Stalinist Masculinity in Soviet Film & Societ...

A review of Rescripting Stalinist Masculinity: Contesting the Male Ideal in Soviet Film and Society, 1953-1968, by Marko Dumančić. Marko Dumančić’s dissertation examines models of masculinity as presented in films of the post-Stalin Soviet Union, and uses them as a lens through which to investigate de-Stalinization and its relationship to pan-European cultural trends. Dumančić writes of the central role played by cinema in offering male Soviet viewers a fundamentally new perspective on their selves, everyday lives, and the larger world. What emerges is a highly valuable study given the dearth of works on post-Stalin masculinity and...

Gender, Power & Sexuality in BDSM Interactions May31

Gender, Power & Sexuality in BDSM Interaction...

A review of A “Different Economy of Bodies and Pleasures”? Gender, Power, and Sexuality in BDSM Interactions, by Brandy Simula. Brandy Simula’s dissertation draws its fundamental inspiration from Michel Foucault’s imaginings of different sexual and erotic social and bodily configurations. Extending Foucault’s call for new conceptualizations of currencies, discourses and erotic life, Simula’s work makes important theoretical and empirical contributions in multiple directions. The first half of the dissertation is devoted to laying the groundwork. Simula writes with an acute awareness that zir topic (in keeping with...

Eiko & Koma: Choreographing Spaces

A review of Eiko and Koma: Choreographing Spaces Apart in Asian America by Rosemary Candelario. Rosemary Candelario’s dissertation, Eiko and Koma: Choreographing Spaces Apart in Asian America, considers the impact of the duo’s work on issues of identity, nationality, diaspora, and intercultural collaboration. The US-based Japanese artists have received critical acclaim (including two “Bessies,” Guggenheim, and MacArthur fellowships) for their choreography and are renowned for their Delicious Movement technique, a name which Candelario states heightens its sensory nature. In her dissertation, Rosemary Candelario employs interviews,...

Nationhood & Homosexuality in Poland May25

Nationhood & Homosexuality in Poland

A review of Nation Queer? Discourses Of Nationhood And Homosexuality In Times Of Transformation: Case Studies From Poland, by Robert Kulpa. In her landmark work Uncanny Slavdom, literary critic Maria Janion characterizes Poland as an instance of a dubious “postcolonial” space; a colonized nation that at the same time feels superiority over its colonizer, and a country that has been identifying itself as part of Europe, while at the same time struggling with its identification with the “East” (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2006). Over the years within postcolonial and feminist scholarship the ambivalences surrounding Eastern...

An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance

A review of Dancing in the Fringe: Connections Forming An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance, by Laura Osweiler. Dancing in the Fringe: Connections Forming An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance is an exploration of the development of experimental Middle Eastern dance in the United States within the context of “An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance” (hereinafter EEMED), an annual theatrical dance concert produced in a black-box style theater in Los Angeles, California. The author, Laura Osweiler, is the creator and producer of the annual event, which was established in the year 2000. Osweiler’s...

Non-Normative Sexualities in India

A review of Sexual Figures of Kerala: 
Cultural Practices, Regionality and the Politics of Sexuality, by Navaneetha Mokkil Maruthur. Navaneetha Mokkil’s dissertation brings together a range of sources to look at non-normative sexualities in Kerala, South India, a subject that has received little attention. This is a fresh piece of work – well written, accessible and clear. It focuses on two figures which have disrupted the normative image of women in the region: the sex worker/ prostitute and the lesbian. In particular, her study is a departure from a long preoccupation with the somewhat exoticised Nair matriliny and women’s...

Colonialism, Gender & Okinawa in Modern Japan

A review of Performing Embodied Histories: Colonialism, Gender, and Okinawa in Modern Japan, by Valerie Holshouser Barske.  Divided into six chapters with an Epilogue and Appendix, Valerie Barske’s dissertation examines Okinawa’s postwar history, identity formation, and the politicization of culture and gender through the lens of Okinawan performance culture. Providing a comprehensive historiography of both Japanese and English secondary sources, the first chapter emphasizes the methodological and theoretical dispositions of the dissertation. A hybridization of cultural history and historical anthropology, the dissertation’s...

New Asian Female Ghost Films

A review of The New Asian Female Ghost Films: Modernity, Gender Politics, and Transnational Transformation, by Hunju Lee. Hunjun Lee’s dissertation explores the textual, intertextual, and contextual aspects of what she calls the New Asian female ghost films, which revolve around prematurely dead women’s revenge and were produced in Japan, South Korean, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand after the release of a Japanese horror film titled Ring (Hideo Nakata, 1998). The monstrous feminine in these Asian films, Lee argues, is a hybrid construction of the generic conventions of Western horror films and the cultural traditions of female ghost...

