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The Association of Feminist Anthropology is pleased to introduce recent PhD graduate members Elyse Singer, Rachel Fleming, Risa Cromer, Shunyuan Zhang, and Veronica Miranda, whose doctoral work contributes to the work of feminist anthropology.

Elyse Singer

Washington University in St. Louis

Regulating Reproduction: Abortion Reform and Reproductive Governance in Mexico

Situated in the aftermath of Mexico City’s historic 2007 abortion reform and the subsequent re-criminalization of abortion elsewhere across the country, this dissertation chronicles the experiences of dozens of women seeking to terminate their pregnancies as they navigate the fraught moral, medical, and legal landscape that defines abortion in Mexico today. Drawing from 19 months of ethnographic research, I analyze the processes by which women seeking abortion are simultaneously constructed as religious sinners, empowered subjects, and irresponsible citizens as they pilot a course through a conflicting web of moral imperatives and institutional entailments. I find that Mexico City’s abortion reform—while opening new and unprecedented avenues for reproductive care—has also expanded long-standing agendas of Mexican reproductive governance designed to manage the reproductive bodies and behaviors of poor women, the primary users of public health services in Mexico. My arguments reorient prevailing perspectives in medical and feminist anthropology, which celebrate reproductive rights as a hallmark of women’s citizenship in liberal societies.

“Feminist anthropology has formed a central dimension of my graduate experience. Feminist anthropological perspectives on reproductive justice and reproductive governance, as well an anthropological studies of gender and health, anchored the conceptualization of my project, and my process of data analysis. Along with pursuing my doctoral degree in cultural anthropology, I also pursued a certificate in women, gender, and sexuality studies. This certificate program allowed me to develop and teach a feminist anthropology course on the morality, politicks, and (in)justice of reproductive regulation in cross-cultural perspective.”

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Wenner-Gren Doctoral Dissertation Grant, American Association for University Women Dissertation Fellowship

Rachel Fleming

University of Colorado Boulder

Working for a Happy Life in Bangalore: Gender, Generation, and Temporal Liminality in India’s Tech City

This project is a multigenerational ethnographic study of the impact of new jobs in information technology for middle-class women in Bangalore, India. I use the concepts of morality and temporality to frame the dilemmas for professional women in urban India, broadly asking: What does it mean for time to feel gendered?

“From understanding women’s lives and opinions as important, to studying how seemingly neutral concepts like technology or time are gendered, feminist anthropology is foundational to my research and my identity as an anthropologist.”

Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund, Fulbright-Nehru Student Fellowship, SSRC-AAS Dissertation Workshop on “Family, Gender, and Generation in Asia,” Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Program

Risa Cromer

CUNY Graduate Center

Saving: Stem Cell Science, Christian Adoption, and Frozen Embryo Potential in the United States

This dissertation examines the controversial fates of frozen human embryos left over from in vitro fertilization procedures and frozen for future in the United States at the turn of the twenty-first century. Based on twenty-seven months of ethnographic field research in California following the global financial crisis (2008-2013), this dissertation draws from in-depth interviews, document analysis, and participant observation in two organizations on the vanguard of managing frozen biological assets: a Christian embryo adoption program and a university stem cell tissue bank. As a comparative ethnography, this dissertation reveals what these putatively opposing solutions share in common by examining why and how frozen reproductive remainders are saved.

“Theoretically and methodologically, my work builds on efforts that began four decades ago when feminist anthropologists started systematically dragging reproduction to the center of social theory, expanding its definition beyond biological procreation, and demonstrating the invisible centrality of reproduction to social life. By bringing ethnographic attention to American savers with and wanting leftover embryos, this research speaks to recent feminist literatures that theorize labor and value with respect to growing global hungers for ‘biovalue’ presumed to be latent within reproductive tissue economies, such as donated eggs and surplus embryos.”

Woodrow Wilson Foundation Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in Religion and Ethics, CUNY Graduate Center Dissertation Writing Fellowship, Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Shunyuan Zhang

Emory University

Unmaking Identity: Male-to-Female Transgenderism in Southwest China

My dissertation looks into the space of (un)becoming with regard to the constitution of a Chinese transgender identity and community from the perspective of a diverse array of social processes in mainland China, including international and national HIV/AIDS intervention projects, the emergence of transnational LGBT identity-based human rights movements, the neoliberal turn to cultural economy that embraces desires, and the trajectory that state-individual relationships have gone through. I argue that the indifference (or non-recognition) I discerned from many of my transgendered informants with regard to their gender/sexual identities is contingent upon an assemblage of social processes that have given rise to the confusing and even contradictory condition of life with which transgendered individuals have struggled.

“For me, feminist anthropology means much more than the inclusion of women in the picture or a set of theories to be applied. Its attention to gender as an analytic perspective encourages me to think beyond the current grid of intelligibility and to base discussions of theory on grounded ethnography.”

Veronica Miranda

University of Kentucky

Reproducing Childbirth: Negotiated Maternal Health Practices in Rural Yucatan

This ethnographically informed dissertation focuses on the ways rural Yucatec Maya women, midwives, and state health care workers participate in the production of childbirth and maternal health care practices within the context of development programs. It further interrogates the changing childbirth practices in a rural indigenous community in Quintana Roo, MX to gain a deeper understanding of the complex politics that shape local understandings and approaches to childbirth. Rural Yucatec Maya women, who rely on traditional and historical experience, envision a productive, yet negotiated, relationship with the Mexican state that allows them to create strategies for survival and social reproduction despite their marginalized position.

“Feminist anthropology informed my understandings of the agentive, yet constrained, ways rural indigenous women counter the political and economic structures within development models that reproduce inequality. My dissertation has been strongly influenced by the work of feminist scholars of color who focus on critical methodologies that address issues of representation and knowledge production.”

Fulbright-Garcia Robles Scholar—IIE Research Grant; University of Kentucky Anthropology Department O’Dear Award and Susan Abbot-Jamieson Pre-Dissertation Research Award; University of Kentucky Graduate School Travel Grant; Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship; California State University Pre-Doctoral Sally Casanova Grant; and Yo’Okop and CRAS archaeological projects

Emily de Wet and Julia Kowalski are contributing editors for the Association for Feminist Anthropology’s news column. If you would like to contribute, contact us at [email protected] and/or [email protected].

Cite as: de Wet, Emily and Julia Kowalski. 2017. “AFA Introduces Recent PhD Graduates.” Anthropology News website, September 8, 2017. doi: 10.1111/AN.592