums’ identity narratives influence museum attendees. He utilizes a mixed-methods approach, integrating both quantitative and qualitative methods, combining survey data with factor analysis, cultural domain analysis, and both ethnographic and discourse analytic approaches to demonstrate that the apprehension of identity is predicated on particular historical, socio-political, emotional and economic contexts.

Specifically, his research demonstrates that transmission and reception of Slovenian national identity discourses in museums are complicated by a number of factors. First, what would otherwise be a typical, nationalistic valorization of peasantry is complicated due to folkloric and historical narratives of rebellion and resistance that challenge central authority. Additionally, polarizing histories of World War Two with its conflict between partisans and collaborators/anti-communists resulted in a societal schism that resonates to this day. Also, nationalist veneration of the Slovenian natural world is characterized by a moralized ordering of place reflected in popular discourses of disdain for all that is “southern” (namely from Former Yugoslavian countries). However, such disdain also clashes with nostalgic discourses of yearning for a shared Yugoslav past. Robert Booth’s findings further point to locally-held moral-emotional constructs that also influence discourse reception and transmission. Finally, the author suggests a model of discourse transmission informed by semiotics to illustrate why identity discourses may or may not take hold within the museum setting.

Philip Jacob Glauberman

Middle Palaeolithic Regional Land-Use and Behavior in Dutch and Belgian Limburg: Integrating Data from Upland Open-Air Sites

The Palaeolithic archaeological database of northwest Europe is biased towards evidence originating in caves, rockshelters, fluvial, and littoral settings. Theories of regional land use patterns are therefore based on samples of behavioral residues from only certain parts of the habitable environment. At the same time, the most abundant and often ignored evidence for Palaeolithic land use is found in upland, surface lithic assemblages. Integrating technological data from the uplands of river catchments is necessary to complement this unbalanced picture of land use.
This dissertation presents the results of analysis of upland surface lithic assemblages in the region of Dutch and Belgian Limburg, and integrates these data with those from the lower elevation parts of the landscape to test hypotheses on land use and mobility.
It was necessary to address theoretical and substantive problems associated with the time averaged, palimpsest nature of upland surface assemblages. When scales of analysis and theoretical perspectives were adjusted to accommodate these problems, long-term patterns of regional land use behavior became identifiable and robust.
The research examines how upland assemblages vary in terms of raw material procurement, inter-site fragmentation of core reduction sequences, and patterns of artifact discard, and how this variability relates to site occupational frequency, an indicator of differential land use.
Detailed techno-typological analysis was applied to samples of lithic assemblages from 9 sites (n artifacts = 2885). Inter-assemblage comparison among upland and lowland assemblages was conducted using analyses of artifact class diversity in relation to sample size.
The results of techno-typological analysis, and comparison of artifact class diversity among upland and lowland assemblages indicates differences in site occupational frequency that describe variability in site function. Over the long time span of the Middle Palaeolithic, ‘central places’ were present in the uplands that were frequently re-occupied for a variety of purposes, whereas lowland sites in fluvial settings appear to have been occupied less frequently for specific tasks. Logistical mobility was probably more common than traditionally thought for Palaeolithic groups in the research area.
This research demonstrates that systematic analysis of Palaeolithic upland surface assemblages yields valuable data that can be integrated with those from other parts of the landscape to investigate long-term regional land use.

Katharine Brooks Richards

International Trials, Rule of Law and Local Legal Consciousness in Croatia:
Can International Justice Transform Local Norms?

In this dissertation I evaluate the efforts of international tribunals to strengthen the rule of law from the perspective of the people who were directly involved in the war crimes, whether as a victim, perpetrator, or both. My research in a small Croatian community is an investigation of the local legal consciousness to understand if tenets of the rule of law promoted by the tribunal are compatible with the prevailing norms. The focus on a community of Serb returnees and Bosnian Croat refugees highlights the concerns of minorities living in Croatia after the 1990s conflict that included ethnic cleansing, displacement and destruction of property in this area. The everyday conflicts that people must negotiate shape their views of accountability, fairness and security, all components of the rule of law.
Most rule of law initiatives concentrate on institutional reforms, but here I emphasize the importance of a transformation of norms at the local level. Only a profound understanding of the local legal consciousness will allow initiatives to effectively promote change. In this analysis the local legal consciousness in Croatia does appear to support many components of the rule of law as it is conceived by the tribunal, but it falls short of being considered a rule of law culture. There are considerable obstacles in the form of opposing norms that conflict with rule of law values. Those obstacles are (1) the nature of law, (2) ethno-religious nationalism, (3) the impact of insecurity, and (4) the lack of political agency. The role of the Croatian government, particularly in its perceived shortcomings by the public, is integral to the relationship between the international and local. My research demonstrates that there are elements of the local legal consciousness that both reinforce and oppose the strengthening of the rule law. This understanding aids an assessment of how salient rule of law initiative will be to local communities. What is at stake in this research is a fuller understanding of the apparently limited ability of the ‘international community’ to generate local support for international courts engaged in post-conflict reconstruction, reconciliation and accountability.

