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Academy Scholar Spotlight

Senior Scholar Spotlight

Recent Publications

Islands of Sovereignty: Haitian Migration and the Borders of Empire
Kahn, Jeffrey S. Forthcoming. Islands of Sovereignty: Haitian Migration and the Borders of Empire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Abstract

In November 1978, a group of Haitians sailed their small wooden vessel into the harbor of the US Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay. After replenishing their stores of food and water, they departed with the blessing of the base commander and continued toward the Florida Coast in search of asylum. Far from unusual, this voyage was one of many that unfolded across an open Caribbean seascape in which Guantánamo served as a waypoint in a larger odyssey of oceanic migration. By the early 1990s, these unimpeded sea routes gave way to a virtually impenetrable wall of Coast Guard cutters while Guantánamo itself transformed into the largest US-operated migrant detention center in the world.

Islands of Sovereignty is the first book to examine the history of this new maritime border and how it emerged from decades of litigation struggles over the treatment of Haitian asylum seekers in the United States. Jeffrey S. Kahn explores how a series of skirmishes in the South Florida offices of the US immigration bureaucracy became something much more—a fight for the soul of immigration policing in the United States that would eventually remake the asylum adjudication landscape on a global scale. Combining fieldwork with a wide array of historical sources, Kahn seamlessly weaves together anthropology and law in an ambitious account of liberal empire’s geographies of securitization. A novel historical ethnography of the modern legal imagination, Islands of Sovereignty offers new ways of thinking through border control in the United States and elsewhere and the political forms it continues to generate into the present.

Improvisational Islam: Indonesian Youth in a Time of Possibility
Ibrahim, Nur Amali. 2018. Improvisational Islam: Indonesian Youth in a Time of Possibility. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Abstract

Improvisational Islam is about novel and unexpected ways of being Muslim, where religious dispositions are achieved through techniques that have little or no precedent in classical Islamic texts or concepts. Nur Amali Ibrahim foregrounds two distinct autodidactic university student organizations, each trying to envision alternative ways of being Muslim independent from established religious and political authorities. One group draws from methods originating from the business world, like accounting, auditing, and self-help, to promote a puritanical understanding of the religion and spearhead Indonesia’s spiritual rebirth. A second group reads Islamic scriptures alongside the western human sciences. Both groups, he argues, show a great degree of improvisation and creativity in their interpretations of Islam.

These experimental forms of religious improvisations and practices have developed in a specific Indonesian political context that has evolved after the deposal of President Suharto’s authoritarian New Order regime in 1998. At the same time, Improvisational Islam suggests that the Indonesian case study brings into sharper relief processes that are happening in ordinary Muslim life everywhere. To be a practitioner of their religion, Muslims draw on and are inspired by not only their holy scriptures, but also the non-traditional ideas and practices that circulate in their society, which importantly include those originating in the West. In the contemporary political discourse where Muslims are often portrayed as uncompromising and adversarial to the West and where bans and walls are deemed necessary to keep them out, this story about flexible and creative Muslims is an important one to tell.

Votes for Survival: Relational Clientelism in Latin America
Nichter, Simeon. 2018. Votes for Survival: Relational Clientelism in Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Abstract
Across the world, many politicians deliver benefits to citizens in direct exchange for their votes. Scholars often predict the demise of this phenomenon, as it is threatened by economic development, ballot secrecy and other daunting challenges. To explain its resilience, this book shifts attention to the demand side of exchanges. Nichter contends that citizens play a crucial but underappreciated role in the survival of relational clientelism - ongoing exchange relationships that extend beyond election campaigns. Citizens often undertake key actions, including declared support and requesting benefits, to sustain these relationships. As most of the world's population remains vulnerable to adverse shocks, citizens often depend on such relationships when the state fails to provide an adequate social safety net. Nichter demonstrates the critical role of citizens with fieldwork and original surveys in Brazil, as well as with comparative evidence from Argentina, Mexico and other continents.
Claiming the State: Active Citizenship and Social Welfare in Rural India
Kruks-Wisner, Gabrielle. 2018. Claiming the State: Active Citizenship and Social Welfare in Rural India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Abstract
Citizens around the world look to the state for social welfare provision, but often struggle to access essential services in health, education, and social security. This book investigates the everyday practices through which citizens of the world's largest democracy make claims on the state, asking whether, how, and why they engage public officials in the pursuit of social welfare. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in rural India, Kruks-Wisner demonstrates that claim-making is possible in settings (poor and remote) and among people (the lower classes and castes) where much democratic theory would be unlikely to predict it. Examining the conditions that foster and inhibit citizen action, she finds that greater social and spatial exposure - made possible when individuals traverse boundaries of caste, neighborhood, or village - builds citizens' political knowledge, expectations, and linkages to the state, and is associated with higher levels and broader repertoires of claim-making.
Where the Party Rules: The Rank and File of China's Communist State
Koss, Daniel. 2018. Where the Party Rules: The Rank and File of China's Communist State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Abstract
In most non-democratic countries, today governing forty-four percent of the world population, the power of the regime rests upon a ruling party. Contrasting with conventional notions that authoritarian regime parties serve to contain elite conflict and manipulate electoral-legislative processes, this book presents the case of China and shows that rank and-file members of the Communist Party allow the state to penetrate local communities. Subnational comparative analysis demonstrates that in 'red areas' with high party saturation, the state is most effectively enforcing policy and collecting taxes. Because party membership patterns are extremely enduring, they must be explained by events prior to the Communist takeover in 1949. Frontlines during the anti-colonial Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) continue to shape China's political map even today. Newly available evidence from the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961) and the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) shows how a strong local party basis sustained the regime in times of existential crisis.
Living Emergency: Israel's Permit Regime in the Occupied West Bank
Berda, Yael. 2017. Living Emergency: Israel's Permit Regime in the Occupied West Bank. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. Abstract

