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dc.contributor.advisorGreenhouse, Carol J
dc.contributor.authorPinedo-Padoch, Sofia
dc.contributor.otherAnthropology Department
dc.description.abstractWhen someone dies intestate and without close family willing to administer their estate in New York City, the Public Administrator (PA), a small state agency, steps in to take care of the estate. It is the PA’s responsibility to lay the decedent’s body to rest, to look for family, to settle any legal matters, and to collect, liquidate, and distribute their assets. Based on two years of fieldwork with the PA, this dissertation examines the process of state-led estate administration while also looking at the lives and deaths of the PA’s decedents. The dissertation is concerned with both sides of this work: the knowledge-making practices of the administration process, and the intimate and incomplete stories of the dead that are visible through the work of the state. The PA’s work is depicted as a kind of storytelling shaped by formal and informal narratives that circulate among coworkers and their publics. Although formal narratives in the shape of official reports and court documents are, to an outsider, the only “visible” evidence of narrative-making, this evidence is shaped by the informal narratives constructed by coworkers. The more possessions of market value a decedent has, the more substantial their narrative. Market value is directly linked to the storied life. This dissertation examines the consequences of this insight and argues that the PA’s legal narratives are primarily material. The dissertation also argues that the convergence of different temporalities and temporal rhythms in the PA’s work produces the distinctive material afterlives of the dead. The dissertation argues that the work of estate administration requires a level of emotional distance to be sustainable for its practitioners. Rather than “indifferent,” PA employees practice a state of “limited caring” in relation to decedents. This argument is positioned against the cases made by scholars who have argued that bureaucracy is “stupid” and a kind of “violence.” Finally, the case of a famous decedent is examined, a case that turned the assumptions of the PA’s work upside down. By attending to the ethnographic details of the PA’s work, this dissertation proposes a new approach to the study of bureaucracy.
dc.publisherPrinceton, NJ : Princeton University
dc.subjectMaterial Culture
dc.subjectNew York City
dc.subject.classificationCultural anthropology
dc.titleLife After Death in New York City: An Ethnography of Public Administration
dc.typeAcademic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Appears in Collections:Anthropology

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