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EDGS Funded Graduate Student Research in Progress

The following Northwestern graduate students were awarded funding by EDGS in March 2014 for their summer research projects. Below is a description of their research in progress.

Kofi Asante
PhD student, Department of Sociology

Project Title: “Collusion, Collaboration, and Conflict: How Gold Coast Merchants shaped Colonial State Formation”

The EDGS Graduate Student Research Grant allowed me to travel to England to consult the records of the Colonial Office. While in England, I consulted two main sources at The National Archives. First, I collected data from the Sessional Papers. This collection contains minutes of proceedings in both the legislative and executive councils of the Gold Coast government. The second collection I consulted was the administrative despatches. In this collection are correspondences between the governor on the Gold Coast and the Secretary of State of Colonies in the Colonial Office in London. This collection is rich in materials for a systematic retelling of the history of the colonies.

Consulting these records at the British National Archives were crucial for my research. These records include the memos and comments written on the correspondences sent by the governors to the Colonial Office. This is significant because the memos reveal that there were often sharp disagreements between the official policies of the Colonial Office in London and the policies of the colonial government in the Gold Coast. One aspect of my study will analyse the cohesiveness of the colonial structure and how cracks within this structure enabled certain nationalist activism or foreclosed others. The character reviews that the governors wrote also reveal conflicts, sometimes of a very personal nature, in the local colonial government, and that also provides evidence for assessing the cohesiveness of the colonial government.

Savina Balasubramanian
PhD student, Department of Sociology

Project Title: ““Family Planning Policy in Postcolonial India: Regulatory and Political Legacies”

My research in India this summer, made possible by the EDGS summer grant, helped me investigate the regulatory features of family planning and population policy in India at national and subnational levels, as well as the ways in which national policymakers and legislators in the country sought to include medical and technical contraceptive technologies into these policy projects. With the help of this money I was able to visit the Maharashtra State Archives well as the National Archives of India. I was able to access files of the Planning Commission and the Shah Commission of Inquiry. Through the correspondence in these files, most of which were declassified only a few years ago, I was able to ascertain differences and patterns in the types of contraceptive technologies that various policymakers and ministers favored, and how these preferences changed over time. Moreover, I was able to discover how these preferences mapped onto specific policymaker imperatives, such as industrialization, ease of access by poorer sections of society, and achieving immediate decreases in population growth rate. Hence, technical and expert-operated solutions like sterilization and IUDs were more commonly favored over such devices as condoms or such medical technologies as oral pills. These insights are going to be extremely critical for my dissertation as they help trace the convergent and divergent ways in which Indian political elites constructed and sought to solve the “social problem” of overpopulation.

Sadaf Hasnain
PhD student, Department of Anthropology

Project Title: “Emergence of an ‘Ahmadiyya Question:’ Understanding Discourses of Tolerance and Religious Pluralism among Pakistan’s Urban Middle Class”

My research during the summer was aimed at moving beyond discourses of pluralism and tolerance to ethnographically explore the broader sectarian, political and economic politics behind the recent emergence of the “Ahmadiyya question” among Pakistan’s educated urban middle class. During my three months in Islamabad, I was able to attend meetings with Ahmadi and non-Ahmadi youths working toward promoting religious tolerance. I was also able to interview some of these participants individually. These activities helped me observe interactions among these youths across the Ahmadi and Non-Ahmadi divide, an aspect that is crucial for my broader research in terms of understanding boundary maintenance and how flexible these boundaries are in contexts of class similarity.

The second part of my research agenda was to conduct content analysis of articles on Ahmadis in selected English language newspapers of the country. In addition to existing articles, an incident of violence against an Ahmadi family in a Pakistani town during July 2014 became a central focus for me to track discussion and debate about the Ahmadis, helping me examine how the language of rights and religious extremism is employed to raise questions about the security and freedom of not just minorities but also sects within Sunni Islam. This research will help me engage with core EDGS themes of conflict, tolerance, and democratic rights in developing post-colonial states by highlighting Ahmadis not simply as a persecuted religious minority denied certain rights but also as a community that shares certain concerns with mainstream Muslim and non-Muslim groups in Pakistan as members of the broader urban middle class.

