P64. Individual Papers on South and Southeast Asian Studies

Session: Session 9, 10:15-11:45 am, Sunday 10/1

Category: Individual Papers

Location: Illinois Ballroom C

Chair: My-Xuan Hillengas, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Paper Presenters: Hasina Fnu, Pavithra Rajendran, Amrina Rosyada

Spiritual Ecology of Glaciers: A Case study of Gilgit Baltistan

Speaker: Hasina Fnu
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Quaid -i- Azam University, Islamabad
Abstract: Gilgit Baltistan is considered the hub of glaciers since the snow-covered mountain ranges of Himalaya, Karakorum and Hindukush are situated in the region.  Though a lot of work has been done on the glaciers of Gilgit Baltistan but an important aspect of customary laws and rituals of celebrating, honoring and praising glaciers that is directly linked with the local narrative of the spirituality of glaciers is absent in the archives and in the process of knowledge production. The inhabitants of GB consider glacier as a living spiritual entity that is not ‘nature’ only. This paper can help us consider what the environment is (in a fundamental ontological way) in relation to what it means to people. This specific work presents the case studies of three generations how they perceive, praise and honor glaciers. Firstly, the story of a local spiritual figure (111 years old) explains his 85 years journey of meditation with glaciers and how he witnessed the impact of climate change on glaciers in the last eight decades. Secondly, a local environmental activist (spent 14 years in prison because of the ecological issues) explains the struggle of locals in saving the glaciers and thirdly, the story of a young local musician highlights how the younger generation pay tribute to glaciers by celebrating ‘high- altitude’ music festivals.

Unveiling the Veil of Injustice: Human Rights Infringements in the Name of ‘Culture’: A Sri Lankan Centred Analysis

Speaker: Pavithra Rajendran
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Notre Dame
Abstract: This paper aims to comprehensively address the issue of gender-based discriminatory practices against women in Sri Lanka, framing them as human rights violations. Through an exploration of three prevalent malpractices – namely, menstruation-related taboos, bride price/dowry systems, and widowhood practices – the paper adopts a qualitative approach to delve into their cultural origins and their adverse impact on various aspects of women’s lives, encompassing dignity, health, integrity, and autonomy. This study not only investigates how these practices hinder women’s right to equality before the law, which includes equal opportunities, access to justice, and redress, but also underscores their infringement upon the broader right to life. Divided into two distinct sections, the paper’s first segment employs a feminist lens to categorize these malpractices as manifestations of gender discrimination. This lens is critical in examining the issues faced by women in developing nations, particularly within the contexts of South Asian and African societies. Transitioning to the paper’s second part, it endeavors to offer practical recommendations for both local and global contexts. Leveraging the framework of international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as well as pertinent observations and recommendations, such as those from CEDAW and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the paper suggests avenues for fostering change at both domestic and international levels. Ultimately, the paper concludes with a poignant call to action, inviting Sri Lanka to introspect on and reform these deeply ingrained cultural malpractices. By doing so, the aim is to create an environment that safeguards the rights and well-being of women, contributing to the broader advancement of humanity as a whole.

Who Made Mead? The Native Research Assistant As Intellectual

Speaker: Amrina Rosyada
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Northwestern

Influential anthropologists who studied Indonesia—such as Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and Clifford Geertz—did not work in a vacuum. They were supported by an array of collaborators, including cultural intermediaries and native research assistants (RAs). Despite native RAs intellectual and practical contributions to ethnographic research, the history of anthropology still centers around its white, male theorists. Native RAs remain regarded as minor actors, and there is a lack of systematic discussion about their role in anthropology. Drawing from the archives of Margaret Mead at the Library of Congress, my research analyzes native RA’s overlooked contributions to research throughout the discipline’s history. I focus on the case of I Made Kaler, Mead’s and Bateson’s “native secretary” during their research in Bali, Indonesia (1936 – 1939). How did the Balinese RA contribute to Western anthropologists’ knowledge of and research about Balinese culture? And how do we imagine a history of anthropology that departs from and centers around marginalized actors? I argue that, first, Balinese RAs actively shape the terrain of Indonesian anthropology by deploying their native subjectivity and positionality, collecting information otherwise inaccessible by anthropologists, and broadening the anthropologists’ field by opening a possibility for a network with other Balinese. Second, archives can be a site to excavate the voices of historically marginalized actors, making anthropology’s history more inclusive. To decolonize anthropology, we need not only imagine how the future looks like for the discipline but also critically rewrite its history which often omits intellectual contributions from people of color.