Nastasia Paul-Gera Selected for the Graduate School's 2022 Distinguished Thesis Award 

Submitted by Whitney Miller on

GWSS graduate student, Nastasia Paul-Gera, has been selected as a recipient of the Graduate School's 2022 Distinguished Thesis Award in the social sciences category. This award recognizes outstanding and exceptional research and writing produced by UW master’s students in any discipline, and recipients are selected in four categories: Biological Sciences, Humanities and Fine Arts, Social Sciences, and Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Engineering.

Nastasia's thesis, "Ecologies of Power: A Feminist History of State Building in the Gond Kingdom of Garha, 1500-1870s,” deploys a feminist methodology to investigate the ecologies of the Gond kingdom of Garha from the early modern to early colonial period. Chapter 1 traces how the gendering and sexualization of elephants in early modern South Asia was crucial for state building in Garha, embedding the kingdom into the social, political, and economic fabric of the wider region. This chapter also reveals that Garha’s ecologies produced specific meanings for "queen," who were socially and politically powerful actors in this kingdom. Chapter 2 examines shifts and continuities as the former kingdom of Garha came under British colonial rule in the nineteenth century. It demonstrates how British colonial actors mobilized gender and sexuality to discursively co-construct Gond people, forests, and the nonhuman animals who inhabited them as primitive, isolated, and unchanging, or “wild,” in the arenas of witchcraft, hard drinking, and hunting. This enabled the production of an elite British colonial masculinity and a paternal British colonial state needed to “tame” the wild, justifying the appropriation of labor and resources from Garha. Nevertheless, Nastasia's thesis also traces the on-going importance of Gond queens and other powerful Gond women, the absence of biological sex as a marker of gendered capacities to labor and drink among Gond people, and Gond people’s knowledges of forests and their nonhuman inhabitants. In doing so, she argues that Gond people continued to assert their social and political lifeways through and beyond the nineteenth century.