Social Sciences Blog
I returned to the United States this June after having spent well over a year in archival repositories throughout the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa with a digital mountain of unprocessed documents. I always new that my dissertation project, “All Flesh Is Grass: Cultivation as Conservation in the Sown Grasslands of the British Empire, 1780-1850,” was an ambitious one. It is a transnational project that relies almost exclusively upon manuscript materials, with an occasional printed text or map. I visited sixteen different repositories, from the industrial-scale
In 1992, Lawrence Summers, then the chief economist of the World Bank, declared that educating girls “yields a higher rate of return than any other investment available in the developing world.” Summers’ argument converged with a growing consensus in the international development industry, which over the past two decades has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into transnational campaigns designed to “empower” girls – psychologically (via self-esteem), personally (via leadership training), and economically (via microloans).
The establishment of federal Indian reservations was a critical, yet often neglected, turning point in the history of U.S. westward expansion during the second half of the nineteenth century. In the thirty-seven year period between the organization of territorial governments in New Mexico (1850) and Arizona (1863) and the passage of the Dawes Severalty Act (1887), the U.S. federal government approved patents for many of the 42 Indian reservations that today comprise more than 23.5 million acres of land in the two southwestern states.
Consider the following vignettes from my research: a clique of middle school students at a boarding school for at-risk youth leveraging adult advice networks to change a controversial dress code policy; mental hospital patients collectively advocating for an increase in food quality on their ward through an institutionally recognized Patients' Administrative Group; a group of inmates forming a labor union to negotiate with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to improve prison conditions.
I use economics to investigate marriage patterns. We can imagine a marriage market in which people are "shopping" for their partners and bargain for the prices. This approach is quite useful to understand a set of observed marriage patterns. This approach offers explanations to why educated people tend to marry each other, for example.
As a Ph.D. student in Ancient History at the University of Chicago, I am trained to use primary documentation of ancient texts as a main source for research. My dissertation, however, goes beyond traditional methods. I research how Crete’s archaeological heritage and ancient past affected political and intellectual discourse regarding Crete’s 1913 official unification (enosis) with Greece. Particular attention is placed on whether modern conceptualizations of Crete's ancient past affected the process of unification and vice versa.
I set out to look for cultural nationalism, focusing on three sites that as expected revealed a rich variety of manifestations. I specifically examined expert cultural practices (Mongolian calligraphy), national spectacles (Naadam), and projects of cultural and religious revival (Buddhist, semi-Buddhist and others). What I found has profoundly affected my understanding of how nationalism can work.
In recent years, it has become very clear that food is a political matter. Food deserts, GMO crops, ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ labeling disputes, various ‘slow food’ movements, and even recent controversies over the ethics of eating quinoa have brought the political dimensions of the simple, everyday act of eating to the forefront of the contemporary moment. This strong connection between food and politics is not limited to the present or even to recent history. The production, distribution, and consumption of foods always have political implications and impacts.
My work involves exploring the role of violence in American politics, and to do so, I look into the archives. In July of 2013, with the support of the Social Sciences Division at the University of Chicago, I went to Louisiana to investigate the organizational roots and practices of a mostly forgotten vigilante group active during Reconstruction known as the White League.
Wine Made in China: An Experiment of Industrial Agriculture and Transformation of Farmland Ownership
Whenever I explain about my research topic to American friends, they are usually surprised by the fact that wine is actually produced in China. As a matter of fact, China is now the sixth largest producer of wine by volume, surpassing Chile and Australia. Since the early 2000s, the Chinese government has been promoting the wine industry as a model of rural development and agricultural industrialization. Supported by local governments, major wine companies are expanding their vineyards by leasing farmland from village collectives and employing villagers as contract farmers.