In 1991, the Israeli government introduced emergency legislation canceling the general exit permit that allowed Palestinians to enter Israel. The directive, effective for one year, has been reissued annually ever since, turning the Occupied Territories into a closed military zone. Today, Israel's permit regime for Palestinians is one of the world's most extreme and complex apparatuses for population management. Yael Berda worked as a human rights lawyer in Jerusalem and represented more than two hundred Palestinian clients trying to obtain labor permits to enter Israel from the West Bank. With Living Emergency, she brings readers inside the permit regime, offering a first-hand account of how the Israeli secret service, government, and military civil administration control the Palestinian population.

Through interviews with Palestinian laborers and their families, conversations with Israeli clerks and officials, and research into the archives and correspondence of governmental organizations, Berda reconstructs the institutional framework of the labyrinthine permit regime, illuminating both its overarching principles and its administrative practices. In an age where terrorism, crime, and immigration are perceived as intertwined security threats, she reveals how the Israeli example informs global homeland security and border control practices, creating a living emergency for targeted populations worldwide.

Institutional Origins of Islamist Political Mobilization
Mecham, Quinn. 2017. Institutional Origins of Islamist Political Mobilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Abstract
Muslim countries experience wide variation in levels of Islamist political mobilization, including such political activities as protest, voting, and violence. Institutional Origins of Islamist Political Mobilization provides a theory of the institutional origins of Islamist politics, focusing on the development of religious common knowledge, religious entrepreneurship, and coordinating focal points as critical to the success of Islamist activism. Examining Islamist politics in more than 50 countries over four decades, the book illustrates that Islamist political activism varies a great deal, appearing in specific types of institutional contexts. Detailed case studies of Turkey, Algeria, and Senegal demonstrate how diverse contexts yield different types of Islamist politics across the Muslim world.
Red at Heart: How Chinese Communists Fell in Love with the Russian Revolution
McGuire, Elizabeth. 2017. Red at Heart: How Chinese Communists Fell in Love with the Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Abstract
Red at Heart conjures a tale of cross-cultural romance from a topic that is normally seen in geopolitical or ideological terms--and thereby offers a new interpretation of twentieth century communism's most crucial alliance.

This is the multigenerational history of people who experienced Sino-Soviet affairs most intimately: prominent Chinese revolutionaries who traveled to Russia in their youths to study, often falling in love and having children there. Their deeply personal memoirs, interviews with their children, and a vivid collection of documents from the Russian archives allow Elizabeth McGuire to reconstruct the sexually-charged, physically difficult, and politically dangerous lives of Chinese communists in the Soviet Union. The choices they made shaped not only the lives of their children, but also the postwar alliance between the People's Republic of China and Soviet Russia.

Red at Heart brings to life a cast of transnational characters--including a son of Chiang Kai-shek and a wife of Mao Zedong--who connected the two great communist revolutions in human terms. Weaving personal stories and cultural interactions into political history, McGuire movingly shows that the Sino-Soviet relationship was not a brotherhood or a friendship, but rather played out in phases like many lifelong love affairs - from first love, early betrayal, and love children; through eventual marriage with its conveniences and annoyances, guarded optimism, and official heirs; to divorce, reconciliation, and a nostalgia that lingers even today.

A century after 1917, this book offers a novel story about Chinese communism, the Russian Revolution's most geopolitically significant legacy.
The Mediterranean Incarnate: Region Formation between Sicily and Tunisia since World War II
Ben-Yehoyada, Naor. 2017. The Mediterranean Incarnate: Region Formation between Sicily and Tunisia since World War II. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Abstract
In The Mediterranean Incarnate, anthropologist Naor Ben-Yehoyada takes us aboard the Naumachos for a thirty-seven-day voyage in the fishing grounds between Sicily and Tunisia. He also takes us on a historical exploration of the past eighty years to show how the Mediterranean has reemerged as a modern transnational region. From Sicilian poaching in North African territory to the construction of the TransMediterranean gas pipeline, Ben-Yehoyada examines the transformation of political action, imaginaries, and relations in the central Mediterranean while detailing the remarkable bonds that have formed between the Sicilians and Tunisians who live on its waters.
           
The book centers on the town of Mazara del Vallo, located on the southwestern tip of Sicily some ninety nautical miles northeast of the African shore. Ben-Yehoyada intertwines the town’s recent turbulent history—which has been fraught with conflicts over fishing rights, development projects, and how the Mediterranean should figure in Italian politics at large—with deep accounts of life aboard the Naumacho, linking ethnography with historical anthropology and political-economic analysis. Through this sophisticated approach, he crafts a new viewpoint on the historical processes of transnational region formation, one offered by these moving ships as they weave together new social and political constellations.
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