Current Anthropology is looking for a new Editor

Current Anthropology coverThe Wenner-Gren Foundation in partnership with the University of Chicago Press is seeking applications for the position of Editor of Current Anthropology. The new Editor will begin to receive submissions on September 1, 2018 and take full responsibility for the journal on January 1, 2019. The Editor’s term is six years from January 1, 2019, with a possibility of renewal for an addition partial or complete term.

The Foundation and Press are open to the possibility of alternative editorship arrangements such as co-Editors and/or the use of an active editorial board to handle manuscripts. The applicant should clearly outline her/his ideas for the editorship in their letter of intent and if a co-editorship is proposed the application should come jointly from both potential editors.

Applications are welcome from professional academic anthropologists anywhere in the world and specializing in any of the four anthropological sub-disciplines. Applications should include a complete curriculum vitae, names and contact details of three academic references and a letter of interest. The letter of interest should discuss the applicant’s vision for Current Anthropology, her/his qualifications and experience relevant to the position of Editor of anthropology’s highest profile broad-based journal, and proposed editorial arrangements for managing the journal.

Further information can be found here.

Applications, or suggestions for possible candidates, should be sent via e-mail to the Chair of the CA Editor Search Committee (CAeditor_search@wennergren.org), or by regular mail addressed to the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, 470 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10016, USA. Applications must be received by December 31, 2017.

NYAS @ WGF 10/23: Getting Talked into (and out of) Whiteness

Dr. Mary Bucholtz

Join us at the Wenner-Gren Foundation on October 23rd at 5:45 PM for another installment of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series. Mary Bucholtz, Professor of sociocultural linguistics at University of California, Santa Barbara will be presenting, “Getting Talked into (and out of) Whiteness”. Dr. Angela Reyes, Professor and Deputy Chair, English Department, Hunter College will act as discussant.

Please note: the lecture begins at 6:30 PM, and while the event is free to attend pre-registration is required for entry into the building.

Event Registration:  If you will be registering for an event for the first time, the New York Academy of Sciences will ask you first to set up a user account with them. Registration is free and does not require divulging personal or financial information.

You can also register by phone, 212-298-8640 or 212-298-8600.  Early Registration is strongly recommended since seating is limited. 

It has long been recognized by social scientists that race is a socially, culturally, and politically constructed system for producing and reproducing inequality (Goodman, Moses, & Jones 2012; Harrison 1995; Omi & Winant 1994). Crucially, the racial system is sustained in large part through language (Bonilla-Silva 2003; Domingúez 1986; Hill 2008; Rosa forthcoming) by creating marked social categories that can then be targeted for material and ideological control. At the center of the process of racialization is whiteness, which constitutes the foundation of the entire racial system precisely because it is the often invisible and unmarked hegemonic norm as well as the apex of the racial hierarchy (Harris 1995; Lipsitz 1998; Twine & Gallagher 2008). In recent decades the growing political power of racialized groups has unsettled the hegemonic position of whiteness, leading to the linguistic repositioning of whiteness—as visible and vulnerable rather than unmarked and dominant—as a strategy for maintaining racial privilege (Bucholtz 2011).

This presentation examines the linguistic strategies that uphold whiteness as the linchpin of the racial system as well as the counterstrategies that work to undo this system of power. The analysis considers two forms of racializing language: talk about race, or racially referential language, and talk that enacts race, or racially indexical language. Focusing on the uneasy racial positioning of white youth in California both in the 1990s and in the present day, I argue that a political critique of the language of whiteness must be at the center of any effort to challenge white supremacy.

Buffet Dinner at 5:45 pm ($20 contribution for dinner guests / free for students).
Lecture begins at 6:30 pm and are free and open to the public.

Pre-registration is required to attend the lecture.

 

Symposium #156: “Patchy Anthropocene: Frenzies and Afterlives of Violent Simplifications”

This past September Wenner-Gren found itself back at Tivoli Pálacio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal for the 156th Symposium, “Patchy Anthropocene: Frenzies and Afterlives of Violent Simplifications”. Be on the lookout for the upcoming special issue of Current Anthropology for the meeting’s papers, available to all 100% Open-Access.

Laurie Obbink, Jacob Doherty, Rosa Ficek, Donna Haraway, Heather Swanson, Ivette Perfecto, Anna Tsing, Zahirah Suhaimi, Kate Brown, Vanessa Agard-Jones, Naveeda Khan, Danilyn Rutherford, Andrew Mathews, Nils Bubandt, Natasha Myers, Frédéric Keck, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Atsuro Morita, Mike Hadfield

 

ORGANIZERS’ STATEMENT

Patchy Anthropocene: Frenzies and Afterlives of Violent Simplifications 

Anna Tsing (University of California, Santa Cruz / Aarhus University, Denmark)

Nils Bubandt (Aarhus University, Denmark)

Andrew Mathews (University of California, Santa Cruz)