Nathan Wales

Ancient DNA from Archaeobotanical Remains: The Next Generation

The recovery and analysis of DNA from ancient plant remains has provided valuable insights about plant domestication, human subsistence patterns, trade and contact between past peoples, and other important archaeological questions. Although ancient DNA studies have been ongoing since the mid-1980s, high-throughput sequencing technologies now allow researchers to investigate ancient genomes more comprehensively than ever before. Instead of studying a few disparate genetic loci, entire genomes can be reconstructed, thereby identifying taxonomic affiliations of ancient specimens, revealing functional traits, and demystifying complex phylogenetic relationships with unprecedented analytical power. These “next-generation sequencing” platforms have been central in studies of ancient hominins and other extinct mammals, yet few geneticists have explored their use on archaeobotanical remains. This dissertation sets to rectify this shortcoming by discussing, exploring, and optimizing high-throughput sequencing of archaeobotanical remains. The final component of the dissertation is a case study which demonstrates how these new technologies can be used to test ancient plant remains and shed light on past human behaviors. By way of targeted capture and cutting-edge sequencing technology, a majority of the chloroplast genome was recovered from ancient grape branches from Areni-1 Cave, Armenia. The genetic signatures of these samples suggest a different grape lineage may have been used to make wine in the Late Chalcolithic (~4000 B.C) than during the Middle Bronze Age or medieval period.

John H. Shaver

The Behavioral Ecology of Fijian Religion

TReligion is a human universal yet we have little understanding of how or why religious behavior varies within populations or across the lifespan. This dissertation research, conducted in a rural village on the island of Vanua Levu, Fiji, examines several hypotheses aimed at explaining behavioral variation in ritual participation, as well as the effects of ritual participation on horticultural productivity. The Fijian religious system is syncretic and incorporates traditional ancestor beliefs and rituals into a larger Christian framework. However, individuals vary in terms of how much influence they believe their ancestors have in their lives, and strength of ancestor beliefs is negatively correlated with reported strength of Christian beliefs. For several hours each night many village men participate in kava (piper methysticum) ceremonies, ceremonies that grew out of the traditional religion and contain overtones of ancestor worship. Behavioral observations and survey data reveal that kava participation is negatively correlated with reported religiosity and observed Christian ritual practice. Moreover, hereditary rank is the most significant predictor of ritual participation: higher-ranking men participate more frequently in Christian ritual and lower ranking men participate more frequently in nightly kava ceremonies. The effect of rank is likely the result of the conversion methods of Methodist missionaries, who strategically first converted chiefs assuming that others would subsequently follow their example. Additionally, high status positions in the church are controlled by those of chiefly rank, and thus chiefs act as a constraint on all forms of ritual participation. Time allocation data show that these differences in rank and ritual participation also affect horticultural strategies and there is some evidence that participation in kava ceremonies impacts productivity. This research represents one of the first evolutionary studies of religion to examine the tradeoff between ritual participation and resource acquisition.

Benjamin Grant Purzycki

Finding Minds in the Natural World: Dynamics of the Religious System in the Tyva

Abstract: Religions, among other things, are systems that evolve to solve socioecological problems faced by communities. How do the interactions between evolved human cognition, history, and socioecology explain the content and form of religious systems? By drawing from ethnographic and experimental research conducted in the Tyva Republic, and ethnohistorical work on religious development in the region, the present work seeks to address this question. I specifically examine Tyvan beliefs and practices devoted to local spirit-masters, spirits that act as totemic guardians of particular regions and resources. In Tyva, spirits strategically reside where potential human threats to livelihood are regulated through ritual practice. Tyvans mediate spirit-masters’ knowledge-base territorially and spatially; spirit-masters are primarily concerned with ritual behavior and have a heightened knowledge-base for human activity that transpires near ritual cairns devoted to them. I also found that a spirit’s form (anthropomorphic or zoomorphic) correlates with the degree of direct, interpersonal accountability provided by a particular resource or domain. Moreover, ritual participation does have social effects. Tyvans invest high levels of trust in ethnic Tyvans who regularly make offerings at ritual cairns. In a cross-cultural analysis I found a significant suite of relationships between ritual cairn practices and pastoralism, suggesting that religious systems evolve to overcome similar socioecological problems in similar ways. In sum, my findings strongly suggest that if religion evolved to mediate social behavior, its adaptive value lies in flexibly overcoming ecological challenges inasmuch as it overcomes social ones.

