Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology (PhD)
Engaging with the Traces of a Shared Past: Memory and Subjectivity in Northeastern Turkey
This thesis examines embodied experiences of socialist collectivization and post pastoral reform among Kazakh people in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China. Through (auto)ethnography, oral history, material culture and performance, I explore how the structural processes of Chinese development shape ordinary Kazakh lifeworlds, subjectivities, and memory-scapes. This work traces Kazakh epistemologies pertaining to land, language, and relationships expressed through oral poetry, creative writing, life-cycle rituals, and storytelling. After the introduction and context chapter, five chapters address distinct historical and cultural aspects of Kazakh women’s experiences in Xinjiang. First, I trace the history of family and community through women’s memories about the Altay state ranch during Mao’s China. Secondly, I analyze the 1962 Yi-Ta incident from the perspective of generational displacement. The Yi-Ta incident rendered the Kazakh borderlands a veritable military colony and separated generations of Kazakh families across the Sino-Soviet split. Third, I discuss elderly Kazakh women’s laments and acts of ritualized mourning as a way to make and maintain meaning within the post-socialist secularized landscape. I argue that these practices make otherwise taboo social and political traumas “sayable” in an environment of restricted expression. Fourth, I show how a recent Kazakh author uses notions of traditional knowledge about human-nature relationships and ecology to interpret the changeable politics of Kazakh life and society in 20th century Xinjiang. Fifth, I analyze a contemporary Kazakh improvisational oral poetry debate to illustrate the interplay of gender, nationalism, and folklore practice in the contemporary trans-national Kazakh community. Despite being far away from the state center, Kazakh women in China’s northwestern frontier rework the state’s template in telling a gendered history of their lives, their experiences, and their society. Their memories and experiences reveal sensory notions of place and time that challenge the state’s discourse of ecological civilization. They respond to social transformations as well as gendered and generational injustices through “veiled sentiments” of poetry. Showcasing entanglements of agency and affect as well as contentious acts of place-making and history-making in contemporary Xinjiang, this project illustrates complex internal dynamics and subjectivities among Kazakhs.Despite being far away from the state center, Kazakh women in China’s northwestern frontier rework the state’s template in telling a gendered history of their lives, their experiences, and their society. Their memories and experiences reveal sensory notions of place and time that challenge the state’s discourse of ecological civilization. They respond to social transformations as well as gendered and generational injustices through “veiled sentiments” of poetry. Showcasing entanglements of agency and affect as well as contentious acts of place-making and history-making in contemporary Xinjiang, this project illustrates complex internal dynamics and subjectivities among Kazakhs.
This thesis examines the homing experiences of LGBT refugees in Vancouver, British Columbia. Using participatory photography, ethnography, and oral history, this project interrogates home and belonging for individuals claiming and receiving asylum based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The issues examined lie at the intersection of two ongoing discussions in migration scholarship: on race, class, sexual orientation, and gender identity in refugee settlement in Canada, and on home and belonging for LGBT refugees. This examination contributes to both of these discussions. The research suggests reimagining refugee settlement in Canada through the lens of sexualized and gendered bodies in order to queer refugee settlement and expand the scope of home and belonging beyond the pragmatic to aspects of relatedness to places, bodies, and persons. LGBT refugees are caught in between two “(un)homey” places, Canada and their home countries, in which they experience marginalization as queer minorities. LGBT refugees’ experiences challenge the binary between home and homelessness/ displacement and emplacement. Home is not cemented in Vancouver or LGBT refugees’ countries of origin. It rests in the attachments LGBT refugees make with different places, communities, and their own bodies. The relationships LGBT refugees maintain between Canada and their countries serves as a necessary means for them to create a sense of home. These transnational relationships push homemaking outside of the heterosexual neoliberal nation-state and challenge static concepts of home. The fluidity of transnational relationships for LGBT refugees challenges the conceptualization of “home” within policy and academic literatures on settlement. This research unsettles homonational narratives around Canada being a progressive safe haven and discourses about “saving” LGBT refugees.Finally, the thesis reflects on the potential role of the activist-scholar in working with persons living precarious lives in precarious situations, and the responsibilities held by both the researcher and participants in documenting, interpreting, and exhibiting LGBT refugees’ experiences of home and belonging.
Lake Babine Nation is currently in negotiations with the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Pipeline Project regarding the construction of a 950km liquid natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory. While the project has been approved, Nation members continue to express their concerns regarding construction camps, facilities designed to accommodate up to 1000 temporary workers. Increased rates of sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections, and domestic abuse are some of the impacts they are most concerned about. While the initial goal of my research was to voice the concerns of Babine women, I was frequently confronted by prolonged silences, long pauses, refusals, and hesitations in my research encounters. This thesis reflects my critical engagement with silence as it emerged in interviews, negotiations, public discourse, and in the lived experience of Indigenous women in Lake Babine Nation. The questions that motivated this analysis attend to silence as a concept, experience, and method. What follows is the genealogy of the silences encountered: the silences incited by colonialism, the silences mobilized by marginalized people to negotiate institutions that seek to silence them, and the embodied silences of those who live with the embodied consequences of sexual violence. The purpose of my focus on silence has not been to impose a grand theory of silence on my research participants. Rather, the goal has been to attend to the pauses and gaps as they emerged in the research process, in a non-binary way. By extending silence, Babine women invited me to reflect on my positionality, the structures of domination in which we are implicated, and on their embodied and affective realities. What I find myself left with is silence as invitation—an invitation to learn, to unsettle colonial and racial relationships, to refuse, to resist, and to listen. Through a concerted focus on silences that surround sexual violence against Indigenous women, we may begin to see how anti-violence work can contribute to processes of decolonization and self-determination. This research establishes silence as a legitimate focus of investigation in qualitative research that may be approached with the same rigor with which we approach that which is spoken.
This thesis calls for a change in the way we think about articulating suffering and its meanings. It is an analysis of 1.5 and second generation Cambodian postmemory work in North America. I describe the music, film, visual art, poetry and performance art that have been produced by these generations as “postmemory” work because the creators invoke memory that they have not lived themselves or have forgotten. The work of these generations that relate to the Cambodian genocide relies on intergenerational communication with their parents to retell family stories. In their countries of resettlement, Cambodians have faced a lack of social capital, economic hardships, underrepresentation and generational dissonance. In these contexts, reconciling past and present has not been a priority, particularly in a culture which has been found to attribute weakness to discussing violent pasts (Kidron, 2010). Silence on a past of genocide has been a consequence of these factors. While silence on violent pasts is a dominant trait in the diaspora, there are those who choose to speak out about their family’s experience. Using their family stories of genocide, 1.5 and second generation Cambodians explore multivalent issues that impact their present lives. I use the works of Socheata Poeuv, Prach Ly and Anida Yoeu Ali as well as my own to exemplify how the past is engaged in the present. When we bear witness to the postmemory work of Poeuv, Ly and Ali we see a bridging of generations and beliefs and the continual development of a Cambodian diaspora identity. Silence is linked to the maintenance of cultural ideas. By examining instances of 1.5 and second generation public expression, I show the diaspora as a community that also has shifting ideologies. I recognize that silence and speaking out can both exist within the North American Cambodian diaspora. Bringing together the literature on silence while analysing postmemory work allows for an understanding of the variation in ways that individuals and families within a community engage and make meaning of the past.