The 1995 RAI Fellowship

The first Royal Anthropological Institute Fellowship in Urgent Anthropology was awarded in December 1994 to Dr. Roxanne P. Hakim, of Bombay, India, and King's College, Cambridge. She has continued her research on the Vasavas, of Gujarat, India. The Vasavas form a community of subsistence farmers who supplement their agriculture by forest hunting and gathering and also raising some cattle. Their language has not been recorded. Recently the community has been resettled because of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project. Dr. Hakim has been working on completing a dictionary of the Vasavas language and pursuing her collection of Vasavas myths, stories, and songs. In addition, she planned to spend time with two less isolated groups, the Tadvis and Rathwas, who are also being resettled as part of the same project.

The 1996 RAI Fellowship

The second annual fellowship was awarded in December 1995 to Dr. Stuart Kirsch, of the University of Michigan, who has conducted extensive research in Papua New Guinea since 1987. Dr. Kirsch has been studying the resistance of the Yonggom of Papua New Guinea to an open-cut copper and gold mine which is polluting their river system. The project is intended to contribute to anthropological knowledge about an indigenous people's effort to maintain autonomy within the global system by defending their natural environment.

The 1997 RAI Fellowship

The third RAI Fellowship in Urgent Anthropology (June 1997 to December 1998) was awarded to Dr. Cai Hua for fieldwork to document the shamanic knowledge among the few remaining shaman of the Na, an ethnic minority group in the Yunnan Province, PRC, rapidly facing assimilation. The Fund and the RAI have also provided a video camera for Dr. Cai Hua to use to video tape shaman performances. This research is an extension of the original research that Dr. Cai Huadid for his Ph.D. (1995) from the l'Université de Paris X-Nanterre on the kinship system of the Na. Dr. Cai Hua's dissertation was published as Les Na de Chine: Une Société, Sans Père Ni Mari, Presses Universitaires de France, in which he reports the absence of the institution of marriage and family.

 Na shaman being

interviewed by Dr. Cai Hua.

Dr. Cai Hua has recently completed a video of a Na shamanistic performance with the help of Dr. Paul Henley, Chair of the RAI Film Committee. This video is available from the Royal Anthropological Institute and includes a fifty page Study Guide.

The 1998 RAI Fellowship

The 1998 RAI Fellowship was awarded to Dr. Barthlomew Dean (University of Kansas) to continue research in Peru on Urarina social organization, cosmology, and shamanism. He also worked with Urarina leaders and local organizations to develop an intercultural school curriculum that will revalorize the Urarina language and contribute to cultural survival, including the preservation of Urarina knowledge. This work will also contribute to the protection of Urarina land tenure and their natural resource management.

The 1999 RAI Fellowship

The fifth RAI Fellowship was awarded in 1999 to Veronica Strang (D.Phil. in Museum Ethnography from Oxford), lecturer and deputy head of a new department of anthropology at the University of Wales, Lampeter. Her project is on the maintenance of aboriginality in far north Queensland, where she has extensive field experience since 1982. She will examine the efforts of an ex-mission community, Kowanyama, to preserve a traditional Aboriginal environmental relationship while grappling with issues of land rights, tourism, mining, etc. The younger generation is very keen to acquire their elders' traditional knowledge. She will use the technique of "cultural mapping" and the recording of language and other data, with special reference to the internal debates and tensions within the community. She writes that there is a close coincidence between the aims of the project and the current urgent needs of the community.

The 2000 RAI Fellowship

The 2000 RAI Fellowship was awarded to Dr. Christopher Duncan (Research Associate in the Asian Cultural History Program, Smithsonian Institution). The original proposal submitted for the RAI Research Fellowship in Urgent Anthropology was for funds to document the indigenous cosmology and ritual practices of the Forest Tobelo, the forest-dwelling foragers living on the island of Halmahera in eastern Indonesia. However, due to the outbreak of violence in 1999, and continuing instability throughout 2001-2003, research plans had to be changed. A new research proposal was submitted in 2002 titled “Communal Violence in North Maluku: An Examination of the Violence and the Resulting IDP Situation in Northern Sulawesi and North Maluku, Indonesia.” This new research project had two main foci: (1) documenting and better understanding the violence that broke out in North Maluku from 1999 to 2000, and (2) examining the lives of those people that it displaced. The research was undertaken in the provinces of North Sulawesi and North Maluku in eastern Indonesia. The former was home to approximately 35,000 largely Christian internally displaced people (IDPs). Approximately 10,000 of these IDPs were living in several large IDP camps in the cities of Bitung and Manado, and an additional 25,000 were scattered throughout the province in individual homes. Research was conducted among both groups. The second research site was the province of North Maluku where the conflict that produced these IDPs occurred. Field work was concentrated in the districts of Tobelo and Kao.

Special RAI Fellowship 2001

Professor Alan MacFarlane and Dr. Mark Turin (Cambridge University) were awarded a special RAI Fellowship for 2001-2003. Digital Himalaya, a pilot project to develop digital collection, archiving and distribution strategies for multimedia anthropological information from the Himalayan region. They digitized a set of existing ethnographic archives comprised of photographs, films, sound recordings, field notes and texts collected by anthropologists and travelers in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and the Indian Himalayas (including Sikkim) from the beginning of the twentieth century to present.

