Dr. Jessica Ott came to MSU with a background in public health focused on HIV and gender-based violence prevention. From her first course to the completion of her dissertation in 2020, she expanded her theoretical analysis as she engaged with new perspectives on anthropological analysis of violence and rights, as well as with questions of history and memory. Drawing on this knowledge, Dr. Ott articulated incisive questions and considered what they would mean on the ground in terms of gender and rights in Tanzania.
Dr. Ott’s dissertation, titled “Women’s rights in repetition: nation building, solidarity, and Islam in Zanzibar”, is a theoretically innovative examination of the historical continuities and discontinuities between three women’s rights movements in Zanzibar, extending from the late 1960s to the mid-late 2010s. Through her ethnographic and archival research, Dr. Ott’s work provides an empirically rich perspective on contemporary women’s rights and political advocacy. She suggests that contemporary women’s rights advocates are not translators, but rather strategists selecting among various perspectives and arguments that have roots in different historical periods. In praising Dr. Ott as a gifted writer, her mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Drexler, commends her ability to transform archival and ethnographic data into rich narratives filled with complex scenes and compelling individuals.
Currently, Dr. Ott is an Assistant Scientist within the Health Systems Program in the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins University where she is continuing her analysis of social, political, historical, and cultural aspects of health.
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