Underwear in the Making of Femininity May17

Underwear in the Making of Femininity

A review of Consuming Underwear: Fashioning Female Identity, by Christiana Tsaousi. The act of putting on underwear is a practice that most of us take part in everyday. Yet as Christiana Tsaousi makes clear in her dissertation, the decisions central to this practice have been largely unexplored by academic studies. Emerging at the intersection between consumption studies, fashion studies and marketing, Tsaousi explores the socio-cultural factors that influence underwear consumption. The thesis focuses on women and considers the role of underwear in the making of femininity. Through focus groups and semi-structured interviews, the research...

Media Creation in China’s Na Villages

A review of Scenes from Yongning: Media Creation in China’s Na Villages, by Tami Blumenfield. Tami Blumenfield’s dissertation is a refreshing anthropological study of media production and presents pioneering work based on community-based participatory research. The author’s methodological approach to collaborative fieldwork — a form of “decolonization of research” as she calls it — makes this dissertation unique in the field of Chinese minority studies in particular. The dissertation’s main ambition is an ethnography of media production processes; it successfully contributes to a study of the visual and political economies of...

Belonging in the Literatures of Iran & the Ma...

A review of Un(der)writing Home: The Politics of Belonging in the Modern Literatures of Iran and the Maghreb, by Guilan Siassi. In bringing together Persophone writers of Iran and Francophone writers of the Maghreb, Guilan Siassi’s dissertation pushes the limits of comparative literature, Francophone studies, and area studies by positing a new approach to the study of contemporary “minor literatures.” Theoretically informed and historically contextualized, Siassi’s study addresses concepts of exile, home, and identity, and draws from a range of literary critics and authors of prose fiction to develop a theory of...

South Korea Virtuous Citizens & Sentimental Society Apr30

South Korea Virtuous Citizens & Sentimental S...

A review of Virtuous Citizens and Sentimental Society: Ethics and Politics in Neoliberal South Korea, by EuyRyung Jun. This concise dissertation focuses on the activities of NGOs and the Korean state concerning foreign migrants and thereby addresses the shifting and ambiguous relationship between the nation-state and civil society in contemporary South Korea. It uses archival and ethnographic data to analyze how the growing presence of foreign migrants, including workers and brides, has generated moral and ethical concerns about Korean society among the state and civil society organizations, which have become the main actors in the politics...

Tamil Buddhism & Anti-caste Consciousness

A review of Foundations of Anti-caste Consciousness: Pandit Iyothee Thass, Tamil Buddhism, and the Marginalized in South India, by Gajendran Ayyathurai. Iyothee Thass (1845-1914) was a major Dalit leader, thinker and activist whose life, work and legacy have regrettably remained relatively neglected by historians of Tamil Nadu. In many ways a precursor to towering anti-caste figures like E.V. Ramasamy Naicker (1879-1973) and B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), Thass was also the first Dalit, specifically, Parayar, intellectual and activist to embrace and espouse Buddhism. Based predominantly on issues of Thass’s newspaper The Tamilian between the...

Preternatural Particulars & the Wonders of Ge...

A review of From the “Workshop of Wonders”: Observing Generation in Danish Medicine, 1650-1800, by Signe Nipper Nielsen. This excellent dissertation begins with a description of an astonishing stillborn fetus, which was found to be carrying a tiny, nearly viable fetus in its uterus. The account appeared in a collection of anatomical observations published in 1661 by the Danish physician Thomas Bartholin (1616-1680), the main subject of Signe Nipper Nielsen’s dissertation. A highly-regarded doctor, Bartholin was also fascinated with natural marvels, particularly those relating to generation. The story of the pregnant fetus provides a...

Death, Gender & Tradition in Nepal & Tib...

A review of Death, Gender and Extraordinary Knowing: The Delog (’das log) Tradition in Nepal and Eastern Tibet, by Mary Alyson Prude. In this engaging and thought-provoking study, Alyson Prude greatly advances our knowledge of the fascinating Tibetan and Himalayan practice of delog (Tib. ’das log). A delog is a person, frequently a woman, who undergoes a death experience and then returns to life, after which s/he typically reports on the post-death experiences, hell-realms, and fates of the recently deceased, and may also function as a preacher of core Buddhist doctrines of karma and ethics. Prude’s important new treatment raises...