When geologists first argued that modern humans were a geological force and should have an epoch named after them—Anthropocene—cultural anthropologists were skeptical.  After all, the term encapsulated many of the problems anthropologists have pointed to in science policy, including willingness to view the planet as a homogeneous space and the human race as a homogenous group.  In the past few years, however, anthropologists have begun to join multidisciplinary conversations in hopes that anthropological insights might reshape Anthropocene discussions, and, conversely, that the urgencies of the Anthropocene might spark a new anthropology.  This Wenner-Gren Symposium pushes forward this agenda through an exploration of a “patchy Anthropocene,” that is, the fragmented landscapes of livability and unlivability created by colonialism and industrial development.  On the one hand, we are concerned with “violent simplifications,” that is, ecological estrangements and displacements that threaten more-than-human livability.  On the other hand, we do not look for these threats merely in elite plans; instead, our focus is on the unintentional design of landscapes, that is, the social and ecological arrangements that have developed beyond the planning of any authority.

To invoke the unintentional is not to argue for pure souls who should not be blamed for destroying the earth.  Indeed, blaming is often useful in sparking remedial action. However, our point is to move beyond the dreams of engineers to attend to the consequences of their actions, whether or not they imagined them.  Predicting the fate of the earth through the strange dreams of planners is a powerful bad habit that has developed over the last several centuries and continues to reign in the shape of a vision of a “good Anthropocene”; we refuse that vision.  This allows us, too, to offer full regard to the historically shifting actions of nonhumans, both living and nonliving.  Some nonhumans become allies of industrial and imperial landscape engineering; others interrupt their simplifications and coercions.  Landscapes are the sediments of both kinds of actions, along with those of both elite and subaltern humans.

Three kinds of unintentional design inform our discussion.  First, we examine the logics and limits of ecological simplifications, as these have been key to the making of “resources” for capital, on the one hand, and the invasion of indigenous space, on the other.  Second, we track forms of violence that exceed the logics of planners.  Finally, we turn to hope amidst apocalypse—of the kind that emerges out of unintentional design.  Together, these kinds of unintentionality help us describe a patchy Anthropocene in which threats to livability are far from randomly distributed.  By investigating more-than-human landscapes that emerge from, yet also exceed, industrial and imperial plans, we hope to identify “Anthropocene-in-the-making.”  This also means sketching the contours of an anthropology pushed onto new terrain in its efforts to explore a world where the violence of modern simplification and the poisons of the Great Acceleration are creating new worlds of livability and unlivability. Anthropology, we suggest, is currently in a moment of experiment and retooling that would allow it to align the potential of a more-than-human anthropology with insights from critical political history; to cultivate new forms of collaboration that are open to learning from indigenous cosmologies as well as from the natural sciences and environmental activism; and to study both the secular rationalities of a world in ecological crisis and the nonsecular fissures of hope and wonder amidst disaster.

The Symposium begins the arduous process, then, of intervening in debates about dramatic environmental change by describing the Anthropocene with the tools that anthropology can make available—through trans-disciplinary collaboration, ethnographic insight into indigenous worlds, as well as critical reflection about the otherwise—in full recognition of heterogeneity and power differences across life on earth.  Anthropology, arguably, has always been the study of unintended consequences; our conference brings this anthropological perspective to more-than-human landscapes.

The three themes of the Symposium are addressed in three sessions, each organized into dialogues.

I. More-than-human estrangements: what worlds do simplification and acceleration make?

A puzzle to consider: The proliferation of modern engineering has also been the proliferation of pests and plagues.

Projects of state-making and empire building, of weaving world-spanning commodity networks and intrusive bureaucracies, have helped produce the environmental and cultural transformations that we now call Anthropocene. Such projects have focused on controlling plants, animals, and material processes, and on related efforts to define and control the people who work in plantations, factories, farms, or broader landscapes.  At every stage, efforts to control humans and nonhumans have been undermined or reworked by transformations and escapes from control, sometimes visibly, sometimes almost unnoticed. From the Columbian exchange, which moved people, plants, animals and diseases between the Old and New World, to plantation economies which helped bring into being smallholder cultivation systems and forms of anti- and decolonial political resistance, to more recent efforts to build factory-farm systems that have produced new diseases, the ordering projects of modernity have continually undermined themselves, producing unexpected escapes, transformations, and estrangements. The first set of dialogues in this symposium asks participants to consider how world-making projects have produced unexpected consequences, how new and strange forms of human and non-human have come into being. How do the more-than-human relations of non-humans produce new diseases, new plants and animals, new kinds of human subjects, and new landscapes? How might the details of particular cases and landscapes help us understand the Anthropocene more widely, perhaps as “Plantationocene,” perhaps as “Capitalocene,” perhaps as something else? How might thinking of the spaces of modernist control as inhabited by excess and escape enrich anthropological engagements with the Anthropocene? What new concepts, methods or collaborations might we need in order to engage with these experimental spaces?

II. Patchy violence: what kinds of unlivability shape the Anthropocene?

A puzzle to consider: Why, despite continual assertions of its homogeneity, is the Anthropocene so uneven?

