1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Nathan Hedges

Fieldwork Completed

B.A. Dartmouth College 2003

P.O. Box 400120

My dissertation research examines the cultural logics and analytical categories according to which Beninese men and women conceptualize government corruption. Corruption is frequently criticized in Beninese newspapers, on television and radio programs, and in daily, informal conversation. But the pervasive public condemnation of corruption coexists with an equally prevalent celebration of mέjomέ, a prestigious social title given to elected public officials who redistribute significant sums of material wealth to Beninese experiencing privation. Does this practice constitute corruption? If so, according to whom and in what contexts? How might differences in gender, ethnic self-identification, or position within networks of loyalty and largesse correlate to differences in opinion? Rather than endeavor to delineate absolute criteria, this project seeks to understand both the nuances of social context that seem to govern accusations of corruption and their attending ambiguities. This research contributes to the scholarly literatures pertaining to clientelism and corruption by situating them in a West African regional frame, one in which patrons and clients, ancestors and other cosmological actors each play a sanctioned part. In doing so, I bring into relief and thereby challenge Western ontological assumptions embedded in these literatures. Beyond Benin, the focus on local understandings of government malfeasance provides a needed corrective to the formulaic and individualized understanding of corruption according to which Western institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations enact disciplinary regimes on much of the world.

My interests in anthropology and West Africa derive from my academic experience as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College. Rob Welsch first introduced me to anthropology and continues to be both a mentor and friend. With Keith Walker I both learned the French language and discovered the works of Franz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, and Leopold Senghor. At the University of Virginia I work with Ira Bashkow, my committee chair, as well as Adria LaViolette, Fred Damon, and historian Joseph Miller. Sasha Newell is my outside reader.

Specializations

West Africa, Political Anthropology, Corruption, Exchange Theory

Graduate Students

Haytham Althubaiti
Pre-Fieldwork
Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson
Conducting Field Research
Jeffrey Attridge
Pre-Fieldwork
Julia Barnes
Pre-Fieldwork
Irtefa Binte-Farid
Fieldwork Completed
Lee Bloch
Fieldwork Completed
Erika Brant
Fieldwork Completed
Alison Broach
Fieldwork Completed
Tracie Canada
Conducting Field Research
Jacqueline Cieslak
Fieldwork Completed
Dannah Dennis
Fieldwork Completed
Brandon Dillard
Pre-Fieldwork
Bremen Donovan
Conducting Field Research
Grace East
Pre-Fieldwork
Kyle Edwards
Conducting Field Research
Anna Eisenstein
Fieldwork Completed
Johnathan Favini
Pre-fieldwork
Macario Garcia
Fieldwork Completed
Ann Githinji
Fieldwork Completed
Julia Jong Haines
Completed Fieldwork
Ida Hoequist
Pre-Fieldwork
Carolyn Howarter
Fieldwork Completed
Erin Jordan
Pre-Fieldwork
Jiyeon Kang
Conducting Field Research
Dionisios Kavadias
Fieldwork Completed
Kristin LaHatte
Fieldwork Completed
Sue Ann McCarty
Fieldwork Completed
Zachary McKeeby
Pre-Fieldwork
Michelle Morgenstern
Conducting Field Research
Nathalie Nahas
Fieldwork Completed
Jeffrey Nicola
Fieldwork Completed
Susan Palazzo
Fieldwork Completed
Mary Pancoast
Fieldwork Completed
Xinyan Peng
Pre-Fieldwork
Natalie Pope
Pre-Fieldwork
Xiaolei Qu
Pre-Fieldwork
Saad Quasem
Pre-Fieldwork
Alessandro Questa
Fieldwork Completed
Grace Reynolds
Fieldwork Completed
Jessica Rigney
Pre-Fieldwork
Giancarlo Rolando
Fieldwork Completed
Ekaterina Sevastakis
Pre-Fieldwork
Harri Siikala
Fieldwork Completed
Sheena Singh
Fieldwork Completed
Gregory Sollish
Pre-Fieldwork
Josh Wayt
Pre-Fieldwork
Michael Wenzel
Conducting Field Research
LuAnn Williams
Fieldwork Completed
Uzma Zafar
Pre-Fieldwork
Mingyun Zhang
Pre-Fieldwork