Sarah Patricia Sportman

Halcyon Days: The Historical Archaeology of Community and Identity at Hammondville, New York, 1870-1900

This dissertation combines the methods of historical archaeology and ethnohistory in a community study of a late 19th century company-owned mining town with a diverse population. The village of Hammondville (1870-1900) was one of many short-lived mining towns in the Adirondack-Champlain region of upstate New York. It was built, owned and operated by the Crown Point Iron Company to facilitate their iron-ore mining enterprise and abandoned during the 1890s when that venture failed. The majority of Hammondville residents were recent immigrants from Ireland, Quebec, Sweden and England, although native-born Americans also lived and worked at the site. Hammondville residents lived in a world where people differentiated themselves and were differentiated by others based on socially constructed and culturally constituted categories of ancestry, religion and social class. These aspects of identity influenced people’s access to economic and social resources, informed their relationships and sometimes resulted in the formation of tensions and boundaries between different groups. As a result, the people of Hammondville navigated a complex social and political milieu.
This research combines the rich historical and archaeological records of Hammondville to create a multi-vocal history of the community and to shed light on the ways individuals and groups in the village forged, maintained and expressed their social identities through daily practice, enabling them to negotiate the complex landscape of a plural, paternalistic “company town.” To accomplish this, I focus on four key aspects of daily life in the village: social interactions, labor relations, cultural landscape and foodways. Historical data indicates that people at Hammondville maintained and expanded pre-existing social networks to create their own dynamic communities within the larger context of the village. These communities, based primarily in kinship, shared religious belief and common ancestry, provided people with a way to express their cultural identities while establishing a place for themselves in their new home. Archaeological assemblages recovered from four domestic sites in the village suggest that Hammondville residents also constructed and expressed their social identities materially, through the foods they ate, the material culture they used and the ways they organized their daily activities and domestic space.

Traci H. Abraham

Struggling Toward al-Andalus: An Exploration of Attitudes in Andalusia Toward Immigration from Morocco

For centuries, impoverished Andalusians from southern Spain have emigrated to the New World, northern Europe and northern Spain as both immigrants and guest workers. Spain’s transition to democracy and increasing affluence, which preceded wide-scale, rapid immigration in the 1980s, have changed this historical region of emigration forever. Today, Andalusia receives immigrants from Latin America, northern Europe, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia – with Moroccans representing one of the largest immigrant groups. Research completed in Spain to date indicates that immigrants from Morocco generally experience social and economic marginalization, and many scientific observers posit that this may be rooted in the historical and cultural context of Spain; specifically, the centuries long animosities between Catholics and Muslims on the peninsula. However, while many studies have quantitatively measured the attitudes of Spaniards toward immigration and immigrants, quantitative survey questionnaires that measured attitudes are not designed to explore cultural-type data, and so the salience of the cultural and historic contexts in informing and framing immigration from Morocco, although widely theorized, has remained unclear.
This research investigates how the macro-, meso- and micro-level context(s) of Andalusia inform and frame the way that Andalusian think about and respond to immigration. It moves beyond merely theorizing about the role of culture in informing attitudes by systematically exploring the shared meanings embedded in participants’ narratives about immigration and immigration-related issues. Data were elicited from natives of Andalusia through an open-ended qualitative interview protocol and free listing exercises. Through combining schema analysis with a political economy paradigm, data reveal a richer, more complete and accurate understanding of how culture, located at the micro-level of analysis, intersects with macro- and meso-level factors located in the historical, social, economic and political contexts of Andalusia and Spain to inform shared understandings among Andalusia’s natives regarding immigration. Findings from this ethnographic, meaning-centered approach reveal how study participants frame issues related to immigration, and ultimately how the model of integration preferred by Andalusians presents both opportunities for the integration of immigrants from Morocco while potentially placing them at risk of marginalization.

