Director of Graduate Studies (DGS)
Research and Teaching Interests: Historical ethnography; colonialism and nationalism; gender and cultural studies; Indonesia; southern U.S. and military culture.
Mary Margaret Steedly, Professor has focused on the Karo Bataks, a kinship-based society of the North Sumatran uplands deeply implicated in colonial and postcolonial projects of modernity, development and nation-building. Her first book, Hanging without a Rope: Narrative Experience in Colonial and Postcolonial Karoland (Princeton University Press, 1993) received the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing in 1994. Based on three years' ethnographic research with Karo spirit mediums and extensive study of colonial sources, this work approaches Karo historical experience through stories of encounters with spirits.
She is now completing a second book, Rifle Reports: Gender, Nationalism and Peasant Resistance in the Karo Area, 1945-1950, which explores the Indonesian war of independence of Karo participants. Like her earlier work, this book is concerned with the mutually constituting relations of narrative and experience, but it moves beyond the personal realm of belief to consider questions of subjectivity and state formation in the political domain of agency, citizenship and social violence.
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