Joan Bristol – “Distilling Identities: From Pulque to Tequila in Mexico, 1428-Present”
John G. Dale – “Just Practicing? The Transnational Production of Human Rights in Burma
Jill K. Nelson & Kathryn H. Jacobsen – “Measuring Access to Radio Health Communications in Rural Guatemala”
Department of History and Art History
“Distilling Identities: From Pulque to Tequila in Mexico, 1428-Present”
Distilling Identities traces the history of the Mexican agave-based beverages pulque, mescal, and tequila from pre-Columbian times to the present. Pulque, a fermented beverage, has been consumed for both ritual and recreational purposes for at least a millennium and is often associated with Mexico’s indigenous population. Spanish settlers began distilling mescal in the sixteenth century, and in the nineteenth century distillers from the town of Tequila in the state of Jalisco developed mescal de tequila and began exporting it to the United States and elsewhere. Using pre-conquest codices, colonial chronicles and government documents, and nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century legislation, songs, poems, and advertisements, this project examines the producers and consumers of pulque, mescal, and tequila in Mexico and (in the case of tequila) elsewhere. Examining the history of agave beverages reveals a great deal about the formation of group and national identities within Mexico, and helps to contextualize this identity formation within processes of globalization begun with contact between indigenous Mexicans and Europeans in the sixteenth century and continuing until today. This history of culture contact and conflict, material practices of consumption, and market practices of commodification reminds us that the processes that led to the late nineteenth-century development of tequila and its increasing importance as a globally significant commodity began with the meeting of worlds in the early sixteenth century.
Department of Anthropology and Sociology
“Just Practicing? The Transnational Production of Human Rights in Burma”
I am seeking funding to continue research in Thailand and Burma that I began last May on the conflicting efforts among NGOs of the Free Burma movement to coordinate a transnational campaign to target the junta by harnessing the power of the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. In this stage of the research, I will examine the self-reflexive efforts of some of the most progressive NGOs in the Free Burma movement to democratize the production of human rights in Burma. They have developed grassroots human rights and democracy training programs to socially “thicken” and more mutually constitute their relations of transnational solidarity across North-South boundaries, as well as within the South among the many ethnic (national) minority groups struggling for conferederal autonomy within Burma. I will conduct ethnographic research within these training programs in Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Mae Sot) and one ethnic minority camp in Burma. Through participant observation and in-depth interviews, I will examine how these NGOs organize their relations with grassroots participants in these programs to discuss, interpret, and identify local meanings of human rights and democracy. I then will trace how, the extent to which, and with what effect these local meanings “travel” (and transform) through the movement’s transnational networks of meaning and practice, and attempt to see whether and how they influence NGOs campaigns for political-legal institutional change, giving particular attention to the ongoing campaign to indict General Than Shwe before the ICC on charges on war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Nelson: Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Jacobson: Assistant Professor
Department of Global & Community Health
“Measuring Access to Radio Health Communications in Rural Guatemala”
Radio communications are an effective way to increase access to health information in rural communities in low-income countries where FM radios are often the only source of media communication available. For this project, we will use signal power measurements taken in rural Guatemala to estimate the locations of transmitters for community radio stations. We will then integrate these measurements with census data to create a map of radio communications coverage. These findings will enhance our existing research programs in the areas of access to health care and radio coverage, and the techniques we develop will be applicable anywhere health information is disseminated primarily via community radio programming.