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Dissertation Title: Imagining a New Alsace: The Branding of Place and the Production of Ethnolinguistic Identity
Description: Christa's dissertation explores the increasingly common practice of place branding through a case study in Alsace, France--a region that developed its own brand in 2012. Cities, regions, and even nations around the world have turned to place branding as a method to lure tourists, attract foreign companies and foreign direct investment. Such campaigns typically seek to reframe local heritage and cultural difference as attractive, consumable, and unique to international markets. Alsace is a particularly complex example of place branding for its historical and still contentious cultural and linguistic diversity. With the adoption and implementation of the 2016 French regional reform, which reorganized France's 22 metropolitan regions into 13, fusing the recently branded Alsace with two neighboring regions, branding Alsace became all the more complex. Over 12 months of fieldwork funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Christa's dissertation research tracks the forms of Alsatianness--particularly those marked as linguistic--produced through branded representations of the region and its inhabitants, as well as the ways such narratives are circulated, ignored, or reconfigured by the population they are intended to represent. Through ethnographic interviews, participant observation, and linguistic landscapes analyses, Christa found that brand identities produced by a regional elite are often repurposed, ignored, or reinterpreted to fit local contexts, often regardless of the original intent of the brand.
Additional Expertise: Cultural and linguistic anthropology; language ideology; language commodification and linguistic materiality; promotional culture; nation branding; anthropology of Europe; ethnographic research methods
Dissertation Title: The Cultural and Economic Logic of Small-Scale Farming
Description: My dissertation is a political economic study of a Small-Island Developing State in the Caribbean. I explore why agricultural producers remain committed to small-scale farming when participation appears to not be in their economic interest. Using participant observation, interviews, and spatial analysis in ArcGIS, I will analyze small-scale agriculture and trace the island's food and economic flows. The findings will contribute to debates in economic anthropology about autonomy, food security, land and labor practices, and globalization.
Additional Expertise: Caribbean Anthropology; Economic Anthropology; Migration; Diaspora; Transnationalism; Agricultural Development
Dissertation Title: An engaged ethnography of jail reform in Massachusetts
Description: Justin's dissertation explores how formerly-incarcerated individuals become involved in organizing to confront state violence. The project seeks to identify what factors facilitate the inclusion of lived knowledge in reform work, and what factors exclude those who have been directly impacted from leading these efforts. The project is informed by several years of direct participation in jail-related organizing and prisoner reentry support projects based in Western Massachusetts, including community organizations, activist networks, a books-to-prisoners project, and pedagogical and mentoring initiatives. In addition to considering how local practices of imprisonment are informed by broader trends of racial violence, social discipline, and exploitation, this dissertation brings an analysis of the historical and cultural conditions that have shaped jail reform in New England, including ongoing projects of settler colonization, religious evangelicalism, industrialization, eugenics, and progressive and radical political activism. Working within and across academic, non-profit, and grassroots organizations, this project puts forward an explicit consideration of the fraught, and contradictory politics of "collaboration" to ask who defines jail reform, and whom does it benefit.
Additional Expertise: Protest, Direct Action, Anthropology of Activism, Engaged Ethnography, Feminist and Decolonizing Anthropology
Dissertation Title: What will you do here? Dignified Work and the Politics of Mobility in Serbia
Description: My research is animated by an ongoing interest in how young people make sense of their life chances and choices in contexts of social, political, and economic uncertainty. My dissertation explores this question among urban, university-educated youth in Belgrade, Serbia. In recent years, the country has quietly climbed to the top of global brain drain rankings, generating heightened political concern over the potential migration of the educated and ambitious. My research critically interrogates the politics of "brain drain" as a lens through which to bring broader socio-economic issues into focus; in particular, expectations and values of work in the global economy. In analyzing the aspirations and plans for departure of youth eager to forge their futures abroad, as well as exploring what it means to stay in a context so many others leave, I bring insight into cultural meanings of mobility, shifting configurations of middle-classness, and conceptions of agency from the vantage point of the European periphery. PhD expected May 2019.
