Aaron Su and Junbin Tan Awarded Dean’s Completion Fellowships for AY2024-25

June 25, 2024

Anthropology graduate students Aaron Su, G6, and Junbin Tan, G7, have both been awarded the Dean’s Completion Fellowship from the Graduate School. The Graduate School awards this fellowship to promising graduate students in the Humanities and Social Sciences who will be defending their dissertation in the coming academic year. Following Aaron and Junbin’s dissertation defenses, they will be appointed as Postgraduate Research Associates (PGRA) through the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. 

Through 21 months of ethnographic research, Aaron examined the rollout of “participatory design” programs in Taiwan, as the government has aimed to collaborate with rural Indigenous groups in the making of new inclusionary medical and agricultural technologies. While Taiwan hopes to increase Indigenous life expectancies and agricultural yields in pursuit of national “self-sufficiency,” these programs are coming into conflict with local understandings of self-determination and futurity. Contributing to medical anthropology, environmental anthropology, the anthropology of design, and critical Indigenous studies, Aaron’s research questions the relationship between seemingly virtuous categories like diversity, inclusion, and participation and the needs of marginalized communities. In so doing, he also reveals the conflicting ethical futures facing today’s precarious and geopolitically threatened Taiwan. His work is supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Fullbright-Hays Program. Aaron is co-advised by João Biehl and Carolyn Rouse

Through ethnographic research on Kinmen from 2020 to 2023, Junbin examines the ways by which calendric temple festivals, domestic rituals, and the documentation of these traditions are practices through which one generation of Kinmenese—born in the 1960s and 1970s—articulate their visions for Kinmen and the Taiwan Strait. Instead of focusing on the profusion of state ideologies in this politically-charged space, his research foregrounds ritualistic activities grounded in everyday life. Ritual sensations that this generation of older adults, including migrants to Taiwan, have experienced since childhood solidify their attachment to place and re-situate Kinmen within the realm of cosmologies of transformation. His interlocutors worry that migration and loss of ritual labor, among other things, disrupt intergenerational ritual continuity. However, as Junbin’s ethnography suggests, “generational continuity” is being reconceived in new ways through improvised ritual economies centered on older adults. His research is supported by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Junbin is co-advised by John Borneman (emeritus) and Serguei Oushakine