Land Institute 2013

Summer Institute on Contested Landscapes


Cornell University, May 13-May 17, 2013

We selected 12 applicants to attend the inaugural Summer Institute on Contested Landscapes. Focused on property, this week-long session seeks to develop and apply critical analyses to important questions. What is property, who and what is eligible for ownership, and who decides? What is the relationship between changing property forms and sustainability, development, and democracy?

The Institute on Contested Landscapes is sponsored by Cornell’s Institute for the Social Sciences, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, and the Social Science Research Council.

Debjani Bhattacharyya, History, Emory University
“Speculation or economic disobedience? Capital, property and ownership in colonial Calcutta”Debjani Bhattacharyya is a PhD Candidate in History at Emory University (USA). She has a BA and an MA in English Literature from Jadavpur University (India). Her research lies at the intersection of colonial law and economy in tracing the gradual emergence of urban property and the land‐market as discrete juridico‐economic entities. Her archival research in India was generously funded by the American Institute of Indian Studies. She is currently finalizing her dissertation entitled, “Beyond the Paper Regime: Property, Speculation and Capital in Colonial Calcutta from1820 to1920”. She had also been involved in a research project on the urban homeless in Kolkata, and in 2012 she prepared a report for the Government of West Bengal entitled “Imagined Homes: Homeless Population Envision Shelters”. One of her chapters “Geography’s Myth: The Many Origins of Calcutta” is currently in publication in Gyanendra Pandey (ed.), Unarchived Histories: The Mad and the Trifling, New York: Routledge (Forthcoming).
Eunice Blavascunas, Anthropology, University of Maine and College of the Atlantic
“Maine unorganized: Living territory and property”Eunice Blavascunas completed her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology at the University of California Santa Cruz  and is currently a research associate at College of the Atlantic and an associate faculty at the University of Maine.  She also works in conjunction with the SERC Institute in Winter Harbor, Maine.  She has published on how the communist and peasant pasts trouble conservation politics in postsocialist Poland.  Her new project examines Maine’s tradition of open access on private land in light of investment ownership and proposed national parks for the north woods.   She has held a postdoctoral teaching appointment at the University of Washington, a research associate position at Miami University and is the recipient of National Council of Eurasian and East European Research, Switzer Foundation, Rachel Carson Center and Fulbright Fellowships.  She is scheduled to complete her documentary film, Black Stork White Stork, with film maker Jodie Baltazar this June.
Emma Cardwell, Sociology, Lancaster University
“Revolutionary marine property regimes in the North Atlantic”Emma Cardwell is a Geography DPhil (PhD) researcher at the University of Oxford. She holds an MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy from the University of Oxford and a BSc in Environmental Policy from the London School of Economics. Her research interests include food production, property rights, the social aspects of sustainability and economic philosophy. Her DPhil research focuses on the economic organization of UK marine fisheries.
Erin Collins, Geography, University of California, Berkeley
“Of title and entitlement:  the political relations of property and informality in post-Socialist urban Cambodia”Erin Collins is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley she is completing designated emphases in Global Metropolitan Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.  Before coming to Berkeley, Erin completed an undergraduate degree in Geography and Southeast Asian Studies at University of Wisconsin, Madison.  Broadly, her work is concerned with post-socialist urban transformations in Cambodia and Vietnam. Erin is currently working on her PhD dissertation, tentatively titled: Dispensing with Socialism: Land Redistribution, Urban Evictions, and the Making of the Authoritarian Cambodian State.This project uses archival and ethnographic methods to trace the historic co-constitution of Cambodia’s urban political and property regime.  The dissertation analyzes the rash of land claims and disputes that erupted in Phnom Penh in step with the commodification of land between 1989 and 1993.  Through the minutia of land claims and their contestation, this research explores how the reconfiguration of conditions of ownership fundamentally remade conditions for citizenship and belonging within the city.
Jatin Dua, Anthropology, Duke University 
“Hijacked: Rethinking Piracy, Property and Protection in the Western Indian Ocean”Jatin Dua is a PhD candidate in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. His dissertation focuses on maritime piracy and attempts to regulate the Western Indian Ocean by private actors, nation-states, and international bodies in a moment of post-Cold War, post-9/11 reconfiguration. He has conducted over eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork with pirates, fishermen, merchants, seafarers, judges, lawyers, and others implicated in the world of piracy and counter-piracy in Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, and the United Kingdom
Lauren Honig, Government, Cornell University
“Property rights patronage in Africa”Lauren Honig is a PhD student in the Department of Government at Cornell University. Her research focuses on the relationships between state authority, customary authority, and citizens as negotiated through shifting property rights institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Her dissertation analyzes the cases of Zambia and Senegal to identify how variation in sub-national and national level institutional structures affects the state’s ability to consolidate control over agricultural land.