Undocumented North Korean Migration Apr01

Undocumented North Korean Migration

A review of Gender, Justice and the Geopolitics of Undocumented North Korean Migration, by Eunyoung Choi. Most reports on North Korean defectors tell the story of a victimized people, downtrodden by a terrible regime who search for a better life, only to be exploited again in China. Eunyoung Choi’s Gender, Justice, and Geopolitics of Undocumented North Korean Migration offers a different version of this now familiar story. The tale begins in a similar fashion: undocumented North Korean migrants face great odds to cross the border in search of survival. Arriving in China, they fall to prey to traffickers or state authorities. Here the...

Madness in Western Desert of Egypt

A review of Subjectivity, Society and the Experts: Discourses of Madness in the Western Desert of Egypt, by Mohammed Abouelleil Rashed. This dissertation, written by Mohammed Rashed, an Egyptian anthropologist also trained as a medical doctor, provides an original and welcome contribution to understandings of subjectivity and psychic distress among inhabitants of Egypt’s Western desert oasis (Dakhla), a place where — unlike Egypt’s major cities — Western psychiatric discourses are not only non-hegemonic, but are scarcely present. He observed first-hand local healers’ interventions with distressed clients and formed trusted...

Natural Disaster, Mobility & Vulnerability in...

A review of Going on Otor: Disaster, Mobility, and the Political Ecology of Vulnerability in Uguumur, Mongolia, by Daniel Murphy. In the winter of 2007-2008, natural disaster struck Mongolia. Drought hit first, then a brutal winter; herders began to suffer. For some, the calamity changed their lives forever. Many were trapped in degraded pastures, and, with nowhere to go, saw their animals perish. Others somehow survived unscathed; they negotiated an exit to fresher pastures, and when the worst came, they migrated out. The brutal weather pushed everyone, but only some experienced a true ‘natural disaster’ (zud). Two families, two...

Fantastic Tales in Late Imperial China & Toku...

A review of “The Peony Lantern” and Fantastic Tales in Late Imperial China and Tokugawa Japan: Local History, Religion, and Gender, by Fumiko Jōo. On a festival night one year in mid-fourteenth century Ningbo, a young student glimpses a beautiful woman walking along the street in the company of a girl bearing a peony-adorned lantern. He invites the woman to his home and a passionate relationship ensues, but not long thereafter, the woman is revealed to be a ghost. Though the student enlists the protective intervention of spiritual authorities, he remains inexorably drawn to the ghostly woman and eventually perishes in the temple where...

Gender & Sexuality on DR Mar18

Gender & Sexuality on DR

Dissertation Reviews has been featuring research on gender and sexuality in a number of our existing series, whether in Chinese Literature, South Asian Studies, Medical Anthropology, or elsewhere. The time is now ripe for DR to feature a standalone Gender and Sexuality Dissertation Reviews series, which will bring you friendly, non-critical overviews of recently defended, unpublished dissertations from this brilliant field — one that has long been vigilant in raising powerful and insightful critiques of the ways in which we think and the ways in which we live. As with our 20 existing series on Dissertation Reviews, Gender and Sexuality...

Goddess Images in Cambodian Art

A review of The Symbiosis of Image, Monument and Landscape:  A Study of Select Goddess Images at Prasat Kravan, Kbal Spean and Banteay Srei in Cambodia, by Soumya E. James. In this dissertation, Soumya James argues that the “divine feminine” played a crucial, but often overlooked, role in the art of Angkor, a kingdom which included present-day Cambodia and periodically extended into parts of neighboring Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam (ca. 9th – 15th century CE). Following the important revisionist work of such historians as Barbara Watson Andaya and Trudy Jacobsen, James seeks to address the marginalization of women and gender studies...

Childbirth Injuries & Religious Subjects in E...

A review of The Gift of Cure: Childbirth Injuries, Clinical Structures, and Religious Subjects in Ethiopia, by Anita Hannig. Over the last years, obstetric fistula has received increasing worldwide attention. Popular media, NGOs, and influential personalities have contributed to a portrayal of (African) fistula patients as young, rural, poor, physically wounded, and socially abandoned — relegated to obscure sheds beyond the community borders. In The Gift of Cure, Anita Hannig takes issue with this narrative. On the basis of ethnographic research in two foreign-run, Protestant-based fistula centers in Ethiopia, she provides an in-depth...

Medicine & Public Health in Southwest China, ...

A review of Protecting the National Body: Gender and Public Health in Southwest China during the War with Japan, 1937-1945, by Nicole Elizabeth Barnes. Nicole Barnes’ dissertation, Protecting the National Body, is an ambitious and engaging study that tells three previously untold stories: the importance of the war years for the formation of China’s hybrid and indigenized medical system; the centrality of the Sick (Wo)man of Asia to biomedical projects disciplining Chinese bodies into citizens; and the centrality of China (and Sichuan province in particular) to the global advancement of biomedicine. Barnes’ dissertation fits into a...