Shan-Estelle Brown

Cultural Models of Genetic Screening and Perceptions of Sickle Cell Disease in High-Risk Guadeloupean French Communities

An adult deciding to be tested for sickle cell disease considers numerous issues including an understanding of genetic inheritance, cultural values of kinship and identity, worries about stigma and discrimination, and the perceived impact of the results on the individual’s life. To test populations of citizens considered at risk, health systems at national and local levels institute screening programs to identify carriers for sickle cell trait, a genetic predisposition with the potential to pass on the disease to children if the other parent is also a carrier. These screening programs often occur as obligatory testing for newborn babies and voluntary testing for adults.
Sickle cell disease is a global illness impairing the health outcomes of children of various ethnicities and geographic origins. A number of studies on this disease only assess individuals’ biomedical knowledge. This dissertation presents a critical medical anthropological approach that critiques biomedical knowledge as the primary method to understand perceptions about a medical technology. I investigate how knowledge about sickle cell disease in an at-risk community is constructed and communicated between individuals and between institutions and individuals.
A mixed-methods strategy was used to collect quantitative and qualitative data during a field study in Guadeloupe, an overseas region of France in the West Indies. One in eight citizens is a carrier for sickle cell disease, yet less than one percent of the population annually seeks information and services. The archipelago’s colonial history continues to shape overlapping political and cultural identities of the ethnically mixed population. Results from participant observation, pile sorting, interviewing, and survey data relate sickle cell disease in relation to other important conditions. Findings also uncover conflicting attitudes about difference, interpersonal relationships and experiential knowledge, and social motivations to protect information about oneself from the community. The study suggests a need to consider broader interpretations of perceptions of self and understandings about genetic disease and associated medical technologies beyond a solely biomedical framework.

Philip J. Graham

Ubaid Agriculture at Kenan Tepe, Southeastern Turkey

The primary goals of this dissertation are: 1) to understand the agricultural system at Kenan Tepe during the Ubaid period including the types of crops grown, the agronomic methods used, and the purposes they served; and 2) to identify activity areas related to agriculture within a well preserved burnt Ubaid house. The Ubaid (7,300–6,100 BP) was a period of incipient social complexity that developed in the flat alluvial plains of southern Mesopotamia and gradually expanded north. Archaeobotanical remains from the site of Kenan Tepe in southeastern Turkey currently provide the best source of information about Ubaid period agriculture. One hundred and fifteen samples spanning four Ubaid occupation phases were recovered using flotation from a variety of contexts, including a burnt house. Although some samples were sterile, the overall botanical preservation is excellent. The remains were sorted using a stereo-zoom microscope and identified using the archaeobotanical reference collection at the University of Connecticut. Data were analyzed with a variety of statistical techniques including ubiquity, proportions, and correspondence analysis. The results were interpreted using archaeobotanical middle range theory and plant ecology. Wheat, emmer in particular, was the primary crop grown for human consumption. Two-row barley was also grown, possibly for human consumption, but dung remains suggest that it was cultivated for animal feed and was mixed with cereal straw and the occasional weed plant. Legumes are well represented: lentil and pea were grown for human consumption and small amount were fed to livestock. Data from the burnt house highlighted a number of activity areas: cereal drying and flax preparation on the roof of the structure, storage of grains and animal dung within the house structure, and late stage cereal processing on the roof. The preservation of large numbers of in situ botanical remains makes it possible to better understand the daily life of the house’s inhabitants. Consequently, this dissertation illuminates the agricultural system of Ubaid period Kenan Tepe as well as how domestic tasks were organized on the household level.

Successfully defended on 8/23/2011

Kateryna Maltseva

Values and Norms of Prosocial Behavior in Modern Sweden

My dissertation research explores the cultural meaning of prosociality in Sweden by focusing on prosocial cognition formulated as values and norms. Main questions to be examined in my dissertation are: the relationship between Swedish cultural values and norms; the impact of social support available on perceived cultural saliency of prosocial ideas; and the effects of values/norms on mental health in Sweden. The study tests the validity of the qualitative distinction between more variable individual-level values and more consensual collective-level values, assesses their differential effects on self-reported individual subjective well-being, and estimates the degree of norms/values inconsistency and its influence on mental health in the Swedish sample. Using both qualitative and quantitative methodology, cognitive data associated with prosocial ideas in Swedish society, including their structure, accessibility in recall and intergenerational transmission, as well as information on social support and psychological health status was collected during 2008-2009 in Skåne, Sweden.
The most significant findings of the study concern the following relationships. In regression analysis, strong consistent predictive effects of social support were found for prosocial values but not for norms. Collective level values scales were found to be best predicted by the degree of social support available and by demographic variables dealing with primary and secondary socialization. Remarkably, all collective level values scales, regardless of their content, formed a consistent pattern of significant positive correlations with one’s desire “to be a good person”. Having social support reliably predicted perception of prosocial ideas as salient to the Swedish society. However, when prosocial ideas were formulated as norms, one’s opting to abide by the normative prescriptions, regardless of their contents, in correlation analysis was correlated with measures of empathy, and by one’s beliefs in human goodness. With respect to mental health, correlations between some tendencies in Swedish cultural norms dimensions with negative psychological health (distrust, fear and insecurity) were found. Personal values were not linked systematically to any measurement. Social network size was not found to be a predictor of prosocial tendencies. Qualitative and quantitative results converge that, despite high consensus levels, the collective level values display more clarity than norms in Sweden.

