Stacey Langwick, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Director of Graduate Studies, was awarded an Institute for the Social Sciences’ small grant for her project "The Power of Skin in East Africa".
The power of skin is at the center of heated public debates in East Africa today. Efforts to stop the current wave of attacks on people with albinism are struggles over what skin is at the beginning of this millennium. Langwick’s research investigates how political and therapeutic projects concerning albinism in Africa are elaborating and solidifying some notions of skin and understandings of its vitality, while they refuse, deny, or ignore others. She argues that attending to the reactivity, volume, texture, sensation, color and temperature of skin in East Africa has become deeply contested and explicitly ethical work. Her ethnographic work investigates how the vitality of skin has come to matter differently in healing, medicine, witchcraft, advocacy and love and how it has come to embody both political and therapeutic potential. Two primary questions that drive this fieldwork are: (1) What conditions the powers and potentials – the capacities and vulnerabilities – of skin in East Africa at the turn of the millennium? (2) How do these powers structure acts of violence and care, harming and healing? Conflicts over the power of skin in Africa demand a careful rethinking of the politics of postcolonial bodies. In her research, Langwick accounts for the forms of knowledge and practice that shape the capacities and vulnerabilities of skin in East Africa, and that come to constitute the space of both pleas for humanity and articulations of the humane.
Founded in 2004, the Institute for the Social Sciences encourages collaborative research among social scientists and other Cornell faculty members across the university on cutting-edge research topics within the social sciences. The ISS fosters systematic, evidence-based, and interdisciplinary knowledge of social processes to address critical concerns. The ISS distributes grants twice a year. Small grants are funded by the ISS and by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Cornell University. Langwick was a recipient for the Spring 2016 semester.
Professor Chris Garces, from the Department of Anthropology, was also awarded an ISS Grant in Spring 2016.