Fellows

2020-2021

Sarah O'Sullivan is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology and completing a collaborative specialization in Global Health at the University of Toronto. Her research responds to long-held assumptions about aid dependency and HIV stigma in post-conflict societies. She is particularly interested in how a history of HIV-exceptionalism in the Acholi region of northern Uganda has influenced current politics of post-conflict ethical living for HIV-positive Acholi people. Sarah’s project is based on archival and long-term ethnographic research in Uganda since 2011. Her research reveals that HIV stigma persists in Acholi, in part, due to a history of an over-saturated—yet incredibly uneven—landscape of humanitarian and development aid where an HIV-positive status often opened doors to material aid not afforded to others.

Sarah commits herself to promoting and engaging with ethical, anti-colonial, anti-oppressive research and teaching practices and has taught several courses both at the undergraduate and graduate level that interrogate colonial epistemology. She was also a visiting lecturer at Gulu University in Uganda where she taught a course about the social determinants of health to the Master of Medical Anthropology and International Health student cohort.

Sarah regularly gives guest lectures to health care providers and development workers both within Canada and Uganda where she talks about HIV, structural violence, and decolonization. She is a graduate associate at the UTSC Centre for Critical Development Studies, a former New College Senior Doctoral Fellow, and is currently the Director for Got Anthropology, a public speaker series that seeks to make anthropology accessible to the public.

Gloria C. Pérez-Rivera is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at Vanderbilt University. She was trained as a physician in Colombia and practiced for ten years before moving to North America, where she earned a B.A. in sociocultural anthropology from UTSC and an M.A. in medical anthropology from the University of Toronto, St. George. Gloria’s doctoral research focuses on relations of credit and debt in the lives of people internally displaced during the Colombian conflict from rural regions to cities. This work examines how the urban peripheries where displaced people settle constitute financial frontiers where poor people become entangled in relations of debt and credit with predatory illicit narco-paramilitary moneylenders and licit financial institutions. While both illicit and licit sources of credit are exploitative, the cash that narco-paramilitary money lenders provide allows thousands of people to work in informal economies and to subsist. Exploring these complexities ethnographically, Gloria’s research traces credit and debt relations through histories of paramilitarism, leftist guerrillas insurgencies, and state violence, drug trafficking, and money laundering to show how conflict-driven class reconfigurations and systematic land dispossession create the conditions for capital accumulation through financialization of poor populations.

Connie GagliardiConnie Gagliardi is a PhD Candidate in the Anthropology Department and in the Collaborative Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.  She has a B.A. in Art History from McGill University and her M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Toronto,  and this background informs her dissertation, which examines the traditional crafting of Byzantine iconography in the Christian Holy Land of Palestine/Israel and its contemporary resurgence amongst Palestinian Christians. Connie presents a visual economy of Byzantine iconography, as it traces a Palestinian Christian cartography of iconographic imagining. The dissertation begins with a semiotic investigation of the icon of “Our Lady Who Brings Down Walls.  The icon of “Our Lady”, which was written atop the Palestinian face of the Israeli Separation Wall in Bethlehem, is explored as a material sign, manifesting presence and performing its signification in time and space as a “living presence” on the Wall. However, Connie takes the locally-made Byzantine icon to be both an ethnographic object and a site of ritualized praxis, and she argues that the crafting of iconography is an ethical poiesis (making) of the Christian theological mystery of the Incarnation. The ethical bounds of this ritualized praxis come to bear on the Byzantine icon as ethnographic object, especially as a commodity sold as souvenir in Bethlehem’s many souvenir shops. Connie’s dissertation offers a novel approach to lived religion and Christian phenomenology, and the novelty of her dissertation is ultimately predicated on her approach to material culture and materialism, as she highlights the interplay between object, human and social context. The locally-made Byzantine icon, which theologically oscillates between divine omnipresence and divine absence, is a material sign, and dynamically performs its signification upon the fractured Palestinian landscape.