Successfully defended on 4/27/2010

Ann M. Cheney

The Contours of Womanhood: Living with “Eating Disorders” in Southern Italy

This dissertation investigates practices of food refusal among young, educated southern Italian women coming of age in “traditional” social contexts in the region of Calabria, southern Italy.
By combining feminist theory and anthropological analysis, I provide an alternative approach to the study of “eating disorders,” disrupting prevailing psychological frameworks that pathologize women’s experiences of food refusal. Moving away from biomedical understandings of “eating disorders,” the findings are grounded in women’s narratives of suffering, illustrating that practices of food refusal are deployed by women to negotiate and contest gender and kin roles and ideologies. Focusing on how southern Italian women’s social identities are constructed and negotiated through kinship and gender relations, this dissertation illuminates the ways in which daily food rituals act as a source of authority, prestige, and power for southern Itlaian women.
Framed around the voices of women who engaged in practices of food refusal, the dissertation analyzes how disengagement from exchange networks that strengthen social identities and relationships enables a woman to change gender norms. Thus, food refusal becomes a conduit through which women can subtly disengage from being a “good” daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, aunt, and/or fiancée, and contest social relations that inevitably operate to legitimize social identities that they reject. By focusing on the social reality where the mundane—the minutiae of daily life—are played out and where relations of power are enacted, it is possible to conceptualize food refusal as a practice through which young women vie for power and authority in their everyday lives. Ultimately, this research advocates for a rethinking of the categories “anorexia,” “bulimia” and other related “eating disorders” and towards a demedicalized understanding of women’s practices of food refusal.

Successfully defended on 6/06/2010

Rebecca Beebe

Cultural Normalization of Violence among a Detention Population

Most research on the consequences of violence exposure on adolescent mental health (1) focuses on acute forms of exposure (e.g. being shot or shot at) and ignores chronic exposure and (2) treats violent behavior as a problem of delinquent individuals often ignoring the environment in which violent behaviors develop. The neighborhood effect, as outlined by W.J. Wilson, points to the cultural level and superorganic properties that affect perceptions and decisions of individuals within that neighborhood. If perceptions are developed and decisions are made in a neighborhood environment where violence is chronic, individuals’ perceptions and decisions may vary from those where violence is spurious. Perceptions and decisions of adolescents who grow up surrounded by violence may share ideas and behaviors that reflect a normalization of violence.
This dissertation examines data on violence exposure and mental health collected from 56 boys incarcerated in a CT juvenile detention center. The data reveal that the detainees are exposed to high levels of violence in their neighborhoods. The chronic violence the boys are exposed to leads to a perception of violence that differs from ‘mainstream’ culture. Detainees know about the prevailing culture and can state that culture’s version of how they should respond to potentially violent situations – nonviolently. To detainees, however, those norms belong to another world. They define violence as normal, and engage in behaviors that reflect survival strategies in a violence environment. By criteria enshrined in DSM-IV, detainees exhibit a high incidence of mental health disorders, particularly oppositional defiant disorder and other forms of psychopathology. These criteria assume the norms of the prevailing culture. They pathologize these alternative cultural understandings, which appear to constitute reasoned responses to the violent environments in which detainees consistently report growing up.

Successfully defended on 12/7/2010

Asha Cat Srinivasan Shipman

“Mate Selection in Modern India”

This dissertation examines attitudes towards mate selection and marriage among Hindus in Bangalore, India. Globalization recharged India’s economy and has perhaps provided a more permanent foothold to Western cultural practices, including those concerning mate selection and marriage. Media portray young Indian transnational workers as budding capitalists swayed by Western values, yet data assessing such a cultural transition do not exist. This study employs ethnographic and quantitative methods to assess whether young transnational employees do, in fact, think differently than their elders and their non-globalized peers. Informant groups are: Marriageable men and women (18-35) working for transnational companies and in traditional occupations and parents of marriageable children belonging to either group. Research methods include an analysis of matrimonial advertisements, semi-structured interviews, and a structured survey.Semi-structured interviews and surveys reveal significant differences between male and female marriageable children and between generations, but not based on occupation.

