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2013 Doctoral Students Awards

Category: Caucasus Russia 

Jean-François Ratelle (George Washington U, US)

Insurgency in the North Caucasus : Ethnographic Assessment of the Pathways toward Rebellion in Dagestan 

This article analyses the trajectories and mechanisms that explain why North Caucasians, mainly young people, choose to adhere to insurgent groups following the end of the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya in 2009. Based on a series of interviews conducted in Dagestan, Chechnya, and Kabardino-Balkaria, and 6 months of ethnographic research in the region, I argue that the role of the Chechen spillover and the development of Salafism are not the sole factors explaining the recent upsurge of violence in the region. By focusing on the republic of Dagestan, this article demonstrates that these two factors explain the early development of the insurgency and not its current dynamics. The younger generation of combatants mainly engage into violence in order to rebel against societal sins (police abuse, religious repression, and corruption), to seek personal revenge against security forces, and often in order to find a sense of community amongst the rebels. Contrarily to what is depicted in the literature and by local insurgents, this article demonstrates that the role of Salafist ideology is often marginal in the early stages of the process of violent radicalisation, and slowly gains importance as the involvement in violence increases.

Category: Central Europe 
Bruce Burnside (Anthropology, Columbia U, US)

“I Want a Good Friend”: Youth Work and Belonging Among Migrant Girls in Berlin 

How do girls with immigrant backgrounds in Berlin, Germany understand their own belonging in a multicultural Europe? In 2000 the German citizenship laws changed, making it significantly easier for people with “migration backgrounds” to attain citizenship. Though this has occurred for some, many immigrants and their children remain without citizenship. Likewise, the debates have become more fraught over what it means to be German in a diverse society. In the fall of 2010 the German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that “multiculturalism has utterly failed” in Germany. Based on ethnographic research conducted at MÄDEA, an after school center for immigrant girls in Berlin, I argue that it is important to understand these girls’ own imaginings and articulations of their belonging through various arts projects conceived and created by the girls at MÄDEA. My findings seek to illuminate how the current young generation of Germans with immigration backgrounds understands the evolving idea of what it means to be a young person in Germany amid the controversy and possibility of todays’ debates about identity in Germany. MÄDEA serves as an example of the work of multiculturalism at the ground level, accomplished and challenged through theater, music, dance, visual arts and political engagement. My research explores the approaches of MÄDEA—a state-funded organization which provides its services free of charge—in combatting inequalities stemming from immigration, economics and gender on a day-to-day basis, by giving the girls the necessary space and the tools for self-exploration. This group of girls are growing up in a long moment where the public sphere in Germany is full of the rhetoric of integration, directed at them with great expectation, and in a shifting landscape where much remains inscribed on the body; especially when someone asks or answers: Who is German? Slowly that “who” is becoming a question of What is German? What values, ethics, claims? Germany, Berlin, and MÄDEA have all shaped the subjectivities of these girls who playfully challenge the listener and viewer, in song and theater, to “Ask me who I am, and we’ll tell you who we are!”

Category: Eurasia 
Katharine Holt (Slavic Literature, Columbia U, US)

Emissaries of Soviet Central Asian Literature: Lahuti and Dzhambul in Moscow, 1933-1937 

This paper examines how the “Tajik” poet Abu al-Qasim Lahuti (or “Lakhuti,” as he was known in Russian) and the Kazakh bard Dzhambul Dzhabaev were publicly anointed in the mid-1930s as the bearers of literary authority about Soviet Tajikistan and Soviet Kazakhstan and the preeminent cultural representatives of Central Asia. I argue that the official anointment of these men took place in Moscow in 1935 and 1936, when each performed a public demonstration of his loyalty to Stalin and of his ability to serve as an emissary to the new imagined community of the Soviet “friendship of nations.” I also discuss how Lahuti and Dzhambul served complementary functions in official Soviet culture: while Lahuti encouraged the practice of literary transposition (perenesenie) and the creation of written texts, Dzhambul promoted “folk content” (narodnost’ ) and the composition of oral literature. Together, I suggest, these two poets played key roles in the indigenization (korenizatsiia) of the literary representation of Soviet Central Asia in Russian-language literature, largely supplanting the visiting outsiders, such as Leonid Leonov, Konstantin Paustovskii, Petr Pavlenko, and Bruno Jasiénski, who had previously depicted the region in Russian-language Soviet texts. 