Moses Khisa
PhD student, Department of Political Science

Project Title: “The Divergent Evolution of Political Institutions in Contemporary Africa”

This grant went towards funding part of my second summer dissertation research trip to Africa to collect data for my dissertation. This study is a comparative, historical institutional analysis of four African cases: Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda.

The EDGS grant covered the bigger fraction of my air travel expenses, paying for round-trip tickets from Chicago to Uganda and Uganda to Ghana. The trip greatly helped me conduct elite interviews with respondents I had already contacted during the first trip but couldn’t interview them because I ran out of time. It also enabled me to gain access to new respondents as well as spend time reading newspaper source material at the University of Ghana and at Addis Ababa University. I was also able to extensively conduct fieldwork for the Ugandan case which I hadn’t yet tackled in a significant manner, compared to the others, by the start of last summer.

In sum, by undertaking this second research trip, partly funded by EDGS, I was able to fill up the gaps in my data collection, sharpen the focus of the study and refine my core arguments. I am now able to proceed with analyzing the corpus of information that I gathered as I press on with writing draft chapters of my dissertation.

Nazli Ozkan
PhD student, Department of Anthropology

Project Title: “Turkey’s Democratization Politics and Contested Definitions of Alevism in Media”

The funds I received from the Equality Development and Globalization Studies program helped me to initiate my dissertation fieldwork research that aims to provide insight into democracy projects in the Middle East. My project ethnographically situates the politics of democratization in Turkey by analyzing the changing nature of state-minority relations within the context of the current government’s Alevi politics as reflected in the Alevi media. EDGS funds enabled me to enter my dissertation fieldwork site and to collect data that addresses one of my research questions: how the contestations over the “correct” definition of Alevism create “democratic” techniques of incorporating minorities, which enable the state to consolidate its hegemony. To this end, I conducted interviews with the state officials and completed an important portion of archival work. In so doing, I gathered information about how state actors manage the issues concerning Alevis and how this management shifted historically. EDGS money helped me to cover major expenditure of fieldwork: travel and accommodation expenses.

Sangyoon Park
PhD student, Department of Economics

Project Title: “Social Ties, Job Performance and Job Satisfaction: A Case Study on Female Manufacturing Workers in Vietnam”

The EDGS grant provided essential support from the beginning of the study by covering airfare costs that allowed me to travel to Vietnam to conduct this study. Moreover, the research grant also covered expenses related to survey activities, including hiring a manager to train research assistants on ethical human subjects research and survey procedures and paying wages to research assistants for assisting research participants during the baseline survey of this study. Monthly rent payments for our research team’s office, where most of the survey training and data entry took place, and a translation fee for translating these surveys from English to Vietnamese were also reimbursed from the EDGS grant. All in all, this grant provided valuable resources that were necessary for the takeoff of this study.

Jessica Pouchet
PhD student, Department of Anthropology

Project Title: “Amani Nature Reserve as Biodiversity Hotspot: Language, Political Ecology, and Environmental Governance in Tanzania”

The funds awarded by EDGS enabled me to cover transportation costs as well as research permit and visa fees essential to the first phase of my dissertation research (lodging, incidentals, medical insurance, and ground transportation in Tanzania are recorded elsewhere and were covered by other grants). As a result, I was able to accomplish the activities outlined in my proposal to EDGS with respect to making all of the necessary logistical and administrative arrangements to begin a full year of research in my field site. In addition, I was able to begin conducting interviews and participant observation with key research participants, as well as identify research assistants and focus villages. Because of the EDGS funding, I will be able to continue my international dissertation research in Phase II without delays due to administrative affairs or unanticipated logistical challenges. Instead, the EDGS support will allow me to devote more time to data collection, which will simultaneously make the field research richer and more efficient.

Elena Rodina
PhD student, Media, Technology, and Society, School of Communication

Project Title: “Censorship and Self-Censorship in the North Caucasus”

My trip to Grozny, Chechnya, Russian Federation, lasted 17 days, from June, 17, to July, 4, 2014. During this time, I conducted 20 formal and over 30 informal interviews with the local journalists, human rights activists, state workers, journalism professors and students, as well as NGO workers. In addition to that, I conducted participant observations in the Journalism School at Grozny State University, at a court hearing of Ruslan Kutaev, who is currently considered to be the “first Chechen political prisoner,” and in Grozny English Freedom Club. I did archival work in the local library and at the archive of a local newspaper, “Groznensky Rabochy.” Using the materials I obtained during my fieldwork in Chechnya, I am currently working on completing a paper under the guidance of my advisor, Professor James Schwoch. I have applied to participate in the following conferences: a). ICA (International Communications Association) Conference, b). MPSA (Midwest Political Science Association) Conference, and c). What is Journalism? Exploring the Past, Present and Future, a conference organized by the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism. The EDGS funds helped me cover travel and accommodation expenses.

