Gaston Gordillo

Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
"Where are the moderate Muslims?" : fraught Muslim positionalities in post-9/11 New York (2017)

This dissertation examines how the ongoing repercussions of the September 11, 2001 attacks on The World Trade Center (“9/11”), and the haunting legacy of the Twin Towers’ collapse, have affected the religious subjectivities, identity positionings and spatial perceptions of American Muslims living in New York City. Anti-Muslim conservatives continue to perceive Islam as an inherently extremist political system and cynically ask, “Where are the moderate Muslims?” In this framing, Muslim Americans are often de-Americanized and treated as outsiders in the United States—a narrative that was exacerbated during Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Based on 24 months of fieldwork, my dissertation analyzes, first, how Muslim New Yorkers navigate the suggestion that religious moderation among Muslims is a rarity and that Islam is antithetical to liberal democratic values. I show that while some reject the use of “moderate” in Islamophobic discourses, others position themselves as moderate and progressive Muslims using particular religious interpretations and practices (especially those emphasizing gender egalitarianism and LGBT inclusion), as well as civic engagement, public events, and other forms of political action. My analysis also pays attention to the spatial dimension of Muslim New Yorkers’ senses of self, first in relation to ongoing surveillance by the NYPD, and secondly, in relation to the World Trade Center. Using examples such as the highly controversial "Ground Zero Mosque," it shows how Muslim subjectivities are embodied and spatialized through affective relationships with certain places.

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Atmospheric politics : negotiating climate change in the Bolivian highlands (2017)

This dissertation examines the experiences of farmers and herders in the highlands of Bolivia’s central Andes, or Altiplano, as they face and respond to climate change and other environmental problems. This work is based on 12 months of fieldwork among Quechua- and Spanish-speaking people in a rural municipality called El Choro, located on the floodplain of the Desaguadero River and just north of Lake Poopó. Bolivia is already suffering impacts from climate change, including shifting precipitation patterns, such as floods and droughts that disrupt agriculture. The government of Evo Morales and the MAS party has positioned itself to be an international leader in the fight against climate change while also continuing to pursue wealth at the hands of high impact extractive industries such as hydrocarbons and minerals. This dissertation, then, is an attempt to take a closer view of one community that is simultaneously beset by the consequences of climate change and water pollution but also is presented with new opportunities for economic development and new investments by the government. I explore how environmental experiences and politics are entangled in different ways and the types of material and spatial linkages that refract politics through the changing environment and vice versa. I trace the spatial politics of climate change and other environmental transformations by focusing in on people’s daily experiences with environmental phenomena such as mud, floods, droughts, and lightning strikes. I draw on spatial theories, such as Doreen Massey’s conceptualization of space as composed of a multiplicity of intersecting trajectories, and affect theory, especially Baruch Spinoza’s notion of bodies affecting other bodies by increasing or decreasing their capacity to act. I use these theories to draw out a conceptualization of what I call atmospheric politics, which emerge in the material interactions of daily life. I argue that atmospheric politics manifest in people’s day-to-day negotiations with their changing environments. These negotiations reflect mutual entanglement between people and environments that open to a multiplicity of possibilities, despite the grim futures prognosticated under climate change.

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Legacies of violence : Sikh women in Delhi's "Widow Colony" (2017)

This dissertation examines how Sikh women who survived the anti-Sikh massacre in 1984 in Delhi, India, cope with the long-term legacies of violence and trauma amid the backdrop of the urban space of the city. After the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, approximately thirty-five hundred Sikh men were killed in October and November 1984. Many of the survivors, Sikh widows and their families, were relocated shortly after to the “Widow Colony,” a designated slum also known as Tilak Vihar, within the boundary of Tilak Nagar in West Delhi, as a means of rehabilitation and compensation. The work arises from fieldwork carried out between December 2012 and March 2014. I begin by discussing in depth the space of the Widow Colony and its relation to the rest of the city of Delhi. I then analyze the events of the 1984 massacre through the narratives of Sikh widows and how they remember their experiences of violence. I discuss how violence can have long-term ramifications for everyday life in arenas such as kinship networks, economic stability, health and wellness, and social life. These experiences are further amplified by gender, caste, and class. I also examine the impact of the stigma of widowhood in this community. This research seeks to interrogate how memories of violence inform, and are constituted by, embodied, affective practices carried out in a gendered space produced by the state. I argue that Sikh widows cope with long-term trauma by creating new forms of sociality and memory through their everyday lives and religious practices in the Widow Colony. The memory of the 1984 violence figures heavily among the Sikh diaspora. Thus, I also explore the relationship between the Widow Colony and Sikhs in the transnational arena.

