Hailing from Albuquerque, New Mexico, I received my BA in South Asian studies (emphasis in Hindi) and English literature in May 2011 from the University of Iowa. I first became interested in the “toilet problem” in India as part of my undergraduate Honors thesis, which explored the confluence of forces that contributed to inadequate public facilities for women in Pune. system in India employs at its bottom rung a shrinking (though not disappearing) group of people called "manual scavengers" who gather and clear human waste from pit latrines. In general, I am interested in the variously disenfranchised — At the University of Virginia, my doctoral project examines the relationship between cultural ideas about cleanliness, the social relations that produce it, and sanitation development work in India through ethnographic research in the capital city, Delhi. With increasingly rapid urbanization and limited sanitation infrastructure, Delhi, a sprawling metropolis of some 22 million residents, has a crucial need for improved mechanisms for handling human waste, although there are conflicting ideas about how to achieve this improvement. By exploring how two prominent sanitation NGOs draw on models of purity and/or hygiene — which I posit as models of social relations as well as models of cleanliness — to generate very different internal organizations and development programs, my research aims to contribute an understanding of: a) how caste is made and unmade in relation to waste in urban India, and b) how orientations toward cleanliness and social relations constitute different ethical universes that create the conditions under which development programs either reproduce or break established social forms.
During my time in the Anthropology Department, I have served as the graduate student representative for the Center for Critical Human Survival Issues and the department Workshop on Fieldwork, Ethics, and Ethnographic Writing, which I helped establish in 2013.
For more information about my research and experience, please visit my website, www.jacquelinecieslak.com
socio-cultural anthropology, India, caste, cleanliness, development, political economy, waste