1999-2000

Tori Sheldon Victoria (Tori) Sheldon is a PhD candidate in the Anthropology Department and the Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation examines the rise of Nature Cure (prakriti jeevanam) as a practice of self-healing, a mode of public health activism, and an ecumenical discipline of renunciation in Kerala, south India. Tentatively titled, “The Varieties of Natural Experiences: prakriti jeevanam self-healing as bodily and ethical repair in the wake of Kerala’s ‘Health Crisis’”, her dissertation canvasses last-resort quests for cure in the face of rising regional chronic “lifestyle” illnesses: cancer, metabolic disorders, alcoholism, organ failure, and depression. Victoria engages with narrative phenomenology in order to unpack how patients aim to become ‘self-doctors,’ taking their sickness as sign of alienation from the organic world of plants and nonhuman animals. At health education camps and residential hospitals, patients simultaneously remedy their ill bodies, the toxic environment, and moral collapse, employing the idiom of cultivating pranashakti or vitality via unmediated connection with the five natural elements (panchabootas). This health movement occurs within the historical backdrop of Gandhi’s propagation of Nature Cure as the self-healing system necessary for Indian villagers to develop swaraj or independence against colonial rule. At the phenomenal level, Victoria’s project asks: how do the hopeful, self-directed and flexible therapeutic processes of nature cures temporally frame illness experience and rearticulate ethical and political subjectivities? At the discursive level, it examines the extent to which public narratives of moral and environmental crises renegotiate these individual quests for bodily repair.

Mingyuan Zhang Mingyuan Zhang graduated from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Western Ontario in 2018. Her research explores how the meaning of “being Chinese” is culturally and socially constructed in northern Madagascar, focusing on identity-shaping encounters between Mandarin-speaking Chinese and Malagasy people in three particular contexts: 1) a sugar plantation managed by a Chinese stated-owned corporation; 2) networks of Chinese and Malagasy private businessmen who enable the movement of cheap Chinese commodities from Guangzhou, China to northern Madagascar; and 3) the classrooms of the Confucius Institute - a worldwide educational project sponsored by the Chinese government aiming to promote Chinese language and culture. She is currently working as a part-time assistant professor at Western. She speaks and writes Mandarin Chinese and English fluently, and has a working knowledge of French and the dialect of Malagasy spoken in northern Madagascar.

2018-2019

Johanna Pokorny is a PhD candidate in socio-cultural anthropology at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral thesis, which is situated at the intersection of anthropology and science studies, follows the laboratory life and knowledge production practices of a group of neuroscientists studying the self in the brain, and how their research participates in shifts in contemporary scientific notions of personhood, knowledge, and the body in North America. As the popularity of the neurosciences has increased over the past two decades, the neurosciences have become a dominant scientific framework through which to query the human. But recent changes complicate this, as with neuroplasticity, the embeddedness of the brain in its surrounds and more embodied and dynamic models of the brain are proposed and taken up by researchers. Johanna’s project focuses on a group of neuroscientists that use a variety of neuroscientific imaging and experimental techniques and claim to theorize a dynamic, embodied, cultural self in the brain. She argues that this neuroscientific knowledge production is a project in self-fashioning both as a scientific fact but also a lived reality for the scientists doing the scientific work. In other words, neuroscientists draw on and entangle themselves in neurological matters, living and becoming the embodied, dynamic brains that they study, speaking to wider issues of the lively material, ethical, and imaginary practices of doing science.

Miranda Dahlin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University. Her dissertation, tentatively titled, “To wait amongst shadows: traversing the spectral geography of state-cartel and US asylum violence in Ciudad Juárez/El Paso,” traces the experiences of several Mexican asylum seekers fleeing state-cartel violence and corruption in Mexico, and their subsequent journey through the US immigration system in El Paso, Texas. Her dissertation explores the use of affective, imagistic, and textural modes of conveying experiences of state-cartel violence that do not fit with the chronological, explanatory modes of storytelling required by the asylum system. It demonstrates that these imagistic modes of storytelling better illuminate the experiences of state-cartel terror, reveal its modus operandi, and highlight the resonances and linkages between these experiences and other long-term, binational violences in the border region. She unpacks the arguments and perceptions that tend to criminalize Mexican asylum seekers and keep the US national denial rate of Mexican asylum claims hovering around 90% (despite the existence of egregious state-cartel violence), and argues that after fleeing a situation where state-cartel agents operate by creating an atmosphere that incites fear, uncertainty, nervousness, and despair, Mexican asylum seekers then find themselves enmeshed in the US immigration system that often incites similar affects and sensory experiences. Miranda was a recipient of the McCall MacBain fellowship at McGill and the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship.

2017-2018

Jacob Nerenberg is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology (socio-cultural) at University of Toronto. His doctoral dissertation is titled Terminal Economy: Politics of Distribution in Highlands Papua, Indonesia. His thesis examines popular livelihoods and struggles around commerce and state distribution programs in Papua, also called West Papua—a contested territory where Indonesia encompasses Melanesia. He interprets the ‘terminal economy’, based on routine transactions at peri-urban minivan terminals and markets, as a paradigm of the region’s relegation to a peripheral status in wider national and global economic orders. His writing highlights the way these heterogeneous spaces act as microcosms of recursive processes of encompassment, which incite agendas of disruption, distinction, commercial regulation, and infrastructure extension. His research was supported by the International Development Research Centre, the Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Jessika Tremblay is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. She is writing her dissertation entitled "Internet Kampung: Community based internet infrastructure in post-authoritarian Indonesia," based on 20 months of ethnographic research in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2012-2014). Her research interests are in digital and urban anthropology, infrastructure, and development. She is also the co-founder of the Urban Ethnography Lab based in the Georg Simmel Centre for Metropolitan Studies in Berlin and the Department of Anthropology at UofT.