Ritual & Cultural Diversity in Western China Mar11

Ritual & Cultural Diversity in Western China

A review of Nadun: Ritual and the Dynamics of Cultural Diversity in Northwest China’s Hehuang Region, by Gerald Roche. Gerald Roche’s dissertation, “Nadun: Ritual and the Dynamics of Cultural Diversity in Northwest China’s Hehuang Region,” is an insightful study into the major annual ritual of the Sanchuan Mangghuer of Northeastern Qinghai Province. This study, however, is more than simply a close reading of a harvest ritual in Western China, but an in-depth examination of both the practices of the ritual itself and the local ontologies and ideologies that inform and surround it. In doing so, Roche does a wonderful job detailing...

Transgendering of the Peony in East Asia

A review of From Bewitching Beauty to Effete King: Transgendering of King Peony in Medieval Chinese and Korean Literature, by Jeongsoo Shin. The peony has come to have a variety of associations in the East Asian literary tradition. Its luxurious petals have signaled wealth and beauty while its peculiar, seedless manner of reproduction has come to symbolize sterility and empty luxury. It has even come to represent political power as a symbol of China as a nation, arguably one of its dominant associations today. In his fascinating account of the peony’s literary history, From Bewitching Beauty to Effete King, Jeongsoo Shin seeks to...

Early Modern Persianate Identity Between Iran ...

A review of Contours of Persianate Community, 1722–1835, by Mana Kia. This dissertation argues for a Persianate culture between Iran and Hindustan based on a shared literary tradition and education which fostered specific notions of belonging, origin and sociability within this community. By doing so, this study challenges proto-nationalist assumptions about the pre-modern period and associated interpretive distortions of Persianate historical texts. The era under consideration is framed by two decisive events: the fall of the Safavids in 1722 and the abolition of Persian as the language of power in India in 1835. Mana Kia draws in her...

Pregnancy Interruptions in Eastern Cameroon

A review of Ambiguous Ambitions: On Pathways, Projects, and Pregnancy Interruptions in Cameroon, by Erica van der Sijpt. Erica van der Sijpt’s dissertation presents an innovative, contemporary ethnographic investigation of the highly uneven landscape of reproductive aspirations and challenges among Gbigbil women in Eastern Cameroon. In particular, van der Sijpt sets out to unravel how Gbigbil women navigate “pregnancy interruptions” — that is, reproductive terminations ranging anywhere from a miscarriage, a stillbirth, an abortion, or the death of an infant child — and what their experiences can tell us about the larger social,...

Long-Song (Urtyn Duu) in Post-Socialist Mongolia

A review of Chasing the Singers: The Transition of Long-Song (Urtyn Duu) in Post-Socialist Mongolia, by Sunmin Yoon. Sunmin Yoon’s dissertation examines issues of continuity and change in urtyn duu (literally “long-song”) performance in Mongolia, during and after Socialism. Focusing on the lives of prominent singers and songs, she explores how the transformation of long-song into a national icon of traditional culture embodies the transitional processes that marked the fall of Socialism. Following other scholars of the post-Socialist world, she argues that transition did not constitute a paradigm shift in long-song performance, but...

Gender & Normativity in Post-Tsunami Indonesi...

Becoming Better “Men” and “Women”: Negotiating Normativity through Gender Mainstreaming in Post-Tsunami Reconstruction Initiatives in Aceh, Indonesia, by Marjaana Jauhola. In her transdisciplinary PhD research on the negotiation of gender norms, Marjaana Jauhola masters the challenge of applying aspects of Judith Butler’s post-structuralist theories to critically analyzing gender mainstreaming initiatives in Aceh. After the tsunami on December 26, 2004, Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh was a place of massive reconstruction efforts. The tsunami recovery and reconstruction initiatives amounted to...

Infertility & Children in North India

A review of Aulad: Infertility and the Meanings of Children in North India, by Holly Donahue Singh. Aulad: Infertility and the Meanings of Children in North India seeks to understand the diversity of experiences and meanings attached to the process of having children as encapsulated within the North Indian term “aulad.” The author, Holly Donahue Singh, undertakes an analysis of kinship, motherhood, and reproductive life cycles of women in the pursuit of children. In the process she employs the reflexive ethnographic mode to explore the ways in which intra-familial relationships add to the meanings and experiences of having children. She...