PERSONAL STATEMENT

Infrastructures, Technology, Globalization, Governance, Energopolitics, Neoliberalism

I am a recent graduate of Southern Methodist University where I earned a BFA in Dance Performance and a BA in anthropology. I am holistic in my current interests in anthropology, with my research agendas spanning both sociocultural anthropology and archaeology. My interests in technology studies derive from a combination of dance and anthropology. I remember when I first arrived at SMU, the current chair of the division of dance gave me the book, “The Anthropology of Dance” by Anna Peterson Royce, a former chair of the SMU dance department who also happened to be a trained anthropologist. This book has always stood on my shelf as a reminder of the love that I have for both fine art and all that is anthropology. When I dance, I experience a vitality that is exclusive to dance alone, nothing else makes me feel the same way. It’s a kinesthetic experience, an embodied one, and along with my initial coursework in anthropology, I independently explored theory on energy and on the embodied experience. This, coupled with a predisposed fascination with the science fiction genre, led me into the area of technology studies that explores experience, aesthetics, and the creation of new social worlds through infrastructures.

 

My interests in Archaeology include American Southwest Archaeology, Excavation Methodologies, Survey Methodologies, and Lithics. Primarily, I want to gain experience. I have never worked on a site, nor had the opportunity to practice Archaeology in real-time, so deciding on what discipline in Anthropology I wish to study further is difficult. Making a decision without practicing either archaeology or ethnography seemed an uninformed endeavor to me. I seek experience in survey and excavation. Specifically, experience in fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and write-up work would be preferred. I am also interested to see how I can apply my skills in coding to archaeological excavation. The opportunities AI can afford excavations are relatively unexplored. 

Specifically, I am interested in a project in the United Arab Emirates called Masdar City, which entailed the creation of what the UAE claimed would be the world’s first zero-carbon emission city. To accomplish this goal, the city created an “energopolitical” state, an idea cited from Dr. Dominic Boyer’s “Energopower: An Introduction” 2014, and derived from Michel Foucault’s concept of biopolitics, in which the government of Masdar would monitor all energy consumption and thus all human activity. What struck me most was the UAE’s position as one of the world’s leading producers of oil, and the reality of the vibrant economy that has risen from that. Over this past year, I was mentored by Dr. Nicolas Cisterna-Sternsdorff to write a case study over this large-scale infrastructural project. I used a mixed theory approach to examine Masdar, starting with theory on energy production and consumption, progressing to infrastructural theory and energy structures, and ending with an examination of the UAE’s neoliberal economic character. The case study itself examined the implications of the use of these new technologies and questioned what the status quo would become within this panopticon energy state. I looked at the mass production of solar energy, the city’s struggles to lower energy consumption, and its massive data archiving measures to learn what these implications are. But this is a theoretical case study, involving no field work. Training in ethnographic methods that can be applied to complex technological systems is where I wish to put my energies over the course of my higher education.

A performative ethnographic approach to technology studies can help specify and center the ways in which we view and explore technology, and how these technologies can create bold, new socio-cultural environments. My research on the Masdar project in the UAE touches on this idea of the creation of new socio-technical worlds. It is also deeply inspired by ideas in environmental anthropology, first introduced to me in a class taught by Dr. Maryann Cairn’s in my Junior year at SMU.  The creation and dispersal of human culture from their environmental surroundings and ecologies is the true backbone to my interests in human technological advancement. It is the new cultural world that is created when our tools become more complex, more all-encompassing, and more integrated within one another. I see many of the projects being pushed by the UAE and other rich, technology-oriented countries as indicative of social change, of the public interest and optimism of a future of humanity in general. 

Along with my interest in the Middle East, I find comparative analysis to be vital to a full understanding of a cultural phenomenon. Another region that I have less experience researching but equal interest in is Eastern Asia and Japan. Often a haven for technology studies specialists for the region's vast metropolises and technological endeavors, I believe there is much potential for comparisons between the two areas. Although I do not currently speak Arabic, I intend to learn what I need to conduct my research in the region. I am looking for a program with rigorous attention to ethnographic methods in technology studies, with a member of the faculty with similar regional research interest as mine.

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