 

2016-2017

Koreen Reece completed her PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh in 2015. Her PhD thesis – entitled An Ordinary Crisis? Kinship in Botswana’s Time of AIDS – examines the effects of the AIDS epidemic on families in Botswana, and the legacies of governmental and non-governmental initiatives launched in response. Conventional wisdom has tended to assume that families have suffered irreversible breakdown as a result of AIDS, a crisis threatening to create many other crises in its wake: political crisis, financial crisis, an ‘orphan crisis’, and a ‘crisis of care’. Instead, Reece argues that Tswana kinship is constituted in conflict, crisis, and irresolution (or dikgang); and that as such, families prove unexpectedly resilient in contexts of crisis. Misreading this resilience, government and NGO interventions in the family struggle to achieve their aims – in part because they operate according to hidden kinship principles and ideals, derived from a variety of socio-cultural settings – and threaten to refigure kinship practice in much more enduring ways than the epidemic itself. The thesis was awarded the Outstanding Thesis Award for Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science.

During her Fellowship, Koreen will pursue new work on storytelling and kinship, attending to the ways families, NGOs, and the state tell themselves and their relationships in the context of AIDS. She will also be revising her thesis into a book manuscript. Koreen’s next research project will focus on marriage and relationships in Botswana, as part of a European Research Council-funded global comparative project on marriage.

Letha Victor is a PhD candidate in socio-cultural anthropology at the University of Toronto, where her dissertation is provisionally titled “Dirty things: violence, spirit forces, and social change in Acholi, northern Uganda.” Her thesis concerns the problem of cosmological disruption resultant from twenty years of war and population displacement in Acholi (1986-2006) and the spiritual affect of a threatening and uncertain past, present, and future. Ajwani or “dirty things” are instances of spiritual pollution, manifest in certain types of suffering and misfortune, caused by transgressions of the moral order. The ghosts of those persons in Acholi who died violent and impure deaths haunt the living, non-human spirit forces possess and speak through the bodies of humans, and the shadows of ancestors — neglected at abandoned family homesteads for many years — make their presence known to their living kin. Still others interpret such happenings as the result of devil worship and global conspiracy, or in the biopolitical vein of trauma: pointing to the severe lived experiences of the war (mass population displacement, large-scale abduction by the Lord’s Resistance Army, massacres and other atrocities). What binds these diverse explications is the concern with addressing distress in an ethical way, prompting debates over morality and ritual expertise, the legibility of suffering, and authenticity in Acholi society. Letha’s dissertation argues that shared anxieties over who is most qualified to act upon the pollution caused by violence (broadly defined) speak to wider issues of subjectivity, temporality, and social change in Acholi.

 

2015-2016

Columba Gonzalez is a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral thesis elucidates the conservation dynamics surrounding the monarch butterfly across the Eastern Conservation Corridor, comprised by different territories in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Her study reveals the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the conservation of the monarch butterfly, as well as the politics embedded in classrooms, laboratories, national parks and among citizen-scientists from the U.S. and Canada, in relation to Mexican rural peasants who co-habit with the monarch butterfly across the migration route. This dissertation builds on ethnographic data obtained at two conservation areas in Canada, a laboratory focused on monarch biology at the University of Minnesota in the U.S., and at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, which protects the forest where the butterfly hibernates. In order to reveal the connections between these four sites, her work elaborates on a post-humanist framework that highlights the way in which humans and butterflies mutually constitute each other enabling the existence of the conservation corridor. The research also aims to reveal the ways in which these four sites—despite their differences—are connected by the butterfly, as well as through the social and natural arrangements that transformed these sites after the implementation of NAFTA.

Hollis Moore is a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral thesis, entitled “Imprisonment and (Un)Relatedness in North Eastern Brazil”, examines how increasing rates of imprisonment, and the concentration of carceral effects, shape social relations in Mata Escura, a low-income neighbourhood in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. This study encompasses spaces such as prison waiting areas, a shelter/school for children of prisoners, prison visitors' homes, evangelical storefront churches, and the main entrance of the penal compound where creative entrepreneurs sell products/services to prison visitors. She focuses on everyday practices (i.e. commensality and parenting), kinship rituals (birthdays, baptisms, funerals, etc.), and gendered social relations (between/among men, women, and children prisoners and non-prisoners) that traverse prison walls in order to reveal often overlooked aspects of imprisonment. At stake with this project is the question of how people maintain and (un)make social relations under conditions of crisis and, thereby, (re)produce, work with and against, but also exceed carceral logics.