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Traversing the city : the making of indigenous spatialities within and beyond Buenos Aires (2016)

In this dissertation, I examine the mobile and multi-sited spatiality produced by an indigenous group living in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. In particular, I analyze the places that are created by Toba people through movements connecting and disconnecting multiple locations within the city and beyond it, particularly in the Gran Chaco region in the north of the country. My analysis begins by describing an indigenous barrio (neighbourhood) that a group of Toba people created in Greater Buenos Aires in 1995. This dissertation subsequently examines the trajectories that took these people from different villages in the Chaco to other villages and urban barrios in and outside the Chaco, and, finally, to the villas (shantytowns) in Buenos Aires. In addition to these past movements, which I traced through people’s memories, I follow the relations and patterns of mobility that take people from the Barrio Toba to the city centre and middle class barrios, and the ways they connect these places with the Chaco. I conclude this dissertation by considering how all these places are brought together as part of complex networks and forms of interconnection that I analyze as subaltern assemblages.

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To come and go : transnational life between Mexico and Alaska (2015)

This dissertation examines the experiences of place and patterns of transnational mobility of three generations of people who have been living between Acuitzio del Canje, Michoacán, Mexico and Anchorage, Alaska, USA for several decades. These people hold dual US-Mexican citizenship or US permanent residency and are able to move across the continent in a way that many Mexican migrants cannot. Based on twelve months of ethnographic research in both Acuitzio and Anchorage, and ten years of engagement with people in these locations, I analyze the experience of Acuitzences (people from Acuitzio) at several levels: as they encounter frictions in their movements between Michoacán and Alaska; the practices of multigenerational family units who gain traction over time to build lives in both Anchorage and Acuitzio; the uneven and situated habits that generate a transnational class formation, and the ways in which Mexicans in Alaska re-conceptualize their senses of place by developing transnational identities out of the symbols and mechanisms of both nation-states. In showing how distance is key to the experience of Mexican migrant-immigrants in Alaska, this research also contributes to theorizations of the relevance of distance in the creation of spatialized differences. My analysis reveals that over time, Acuitzences in Alaska orient their lives to both locations as they live, work, and imagine their futures across the continent. Acuitzences in Alaska have created a transnational social field and orient themselves more to the field as a whole than to any one location in it. For most of them, Acuitzio, Anchorage, and the experience of mobility between the two places are necessary to feel at home in the world. These findings contribute to the anthropological research on mobility, citizenship, transnational migration, and the production of space, and bring the spatially bounded fields of Circumpolar Studies and Latin American Studies together. Based on this, I advocate for a transnational approach to theory and policy that embraces the multiple trajectories that construct places. Despite policy restrictions to migration, the lives of transnational Acuitzences who come and go show how the United States and Mexico are profoundly coproduced geographies.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Strangers by sea : crafting of a "well-grounded" fear (2013)

It has become commonplace for asylum seekers in Canada to be represented by politicians and popular media as bogus refugees out to abuse the generosity of Canadians. This process has involved the inversion of the notion that the risk faced by asylum seekers warrants state protection. Instead it is the asylum seeker that is presented as a risky border crosser, often provoking renewed state and public interest in fortifying Canadian borders. This thesis will argue that ‘fear’ has played a crucial role in discursively rendering certain asylum seekers as embodiments of risk that warrant transformative and decisive forms of state intervention. Tracing the public debates that ensued following the mass arrival in Canada of 492 Tamil migrants aboard the MV Sun Sea in August, 2010 I will suggest that asylum seekers have become objects of fear that render material anxieties about the supposed permeability of Canadian borders, sovereignty and the meanings of citizenship. Specifically, I will locate these anxieties in the discursive construction of these asylum seekers as “terrorists,” “smugglers,” and otherwise “bogus refugees” at the intersection between public media and state policy. By highlighting the ways these labels become discursively attached to the bodies of a particular group of migrants I seek to displace the idea that securitization is a coherent product of state practices. Rather I argue that the public debates over what the bodies of these migrants mean signifies that securitization is deeply contingent on how Canadian citizens are affected by the arrival of the Sun Sea.

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