Innovation Lab Meeting Winter 2017:
Venue: DHI Conference Room Voorhies (2nd Floor)
01/27/17  Presentation by May Ee Wong (Graduate Student, Cultural Studies) @ 12 PM
02/17/17  Presentation by Christian Doll (Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology) @ 2  PM
02/24/17  Presentation by Maya Costa-Pinto (Doctoral Student, Anthropology) @ 12 PM
03/03/17  Presentation by Bidita Jawher Tithi (Doctoral Student, Geography) @ 12 PM

Past Meetings:

Reconfiguring Postcolonial Encounters: The Importance of Linguistic and Symbolic Power
Justin Lee Haruyama (PhD Student, Anthropology)
05/20/2016  @ DHI Conference Room Voorhies (2nd Floor), 12-1 PM
Pay Day

I explore how Pierre Bourdieu and Frantz Fanon’s theories on language can be applied to a social situation in which the linguistic market is not a unified one and, indeed, where the economic market and the linguistic/symbolic market are severely at odds with one another. Specifically, I look at the case of Chinese investors in Zambia and consider the role that language politics play in shaping the frequently violent reaction Zambians have to Chinese investment within their country. Though in Western media accounts these Chinese investments are frequently characterized as being “neocolonial” in nature, the language dynamics at play are a far cry from Frantz Fanon’s description of how language became a tool of imperial domination in an earlier moment of European colonialism. Instead of fetishizing the Chinese language, Zambians reject it, and indeed express deep resentment and hostility towards the Chinese for their failure to master English before coming to Zambia. Thus, Zambians seem to be fetishizing the language imposed upon them during an earlier colonial moment (that of British imperialism), while explicitly rejecting the language from an (allegedly) contemporary neocolonial intervention. Accordingly I argue that, though Chinese investors wield an exceptional amount of economic and even political clout, they are fundamentally lacking in the linguistic and symbolic capital necessary to cement their dominant (and dominating) status within Zambia. I will further argue that this lack of linguistic and symbolic capital constitutes one of the primary sites of difference between contemporary Chinese involvements in Zambia and earlier practices of European colonialism. This may then explain why Zambian resistance to and resentment of the Chinese is so fierce, despite the fact that these Chinese involvements are much less intrusive into Zambian lives than European colonialism ever was.

How “Thong Piny” Became “Juba Na Bari”:Ethnicity and Futurity in Globalized South Sudan
Christian Doll (PhD Candidate, Anthropology)
05/06/2016  @ DHI Conference Room Voorhies (2nd Floor), 2-3 PM

Doll Innovation Lab Just Photo

Juba, the capital city of newly independent South Sudan, has seen its population explode in the decade since war ended in 2005. A single neighborhood exemplifies the divergent experiences of South Sudan’s recent history that have given way to competing interpretations of the emerging South Sudanese state and its future. Called by two competing, historically-rooted names in two different South Sudanese languages, the neighborhood of “Thong Piny” or “Juba Na Bari” has become home to people from every part of South Sudan as well as to foreign embassies and NGO compounds, embodiments of the vast international investment in the new country. In discussing the disparate experiences of and activities in this neighborhood and in Juba more generally, this paper will show how Jubans are daily engaged in imagining and creating the future through building global connections, creating alternative infrastructures, and spatializing memories. Doing show will demonstrate how futurity is central to state-making and urban life in contexts of political and economic precarity in Africa and beyond.


Reimagining the political ecology of environmental risks and place-making in Chittagong,Bangladesh and its location in the Indian Ocean World: perceptions of contemporary vulnerabilities and historical memory

Bidita Tithi (PhD Candidate, Geography)

 04/11/2016 @ DHI Conference Room Voorhies (2nd Floor), 2-3 PM


Chittagong, the southeastern part of Bangladesh, is currently widely acknowledged as one of the places which will be drastically affected by various environmental risks such as climate change in the near future (IPCC, 2007). Most current approaches to environmental risk mitigation plans to cope with the current and future environmental risks are based on and limited by geographically categorizing regions according to their elevation and proximity to the sea.  Furthermore, the historic connections and shared experiences between the places are often ignored. The aims of this paper is to unsettle the current ways of thinking about the Chittagong region and its people by presenting a different way of thinking about historical and the current risks, and different geographies (such as seaports and the hills) in Bangladesh. The study is based on a study of two regions of Chittagong: Cox’s Bazar, a historical port, and Bardarban, a hilly region often described as a remote outskirt or the borderlands of Bangladesh (Shamsuddoha, Hossain, & Shahjahan, 2014). In particular, this paper considers how a focus on the situation of the two regions in the Indian Ocean worlds can foster different thinking about the political ecology of the region. The Indian Ocean worlds is a particularly powerful concept as it is a network of historical connections and a powerful heuristic device (Prestholdt, 2015), especially for understanding environmental risks.

I look at the two places and the day-to-day lives of the people in these places in relation to the various risks that they experience with a focus on an intersectional understanding of the complex social, cultural, economic, political and environmental risks experience. By bringing together the two places, I seek to find out the possible rationalities between these ‘neighbors’ in the Indian Ocean worlds (Simone, 2010)  and which have a long history of (inter)relations, movement and connections, especially since the British Raj (Amrith, 2013; Sen, 1981; Sengupta, 2011). The paper discuss how historical risks and disasters (such as famine, flooding, cyclones, riots, and wars) shape the local peoples’ attitude towards the current and future climate change effects. The paper shows that it is important to understand how the people and communities use their past to understand the turbulent present and future.

The Fluid Body

Christopher Miller (PhD Student, Religion)
03/02/2016 @ 2215 Hart Hall, 12-1 Pm 

IMG_0496How does the concept of a fluid body provide us with a template for understanding South Asia’s relationship to other ethnographic sites in the Indian Ocean World (IOW) and beyond? Following my own traveling ethnographic research through several IOW sites, my presentation suggests that the “fluid body,” grounded in yoga metaphysics, produces an elemental landscape within contemporaneous worlds that connects sites both within and beyond South Asia. We’ll enter a kalaripayat community in Auroville in Pondicherry as well as the five element temples in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The idea of the fluid body can help us make analytical and ethnographic connections within and beyond the IOW, and we’ll thus conclude with a discussion regarding potential sites of future research.

Christopher Miller is a PhD student in UC Davis’s Graduate Group in the Study of Religion. Chris is interested in modern yoga as well as the interface of religion and ecology. Christopher was the past recipient of the UC Davis Provost’s Fellowship in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences as well as the Doshi Bridgebuilder Grant for his research and work with Tamil Nadu’s surfing communities.