Category: Nationalism 
Andrej Tusicisny (Political Science, Columbia U, US)

Identity, Threat, Contact or Reciprocity? Causes of Selective Ethnic Discrimination in Indian Slums 

This paper addresses the question why some ethnic groups are targeted by discrimination, while others are not. It explains selective discrimination by positive reciprocity – or the lack of thereof. It argues that people cooperate more with and discriminate less against the groups expected to reciprocate cooperative behavior. Conditional cooperators rationally update their group stereotypes based on their experience in interactions with the groups’ individual members. This change in turn reduces discrimination. Analyzing original survey data gathered in three slums in Mumbai, India, the paper compares the effect of reciprocity to the most prominent alternative explanations from the literature on ethnic politics, including salience of social identity, shared superordinate identity, perception of economic or physical threat, intergroup contact, relative group size, and relative social status. Compared to other factors, positive reciprocity provides a powerful explanation of why people choose to discriminate against some but not other ethnic groups. At the same time, there is no evidence of a similar effect by negative reciprocity.

Category: Turkey 
Özkan Akpinar (History, Bogaziçi U, Turkey)

Reading Imperial Territories: Geographical Imagination in School Textbooks during the Late Ottoman Period, 1876-1908

The aim of this paper is to place geography textbooks in primary and secondary schools in the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Abdulhamid II (1876-1908) within the context of his attempts to integrate all provinces of the empire into his own authority and to legitimize his power over these territories and people. During this period, geography education became an integral and inseparable part of public education; and geography courses were in the curricula of primary and secondary schools. The content of these courses was determined and controlled by the Ministry of Public Education. The main source of these courses was geography textbooks, strictly inspected and monitored by inspection commissions within the ministry. These materials not only reflected the official geographical imagination of the Hamidian state but also contributed to its formation and formulation as a result of the process of inspection and control by the state, in connection with conjunctural realities and conditions of the Ottoman Empire in the course of time. In this sense, the materials in question were not simple reflections or copies of geographical and cartographic studies produced in Europe; instead, they were adapted into Ottoman realities. They were used in order to create a sense of imperial unity in the minds of students and to legitimize the sultan’s power during the Hamidian regime. Geography textbooks tried to constitute an Ottoman homeland and to consolidate Ottoman identity within a fixed territory. During the Hamidian era, Ottoman identity and Ottoman patriotism were promoted in order to provide loyalty to the Ottoman homeland as a unified entity and to the sultan as its ruler. It was a crucial tool of unifying and integrating peripheral regions against rival authority groups and separatist movements and legitimizing the sultan’s power over all imperial territories. Therefore, geography textbooks presented the homeland in a territorial fixity in order to enable students to internalize the Ottoman identity through detailed descriptions about imperial borders and places and some interpretations about other cultures. It was expected that the students would establish a direct relationship between themselves and the imperial territory and display loyalty to the sultan as its head. In conclusion, this paper examines formation and contents of geography, connected with Ottoman patriotism and Abdulhamid II’s efforts to legitimize his power over these territories and people.

Category: Ukraine 
Yuri Zhukov (Political Science, Harvard U, US)

Peace Through Resettlement: Theory and Evidence from the NKVD Archives

Why do combatants intentionally uproot civilians? The forcible relocation of families and communities to concentration camps, “protected villages” and other special settlements is a regular feature of irregular war, occurring in almost a third of all counterinsurgency campaigns since 1816. Despite the historical regularity of such practices, most research has focused on individual decisions to flee and relocate, rather than the brute-force displacement of civilians by combatants. Using a dynamic model of popular support and micro-level counterinsurgency data from Soviet secret police archives, I show that civilian resettlement is not simply a by-product of war, but is the consequence of rational decision-making by combatants facing acute informational asymmetries. The identification problem of irregular war – the inability to selectively reward cooperators and punish defectors – compels the side with an informational disadvantage to interdict support for the opponent rather than attempt to deter it. Where coercive leverage is limited, resettlement offers a way to dampen the intensity of rebel activity without having to win hearts and minds.