Matrimonials indicate a preference for caste-endogamous marriage, beautiful brides and financially-secure grooms. Parents and marriageable children differ on the criteria they consider important in choosing a spouse and on their general model of marriage. Parents favor caste-endogamous marriages arranged by family elders. Marriageable children express greater support for love marriages and strongly desire a prolonged courtship period (a modern Western practice) before making the decision to marry. Many marriageable women consider marriage an equal partnership and desire a spouse who will blend easily with friends and family. Some women are willing to risk social sanctions in order to find their perfect match on their own terms. Marriageable men desire physically attractive spouses in addition to many of the same criteria that women cite. However, for most men, conforming to their families’ wishes trumped their own preferences. I explain the differing models of mate selection and marriage as consequences of religious and cultural beliefs, economics, and evolutionary adaptation. This study contributes to the field by providing detailed, ethnographically-supported quantitative data on mate selection and marriage in contemporary Indian culture. Additionally, these findings confirm a shift in attitudes and the emergence of youthful individualism within the context of a traditionally hierarchic, patriarchic and collective society.

Successfully defended on 12/9/2010

Susan DiVietro

“Sanctions and Sanctuary” Revisited: Domestic Violence and Cultural Models of Intervention”

This dissertation investigates cultural variation in how friends and neighbors respond to domestic violence. While the social and health costs of domestic violence have been well established, most research focuses on the qualities of either the victim or the perpetrator, taking all other social interactions for granted. And while domestic violence research has revealed much about the characteristics of victims and perpetrators, interventions based on these findings have not reduced rates of violence. This may reflect a failure to incorporate into intervention policy and programs important conditions that frame domestic violence. This dissertation investigates how friends and neighbors of victims and abusers can impact violence in their communities by: 1) identifying cultural models for intervention; 2) exploring how willingness to act varies by situational factors and experience with domestic violence; and 3) assessing the influence of abuse type, relationship with person involved, and notions of blame and responsibility on action and inaction. Semi-structured vignette interviews were conducted with a sample of Connecticut residents in three communities representing various social and economic groups as well as rural and urban contrasts. Additionally, internet surveys were distributed to University of Connecticut students, faculty, and staff.

Findings identify competing cultural models for intervention. One model contends that the police should protect people from domestic violence, while an alternate model privileges the role of self and social networks in protecting domestic violence victims. A third model suggests that friends and neighbors should take it upon themselves to punish violent perpetrators. Intervention responses correspond to historical and personal trajectories. An understanding of the norms and assumptions that frame domestic violence can lead to the development of programs that encourage people to respond to violence in helpful and constructive ways.

Successfully defended on 12/16/2010

Jason Richard Mancini

“Beyond Reservation: Indian Survivance in Southern New England
and Eastern Long Island, 1713-1861”

The focus of this dissertation is the post-colonial survivance of Indian people in the New England region. Drawing from and developing local histories, this regional study integrates the varied experiences of individuals, families, and communities as they learned to live in what historian James Merrell calls the “Indians’ New World.” To understand the legacy of colonization or “invasion” in the New England region, this dissertation begins to connect Indian histories after the arrival of Europeans in the seventeenth century with those of the multi-racial and multi-ethnic “federal recognition” and “casino” Indians of the late twentieth century. In doing so, I examine and contextualize some of the more elusive aspects of Native American ethnohistory. To wit, this study addresses how Indians negotiated race, ethnicity, and identity, their varied responses to land dispossession, and their maintenance of social and kinship networks on land and at sea during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

In this dissertation, I look beyond traditional approaches to Indian history. I argue that three interrelated factors formed the essence of Merrell’s so called “new core”: 1) continued connection to homeland (commonly, but not exclusively, reservations) 2) maintenance and expression of a particular Indian identity, and 3) the maintenance of social networks. While these components do not reflect a “new core,” per se, they were (and continue to be) aspects of Indian society and culture that have both persisted and have been overlooked in terms of the significance in the continuity of socio-cultural patterns. Homeland, identity, and kinship. Together, these were the few things Indians continued to share and over which they could individually or collectively exercise power.

Historians and anthropologists have approached New England ethnohistory in very distinct and, only occasionally, intersecting ways. I endeavor, in this dissertation, to transcend these disciplinary differences, building on the strengths of each but mindful of their weaknesses. This one-hundred-fifty year study will focus on aspects of Indian history that are rarely considered together: land, gender, mobility, labor, identity, race, rights, ethnic boundaries, and intercommunity connections. The central and unifying theme is community survivance.