 

2014-2015

Vivian Solana Moreno is currently a Ph.D candidate in the Anthropology Department at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral dissertation entitled ‘The Fifth World’: International Intervention & the Aftermath of Revolution in the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic’ investigates the outcomes of the Saharawi revolution in Saharawi refugee camps located in Southern Algeria, where the national liberation movement of the POLISARIO Front has built a state in exile, claiming sovereignty over the Western Sahara through diplomatic means since a UN-mediated ceasefire in 1991. With a focus on women and youth, two key groups for the social reproduction of the Saharawi movement, her dissertation explores the political subjectivities of Saharawi refugees born into the uncanny presence of a collective dream that never became. Situated at the intersection of an anthropology of international intervention, gender, violence and social transformation, her doctoral research brings these interests to bear on the conditions of possibility for a liberatory politics under contemporary internationally-intervened regimes.

Email:  vivian.solana@mail.utoronto.ca

 

2013-2014

Nicole Rigillo is a fifth year PhD candidate in the Anthropology Department at McGill University. Her doctoral research is situated at the intersection of the anthropology of economics, medicine, and knowledge, and examines corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a novel form of governance in Bangalore, India. Her dissertation situates ethnographic accounts of CSR programs providing various forms of support to populations defined as “in need” within a historical analysis of shifts in techniques of welfare provision in Mysore State (present-day Karnataka) throughout the twentieth century.  Through explorations of local and transnational CSR programs aiming to empower and improve the health of urban female garment factory workers, the residents of a rural district, and children attending government schools across Bangalore, she gestures to the diverse ways in which the logic and practice of CSR is forging novel relations of responsibility and forms of personhood in India today, and modifying the meaning of society and the market in the process.

Alejandra González Jiménez is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Anthropology Department at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral dissertation entitled Volkswagen de México: The Car as National Fetish, ethnographically examines capitalism by looking at concrete and mundane car-related practices: the manufacturing, engineering, driving, and collecting of cars. Through these practices she elucidates the ways in which capitalism is continuously made, remade, and unmade in the everyday. She explores the intersections between capitalism and national projects of development, as well as how these two abstract processes are embedded in concrete social practices, aspirations, affective attachments, promises, and hopes. Alejandra is a Mellon Mays Fellow and holds the John Hope Franklin Dissertation Fellowship from the American Philosophical Society.

 

2012-2013

Asli Zengin is a fifth year PhD student in both the Anthropology Department and the collaborative program in Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral work focuses on the relationship between intimacy and state power in Turkey. She investigates the intimate relations between representatives of the State (police, doctors, lawyers, etc) and trans people who work in the sex trade and/or seek sex change operations. Paying close attention to the legal codes and regulations surrounding sex change operations and sex work in Turkey, Asli Zengin investigates the ways in which the Turkish State seeks to regulate sexuality and intimacy, and describes the ways in which trans women respond to these processes in their everyday lives. She is the author ofIktidarın Mahremiyeti: İstanbul’da Hayat Kadınları, Seks İşçiliği ve Şiddet [Intimacy of Power: Women Prostitutes, Sex Work and Violence in İstanbul] (Metis Yayınevi: İstanbul, 2011).
 
Dr. Malini Sur defended her doctoral dissertation entitled Jungle Passports and Metal Fences - Living on the border between Northeast India and Bangladesh at the University of Amsterdam in 2012. Her research interests include the study of partitions, borders and human rights in South Asia, with a focus on the anthropology of violence, political ambiguities and undocumented trade flows. Dr. Sur is the co-editor of Transnational Flows and Permissive Polities: Ethnographies of Human Mobility in Asia (with Barak Kalir, University of Amsterdam Press 2012). Photographs from her fieldwork have been exhibited in Kathmandu, Chiang Mai, Amsterdam, Gottingen and Berlin.

As a post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Ethnography at UTSC, Dr. Sur will be critically revisiting early post-colonial archives in India, East Pakistan and Bangladesh, and ethnographically documenting people’s experiences of political violence. Investigating military architecture like border outposts and border roads, she argues that these sites not only inscribe violence but also function as spaces of recreation and mobility, complicating civil-military relations. She will use her fellowship period at the Centre for Ethnography to write on these themes.