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Emily Levitt’s research investigates the symbolic dimensions of taxation in a small town in upstate New York. In Seneca Falls (less than an hour’s drive from Cornell’s Ithaca campus), the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York (CIN) is currently attempting to rebuild a reservation that the nation lost possession of hundreds of years ago. Most recently, this has taken on the form of buying property that sits within the old reservation’s borders and also within modern-day state and municipal jurisdictions, and refusing to comply with the tax codes of those jurisdictions. Representatives of these state and local jurisdictions demand that the CIN pay the taxes that are levied on the nation’s properties and businesses, while representatives of the nation use various legal strategies to avoid making these payments. As the people living in Seneca Falls articulate why they think the CIN should or should not pay these taxes, they debate the definitions and implications of “sovereignty” and “citizenship.” This project examines how these and other political-economic concepts rise to the surface when individuals and groups make fiscal demands on one another.
Emily Levitt received a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MPhil in Material Anthropology and Museum Ethnography from Oxford University. Originally from New York State, she returned to the US after a decade in the UK to study aspects of American culture from an anthropological perspective at Cornell. Her doctoral research has been sponsored by the Wenner Gren Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Royal Anthropological Institute.
socio-cultural, North America, tribal sovereignty