Successfully defended on 6/16/2009

Blaire Ort Gagnon

“Powwow Arts and Crafts Markets and the
Engendering of Social Relationships”

Over the past quarter century, the scholarly work of George Marcus, Michael Fisher, Akhil Gupta, James Ferguson and others have challenged anthropology to think outside the box and called for experimental studies that could represent how local cultural worlds are embedded in complex and impersonal systems of political economy. What these authors saw as challenging was to represent how outside forces are integral parts of the construction and constitution of the inside, “the cultural unit itself” (Marcus and Fisher 1986: 77). In this dissertation, I have attempted to answer this call by focusing on contemporary powwow arts and crafts markets and the processes that influence the engendering of the social identities and relationships of its participants. It takes as its unit of study contemporary market participants, specifically organizing committees and arts and crafts vendors, and other stakeholders that have participated in the constitution of the powwow domain over the past century.
Central to this analysis has been a focus on how bordering practices—social, spatial, and temporal—delineate, and thus engender, difference among powwow participants and society at large through the circulation of powwow commodities as well as struggles over what can and cannot be made, sold, and by whom. I have employed ethnohistorical and multi-sited ethnographic methodologies in order to understand and ground historically the broader cultural structures that influence the contemporary powwow market. I suggest that the powwow market is part of the larger Indian Art field of cultural production, which over the past 100+ years has created a hierarchical structure of markets for Indian material culture that has marginalized the powwow arts and crafts market, its peoples, and objects. While powwow practices re-inscribe a trope of authenticity upon which the Indian Art field is constituted, they also counter these processes of marginalization through the creation of a robust and flexible community through criteria of membership based in ideas of kinship. Therefore, I argue, powwow markets are paradigmatic sites for understanding the struggles of post-colonial peoples reconstructing their identities and sense of place.

Successfully defended on 6/06/2009

Lara Louise Watkins

“Beyond Ethnicity as Risk Factor: Biocultural Context and Correlates of Type 2 Diabetes in a Cambodian American Community”

Clinicians and community leaders report diabetes as a substantial health threat within Cambodian American communities 25 years after resettlement. While ethnic minorities disproportionately suffer from diabetes, there is little research investigating the socio-cultural context of diabetes within refugee communities. While genetics may predispose an individual to a particular disease, the physical and social environments lead to its embodiment. Given a history of trauma and migration, this biocultural research uses a multi-theoretical framework to explore diabetes embedded in the larger experiences of Cambodian Americans in Southern New England. In addition to established risk factors, the research investigates the contribution of mental health, the status syndrome (those with lower status are at risk due to limited control and decreased social participation) and cultural consonance (the ability to live according to the standards of a culture) to diabetes risk. Data were elicited from adults in semi-structured interviews on explanatory models of diabetes, and in structured interviews targeting the experience of established and additional culturally mediated risk factors for diabetes. Cambodian American cultural models of diabetes are compared to a general American sample.

Grounded theory was used to elicit themes for semi-structured interview data. Correlation and logistic regression analyses were used for structured interview data.
Both the Cambodian and general American samples drew on biomedically accepted causes and symptoms of diabetes; yet, Cambodians discussed mental health associations, while the general American sample focused on physical symptoms. Cambodian Americans experience a variety of health concerns in the context of past experiences in Cambodia and current experiences in urban America. Family history and symptoms of depression are key predictive variables of diabetes status for this sample of Cambodian Americans. As an adaptation to the reality of life in the United States, diabetes may be used as an idiom of distress. The findings suggest target areas for the long-term health of refugees with overlapping, chronic physical and mental health concerns. The research contributes to an understanding of socio-cultural factors in chronic disease and health disparities.

Successfully defended on 10/31/2009

Elaine M. Bennett

“Understanding Childhood Malnutrition in a Maya Village in Guatemala:
A Syndemic Perspective”

This dissertation examines the social, political ecological, economic and cultural context of childhood malnutrition in a Maya village in the western highlands of Guatemala. Considering childhood malnutrition to be the result of a combination of ecological factors, including human political, economic, and cultural systems and biotic and abiotic environmental factors, I use the UNICEF conceptual framework for understanding childhood malnutrition to structure an ethnographic analysis of the situation in the village of Santa Cruz la Laguna. This dissertation also specifically examines a juncture of this framework, the relationship between maternal education and child care behaviors and nutrition status. The results show that maternal education was not strongly correlated with improved child nutrition status, nor did it significantly change the way women in Santa Cruz fed their children. These results may be explained with reference to the high incidences of stunting (70%) and underweight (32%) among children between six and 36 months and the ethnographic data which indicates high exposure to multiple interacting factors that lead to malnutrition and poor quality of education. In the field site, impoverished economic conditions and geographic isolation contributed to food insecurity and flawed infrastructure for environmental sanitation increased residents’ exposure to pathogens. Poor soil quality and small land holdings reduced possibilities for household food production by means of subsistence agriculture, gardening, and animal husbandry and also forced reliance on purchased food. Within households, common care practices including late introduction of complementary foods, laissez-faire feeding style for infants and toddlers, high intake of sugars and avoidance of fat resulted in developmentally inappropriate and insufficient diets for children in the vulnerable 6-36 month age range. Household food storage and hygiene practices also presented ample opportunity for cross-contamination and food borne illness. The complex set of interactions between economic factors, social dynamics, and local child care and feeding practices, led me to the realization that addressing childhood malnutrition can best be approached from a syndemics orientation. I argue that this orientation can build on existing knowledge regarding the determinants of childhood malnutrition and be used to promote and guide publicly owned, systemic changes that provide both short-term, stop-gap solutions and long-term, sustainable solutions to preventing childhood malnutrition and its related malefic effects.