Additional Expertise: migration and mobility, cultures of work, middle-classness, policy and governance, temporality, ethnographic research methods, postsocialist Eastern Europe
Dissertation Title: Recollections: Memory, Materiality, and Meritocracy at the Dr. James Still Historic Office and Homestead
Description: Marc Lorenc (Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Massachusetts-Amherst) is the founder and creator of the Dr. James Still Community Archaeology Project, a community based participatory research project in Medford, NJ. His dissertation explored how memory, materiality, and meritocracy articulate together to ingrain a meritocratic subjectivity at the Dr. James Still Historic Office and Homestead. Using a combination of archaeological excavations, documentary research, and ethnography, he explored how cultural artifacts shape and influence the way visitors interact with Dr. Still’s success story. Specifically concentrating on how meritocracy manifests physically in our built environments, he analyzed how our perception of “hard work”, “opportunity”, and “just desert” is shaped by our material attainments and conditions. He is currently exploring ways in which meritocratic views of distributive justice can shift towards community centered paradigms via the exploration of alternatives such as cooperatives, universal basic income, and participatory governance.
Additional Expertise: A historical archaeologist by training, his background in four-field anthropology intersects with various research interests including: Meritocracy, Materiality, Contemporary Archaeology, Consumerism, Memory Studies, the Archival Turn, Distributive Politics and Justice, Moral Economy, African Diaspora, Community-Based Participatory Research, Critical Race Theory, Cultural Hegemony, Black Radical Tradition, Alternative Economies, Participatory Governance, Business Anthropology, Popular Culture, Film Theory and Criticism, Board Games, Design and User Experience Research, Digital Anthropology, and Disaster Anthropology.
Dissertation Title: The Politics of Return: Migration, Race, and Belonging in Russia's Far East
Description: Lauren's dissertation examines how Russian officials manage diversity through a case study of the Resettlement of Compatriots Program in eastern Russia. On paper, the compatriots program appears to be a white, Slavic solution to Russia's demographic crisis. However, based on 13 months of ethnographic research, funded by SSRC, Wenner-Gren, and Fulbright, Lauren found that a broad range of participants qualify. "Resettlers" (pereselentsy) range from Ukrainian refugees and South American Old Believers, who are promoted as the ideal Slavic immigrants, to Central Asian migrant workers, who are hidden in program materials but only too visible "black" and "illegal" in popular discourses. Lauren's dissertation explores the paradox between policy presentation and implementation to argue that these tensions are perhaps intentional. By promoting the program as Slavic, government officials appeal to popular xenophobia while simultaneously responding to Russia's demographic crisis and the real needs of immigrant groups already living in the Russian Far East.
Additional Expertise: Political anthropology, migration, citizenship, race and ethnicity, national identity, Russia, Central Asia, United States, qualitative and ethnographic methods
Dissertation Title: The Possibilities of Protocols: Pathways to Relational Knowledge Sharing in a Settler Colonial Context
Description: This dissertation investigates the growing use of protocols globally as flexible non-legal tools for relationship building and issue resolution. Protocols are sets of guidelines that define appropriate behavior according to the cultural conventions and principles of one or more groups. What makes a study of protocols so interesting is that they are increasingly being utilized for negotiating cultural rights in multiple contexts including biodiversity conservation, the arts, trade, archives and heritage management. This multi-faceted study examines how protocols shift power relations and information flows between groups with vastly different cultural perspectives and socio-economic power.
Additional Expertise: Indigenous Research Methods, Ethnography, Community Based Participatory Research, Documentary Research, Policy Research, Textual Analysis, Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD), Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis, Survey Methods, Interviewing, Teaching, Course Development, Digital Content, Social Media Analytics, Application Design, Database Design, Product Management, Archaeology, Proposal Writing, Technical Writing, Editing, GIS