Ari Shaw
PhD student, Department of Political Science

Project Title: “Claiming International Rights: Human Rights Mobilization and Domestic Change”

The graduate research grant I received from EDGS was instrumental in advancing my dissertation research by helping to fund fieldwork in Nairobi, Kenya. My dissertation examines when and how local activists employ an international human rights law (IHRL) framework in their domestic advocacy around two issue areas: LGBT rights and women’s sexual and reproductive rights (SRR). I conducted semi-structured interviews with key actors to identify factors shaping the strategic decision to invoke IHRL: how did this vary across issue area, how did domestic and international opportunities and constraints impact this decision-making, and to what extent did international rights claiming change the politics of mobilization around these issues. In the course of my fieldwork in Kenay, I conducted 23 interviews with activists, journalists, judges, academics and some former public officials. I also observed hours of organizational meetings among activists and obtained internal reports from advocacy organizations and government agencies on various dimensions of LGBT and SRR policies in Kenya.

The EDGS grant supplemented funding I received from a TGS Graduate Research Grant for summer fieldwork. The EDGS funding primarily covered roundtrip airfare to Kenya and housing costs in Nairobi.

Nicholas Smith
PhD student, Department of History

Project Title: “Of sovereignty and extra-territoriality: piracy in Somalia and the Red Sea during the Scramble for Africa”

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, British, French, Italian and Ottoman colonists carved the Red Sea into spheres of influence, setting the stage for the rise of a host of smugglers, arms traffickers, slave traders and outlaws. With EDGS funding, I sought to focus on three ‘pirate’ individuals in particular. I proposed to use an EDGS summer research grant to examine the pirates’ communications with the colonial powers and investigate the ways in which these figures used piracy for political and economic ends in the context of colonial conquest of the sea. I wanted to see how they and their networks attacked shipping and smuggled arms and slaves to foster extra-territorial maritime space in the southern Red Sea and how they in turn sought to re-negotiate their integration into the colonial order. To this end, I proposed to visit five research sites in Britain and France. EDGS summer research has enabled me to support my initial research proposal with evidence, to see new avenues for research in the archives as well as to generate a number of additional insights about the research topic.

Xin Sun
PhD student, Department of Political Science

Project Title: “Informal Institutions, Rents and Land Politics in China”

With the support from EDGS, I visited China for three weeks between July 5 and 28. During this period, I visited Beijing, Kunming and Hefei, interviewing government officials, local residents, and businessmen to collect first-hand qualitative data. I also hired a research assistant to help me collect quantitative data from yearbooks and online databases. One original quantitative data set I collected is all land transactions between 2004 and 2012 in 30 major Chinese cities. This data set allows me to examine land transactions in China and analyze the political factors that influence them. The total number of land transactions is apparently large, involving around 8000 land parcels.

The generous research support I received from EDGS is a tremendous contribution to my research. With this support, I was able to finish the main chapters of my dissertation. Based on the interviews and case studies I conducted during my visit to China, I also finished one journal article and got it accepted by the China Journal, a leading academic journal in the area of Chinese studies. Another two articles based on the chapters are currently under review in journals. In sum, my research has benefited tremendously from the generous support from EDGS.

Marlous van Weijenburg
PhD student, Department of History

Project Title: “Financing the African State: Development and Transformations of Fiscal Systems in the Long Twentieth Century”

The financial support I received from EDGS helped me cover travel and accommodation expenses.. In my dissertation, I explore the development of African tax systems between 1880-2010. For French Africa (1880-1960) most of the statistics I need for this project are kept in the colonial archives in Aix-en-Provence, France. I spent one month there last summer to collect data that I needed to complete existing series. While I was there, I was also able to set up a new project based on some other interesting data I found. Being able to go to these archives allowed me to make substantial progress on both projects.