Successfully defended on 4/30/09

Akeia A. Benard

“The Free African American Cultural Landscape at Newport, RI, 1774-1826”

The dissertation examines the process of community integration at Newport during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the development and maintenance of an African American elite, and community disintegration in the form of repatriation of community leaders to Africa through documentary evidence and material culture. The dissertation also examines the nature and scale of social interaction—such as community events, marriage patterns and neighborhood development—within the African American community between approximately 1774 (the year of the first census of free African Americans in Newport) and 1826 (the year community leaders repatriated to Liberia). This analysis will be placed within the context of contemporary theory in African American Ethnohistory and the presentation of African American history in Newport. Census documents, diaries, probates, deeds, and correspondences of the Free African Union Society of Newport offer primary accounts of the lifeways of African Americans in Newport during this time period.
While an African American community developed out of the recognition of a common plight with African-descended peoples throughout the globe and within Newport during the seventeenth century, this dissertation explores the emergence and mechanisms of social stratification within the African American community and the negotiation of racial and class identities. This dissertation serves as a critical and reflexive assessment of African American history in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, specifically critiquing the absence of African American history in Newport public memory, tourism, and the landscape.

Successfully defended on 5/8/2008

James Cedric Woods

Contemporary Native American tribes of southern New England:
the Mashantucket Pequot of Connecticut and the Mashpee Wampanoag of Massachusetts

Contemporary Native American tribes of southern New England have been subjected to multiple waves of colonization, warfare, and disease, yet still manage to persist. This persistence is due not just to their adaptive ability in relation to the changes in their physical environment but also to their ability to change and adapt to the new social and political order in which they live. This dissertation is a study of how two of these tribes—the Mashantucket Pequot of Connecticut and the Mashpee Wampanoag of Massachusetts—have adapted the structure of their governments to deal with various colonial, state, town, and federal entities. It is a study of both change and continuity, as these tribes chose what worked and discarded failed strategies in order to ensure their survival.

Successfully defended in 2007

Candace Storey Alcorta

“Youth, Religion, and Resilience”

The incidence of depression and associated mental and behavioral disorders has increased globally over the past several decades and continues to increase in both developed and developing nations. These disorders constitute a major health risk and are particularly prevalent among adolescents. From 1960 to 1989 the rate of suicide among young people in the United States increased by 160% and continues to be one of the leading causes of death among adolescents. Not all adolescents subjected to risk factors develop depression. Accumulating research suggests that one factor that may contribute to adolescent resilience is religious involvement. The current study was undertaken in order to the examine effects of adolescent religious involvement on resilience, and to identify specific elements of religion that may contribute to those effects. Preliminary research consisted of a survey of 310 Connecticut university students. Results suggested beneficial effects of religion on depression and demonstrated a statistically significant effect of participation in religious ritual on ongoing religious involvement. The second and third phases of this study involved participant observation, interviews, and surveys of youth at church and school sites located in Connecticut and Florida. Data collected were statistically analyzed and effects of religious practices on religious beliefs were examined. Youth religion “cultures” were identified and compared in relation to daily activities, problem solving strategies, and mood variables. Findings indicated significant effects of religious belief and involvement in each of these domains. Youth who reported no religious involvement or belief were less likely to talk with friends when solving problems, less likely to spend time on family activities, and less likely to feel happy. These adolescents also reported greater difficulty concentrating than other teens in this study. Religiously involved youth were more likely to spend time on family activities, talk with friends to solve problems, feel calm and happy, and were less likely to ignore problems. This study identified specific elements of religious involvement that contribute to adolescent resilience by enhancing social skills, expanding problem solving strategies, and increasing positive affect.

Successfully defended on 5/8/ 2006