The project had three long-term objectives:

1. To preserve in a digital medium valuable ethnographic materials that are degenerating in their current forms;
2. To make these resources available in a searchable digital format to to scholars and to the Himalayan communities from which the material originated;
3. To develop a template for collaborative digital cataloging that will allow users to contribute documentation to existing collections and eventually to link their own collections to the system, creating a dynamic tool for comparison.

If successful, the project should provide a model for others which may even lead to a larger project in the future to establish a set of interconnected archives of anthropological materials.

The 2001 RAI Fellowship

The 2001-2002 RAI Fellowship, under the direction of the University of Durham, was awarded to Dr. Noriko Sato to study a group of Syrian Orthodox Christians who were originally expelled from Turkey in 1922, the year of the Great Massacre, also called the Year of the Sword. Dr. Sato spent a large amount of time for field work among Syrian Orthodox Christians in Syria and collecting data in 2002 and is planning to publish the results as a book. The political and economic situation in Syria came to be problematic due to the long-standing Israeli military operations over Palestine and the recent war against Iraq. This has affect her research project of promoting tourism in Syria, as the number of tourists has drastically decreased during these three years. Furthermore, due to the downsized local economy, private sectors, including tourism, have lost the prospect of new investment and scaled back their business. In such a situation, she was unable to launch a pilot scheme of historical tourism that obliged for Syrian Orthodox Christians to invest their capital and therefore had to seek an alternative way of pursuing the aim of what the project of the historical tourism attempted to achieve. The adult educational project, in which Dr. Sato organized study groups to visit historical sites of Byzantine churches and read texts related to their history, is the way that supports the Christians to understand their historical affiliation to Syria and, through this process, they might confirm their modern Syrian identity. The outcome of this group activity was similar to that of historical tourism, which was expected. An analysis of the Adult Educational activities suggests that their interest in both ancient Christian history and the religious texts is closely related to their sociopolitical aim of repossessing their past.

The 2002 RAI Fellowship

The University of Durham awarded the RAI Urgent Fellow for the years 2002-2003 to Dr. Ananda Rajah, of the University of Singapore, for a project entitled “Karen Refugees in the Thailand-Burma Borderlands: Ethnic Conflict, Flight and Cultural Change.”Research has primarily involved a survey of the literature, published and unpublished, on the ethnic conflict in Burma leading to Karen refugee flows into Thailand and the collation of “grey” literature previously collected. Dr. Rajah also made a field visit to a Karen refugee camp along the Thailand-Burma borderlands.

The 2003 RAI Fellowship

Dr. Rogiai Abusharaf was awarded the RAI Fellowship for 2004. Her project is entitled “The Impact of Arabization and Islamization on Identity and Self-hood among the Southern Sudan’s Indigenous Peoples.” She will take up the Fellowship early in 2004, with two periods at Durham University separated by field work in the Sudan.

Special RAI Fellowship 2004

A special grant was awarded to Dr. Tatiana Bulgakova, Professor of the Institute of Northern Peoples in Alexander I. Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia. The goal of this project is to digitalize the old records of Nanay folklore, which are under threat of being lost and to do the most urgent work for preparing a textbook “Nanay Folklore,” which is the first part of the planned textbook “Traditional Nanay Culture”: (1) “Nanay Folklore” and (2) Ethnography of the Nanay.” This is the way to incorporate traditional knowledge, lost in the course of rapid change, in education, to make this knowledge available to the people, from whom it has been recorded. The collaboration with native teachers and elders in the process of preparing the textbook can foster their eroded respect for their native culture.

The 2004 RAI Fellowship

The 2004 RAI Fellowship was awarded to Dr. Emma Gilberthorpe. She was awarded the eleventh Fellowship after open competition. She will be conducting urgent research among the Fasu and Min people of Papua New Guinea, who face the short-term threat of virtual extinction brought on by rapid resource development; particularly the effects of temporary extraction and mining projects. Both groups face the demise of traditional knowledge and are likely to be forced to abandon their historic areas of settlement and move to larger towns. Both have specifically requested anthropological assistance in documenting their indigenous knowledge. The results are being disseminated to the extraction/mining companies to obtain maximum benefits and internally generate sustainable development.

The 2005 RAI Fellowship

The 2005 RAI Fellowship was awarded to Dr. Mark Jamieson. He is working on language and identity among the Sumu people of Rio Siquia, in the Mosquito Coast region of Eastern Nicaragua. This isolated and probably disappearing population of fewer than 300, speaking an endangered language, has never been studied by professional anthropologists. Threatened during the 1980s with dispersals, kidnappings and human rights abuses during a civil war which was particularly fierce in the area, this community is now threatened with extinction under pressure from advancing Spanish-speaking campesinos and cattle farmers.


The 2006 RAI Fellowship

The 2006 RAI Fellowship was awarded to Dr. M. Thanuja, for her project entitled The Konda Reddia: Perspectives on their social organisation and shifting cultivation overlooked by developmental intervention.



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Last modified: 28 Aug 07