Doctoral Dissertation Research: Comparing Multi-Scalar Claims for Redress and Reparation


David Scott
Ruth and William Lubic Professor of Anthropology; Chair, Department of Anthropology
Anna Schirrer
PhD Student


In the second half of the twentieth century, claims for redress for historical injustices have put increasing pressure on political and legal systems. This pressure is compounded by the fact that claims for reparations may occur simultaneously at international and national levels. The research supported by this award asks how international claims for redress converge on or diverge from national claims for redress from local governments. With this dual focus, findings from this research can be used in the development of national government and international organization strategies for engaging with the increasing growth of claims for redress.

Columbia University anthropology doctoral student, Anna Schirrer, supervised by Dr. David Scott, will carry out the research in Guyana. Guyana is an appropriate site for the research because there are active claims for redress at multiple levels that can be leveraged for research, and because the comparatively small size of the country makes the factors involved easier to isolate for a scientific study. Currently, there are two sorts of claims at stake. One claim, articulated by the multi-state Caribbean Community organization CARICOM, is a state-driven and internationally oriented claim for redress. The other, is a national rights-based claim for land addressed by local groups to the nation-state itself. Through twelve months of ethnographic research, the researcher will compare the legal resources, ethnic identity politics, and alliance networks used to legitimize authority in making redress claims. Data will be gathered through semi-structured interviews, ego-centered network mapping, and participant observation with a non-probability sample of experts at five different nodes in these networks. This research will contribute to social science theorization of the interactions between national and cross-national socio-legal processes. To reach non-academic audiences, the Co-PI will disseminate her research findings through public presentations at NGO-academic policy forums and with local stakeholders.