Emily Levitt, Anthropology, Cornell University 
“Living in the tax base: The socio-fiscal obligations of American property ownership and the Indian exception”Emily Levitt is a PhD student at Cornell University, in the Anthropology Department.  She works on contestations over American Indian land rights, specifically those that are occurring in the region surrounding Cornell.  She has a B.A. in Archaeology and Anthropology and a M. Phil in Material Anthropology and Museum Ethnography from Oxford University.
Julia del Palacio Langer, History, Columbia University
“Did oil expropriation kill agrarian radicalism?  Land reform and the political control of 1930s Veracruz”Julia del Palacio Langer obtained her BA from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and her MA at The New School for Social Research. She is now a PhD candidate in Latin American history at Columbia University. Under the direction of Claudio Lomnitz and Pablo Piccato, Julia is finishing her dissertation, “Oil Expropriation, Agrarian Reform, and the Making of National Property in Mexico 1917-1960.” In this project, Julia analyzes the social and cultural history of national property through the relationship between the agrarian struggles of the postrevolution and the industrialization program of the 1930s and 40s. Unveiling the legal and social changes that led to the development of particular concepts of national property among different social groups, Julia explains how land and subsoil laws affected the everyday experiences of the rural populations living close to the oil fields in the northeast of Mexico. Her other interests include the changing concepts of patrimony and inalienable possessions, the role that music and songs play in the development of local identities, rural to urban migration, and the social history of property law in Latin America. She is now writing her dissertation with the support of a Quinn Foundation Fellowship and will be a Teaching Scholar at Columbia in 2013-2014. Julia is also a dancer of Mexican traditional music.
Gregory Rosenthal, History, SUNY-Stonybrook
“The property on/is their backs: Dispossession and wage labor in nineteenth-century Hawai’i”Gregory Rosenthal is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Stony Brook University, State University of New York (SUNY). His dissertation, “Hawaiians Who Left Hawaiʻi: Work, Body, and Environment in the Pacific World, 1786-1876,” examines histories of Hawaiian wage labor and migrant labor in the nineteenth century. His research interests include Hawaiʻi and the Pacific; labor history; environmental history; histories of the body; and the nineteenth-century world economy. Recent publications include “Life and Labor in a Seabird Colony: Hawaiian Guano Workers, 1857-1870,” Environmental History 17 (October 2012), 744-782; and, “Boki’s Predicament: The Material Culture and Environmental History of Hawaiian Sandalwood, 1811-1830,” World History Bulletin 27 (Spring 2011), 46-62, winner of the Phi Alpha Theta / World History Association Student Paper Prize (Graduate Division) in 2010. Rosenthal teaches classes in U.S., Chinese, and trans-Pacific history at Stony Brook University.
Sara Safransky, Geography, UNC-Chapel Hill
“Hantz off our land: Urban redevelopment, land politics and the greening of Detroit”Sara Safransky is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She also holds a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from UNC. Sara works at the intersection of human geography, cultural anthropology, and urban studies. Her research interests include property, race and citizenship, critical development studies, political ecology, political economy of food and agriculture, social movements, and participatory research models. She is currently exploring the intersection of these issues as she writes her dissertation about the politics of abandonment and struggles over the future of Detroit.
Leilah Vevaina, Anthropology, New School for Social Research
“Building trusts”Leilah Vevaina is a PhD Candidate in Social Anthropology at the New School for Social Research. She has an MA in Anthropology from The New School (2007) as well as an MA in Social Thought from New York University (2005). Her research lies in the intersection of the anthropology of property and religious life within the legal regimes of contemporary India. She has conducted fieldwork in Mumbai, India with specific focus on the Indian Zoroastrian, or Parsi community, with generous support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation as well as the American Institute of Indian Studies. Preliminary fieldwork was also supported by the India China Institute at The New School. She is currently finishing her dissertation entitled, “Trust Matters: Parsis & Property in Mumbai” which focuses specifically on religious endowments and the trust as a mechanism of property management in the city. Her research has produced an article on the current state of the Zoroastrian funerary grounds in Mumbai entitled, “Excarnation & the City: The Tower of Silence Debates in Mumbai”, as part of the edited volume,Topographies of Faith: Religion in Urban Spaces, eds. I. Becci, M. Burchardt, and J. Casanova, Brill 2013.
Kristin Wintersteen, History, Tulane
“Sea change in res nullius: Privatization and the struggle to balance historic rights and environmental sustainability in post-Pinochet Chilean fisheries”Kristin Wintersteen completed her Ph.D. in Modern Latin American History at Duke in 2011. Her dissertation explores the transnational environmental history of Humboldt Current fisheries in the post-World War II era, when Peru and Chile rose from fishing obscurity to become two of the top producers of fishmeal almost overnight. Kristin is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies, where she teaches courses on water and ocean rights and the environmental history of Latin America and the Caribbean. In August 2013 she will join the faculty of the History Department at the University of Houston.