The Anthropocene is a time of heightened violence against all living things on earth; the big question today is whether enough can survive to allow the kinds of life on earth we inherited from the Holocene, and earlier epochs, to continue.  Species extinctions have rocketed; ecosystems disappear; industrial and military waste spreads around the planet.  Vulnerable humans and other forms of life bear the brunt of such violence—and sometimes stand in its way.  There is a lot for anthropologists to tackle in such challenges to livability.  In this conference, we’ll take up three themes.  First, beings other than humans make landscapes, and we turn to those “creatures of empire” (to use Virginia Anderson’s term) that wreck indigenous life-worlds along with humans.  These include animals and plants—but also nonliving things, including the waste products of urban life.  What kinds of landscapes are made by such ambivalent allies and enemies of human well-being?  Second, what species and ecosystems are destroyed in industrial and imperial conquest—and what possibilities are there for resistance, resilience, and survival?  This is a set of questions, too, in which biologists and anthropologists might look for common ground; the challenges of transdisciplinarity share center stage in discussing more-than-human vulnerabilities.   We hope to tackle these creatively.  Third, unintentional landscapes of the Anthropocene exist inside bodies as well as around them.  To track the poisons of our times, attention to the links between inner and outer landscapes is essential.  Poison is a key characteristic of the Anthropocene, and we need to understand its dynamics and its distribution.

III: Illegitimate hope: what more-than-human worlds are made amidst destruction?

A puzzle to consider: What do anthropological collaborations with natural scientists, with activists, and with indigenous spokespeople have in common?

The Anthropocene ties new terrors to novel kinds of hope.  Environmental change, global warming and the imminent prospect of mass extinction are pushing new modernist dreams of control, and the contemporary moment is replete with designs for carbon trading, climate engineering, re-wilding, DNA banking, and escapes to Mars.  Anthropology needs to pay attention to the ways in which the modernist project of human mastery and economic growth seeks to reinvent itself in the face of ecological apocalypse.  But other formations of hope, different kinds of conviviality, exist beyond this “good Anthropocene.”  The more-than-human worlds of indigenous communities around the world offer one kind of alternative. Critical environmental activism may hold the promise of another.  And Western science itself, long the backbone of the imagined modern conquest of Nature, is currently being transfigured, as new insights within the natural sciences into the fundamentally symbiotic and an interdependent make-up of life question cherished oppositions and concepts of modernity. All of these alternatives, disparate as they may be, point to another Anthropocene: patchy spaces in which human worlds critically depend on the world of spirits, animals, ghosts, plants and other non-humans. In an Anthropocene that is fundamentally unknown, uninvited, and unexpected, hope may also dwell.  The third session of the symposium explores this more-than-human Anthropocene as an occasion to reinvent anthropology, as an invitation to transdisciplinary collaboration, and as a space for illegitimate hopes for co-species survival. How might anthropology reinvent itself to explore the magic of the more-than-human comparatively across the worlds of indigenous communities, activist groups, and science? What possibilities of transdisciplinary collaboration exist when neither “the human” nor “Nature” is what we thought? What forms of radical hope for co-species survival exist in the critical zones of the Anthropocene?

Caribbean Primate Research Center Needs Your Help!

Our colleagues and friends from the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC) in Puerto Rico need our help. A number of colleagues have experienced devastating losses due to Hurricane Maria and are facing extreme day-to-day challenges including lack of basic supplies, food, and water.  This harrowing message was painted on the streets of Punta Santiago, just meters from the CPRC main office.

This Fundraiser has been organized by Cayo Santiago alumni to directly support the employees and their families of the Caribbean Primate Research Center including Cayo Santiago and Sabana Seca Field Stations and the community of Punta Santiago. Click here to donate.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Michael Cepek

 

Michael Cepek and Cofán elder Emiliano Queta discuss Cofán research issues while sharing tobacco in the community of Duvuno (photo by Bear Guerra).

Michael Cepek is an Associate Professor at the University of Texas as San Antonio. In 2012 he received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on “Dureno Uno: A Cofán Politics of Oil and Loss”. In 2017 Dr. Cepek received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Developing a Cofan Protocol for the Conduct of Ethical Research”.

In May of 2012, I began a three-year period of Wenner-Gren-funded research on the relationship between the indigenous Cofán nation of eastern Ecuador and the transnational petroleum industry. In 1964, the corporation Texaco began searching for oil in Cofán territory. Three years later, the company discovered a petroleum field underneath a Cofán village. By the mid-1970s, Ecuador had become an OPEC nation, and Cofán people’s lives had changed dramatically: roads and pipelines had cut through their homeland, tens of thousands of settlers had expropriated their territory, and oil-related toxins had suffused their air, forests, rivers, and bodies.

The data I gathered through participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and economic diaries supplied the ethnographic material for Life in Oil: Cofán Survival in the Petroleum Fields of Amazonia, a book that will be published by the University of Texas Press in early 2018. For decades, Cofán lives and lands have served the global media as potent symbols of oil’s destructive powers. By conceptualizing oil as a simultaneously material, social, and discursive phenomenon, Life in Oil complicates existing accounts of crude’s devastation of the Cofán nation. The book describes Cofán life in the midst of the petroleum industry as a form of slow, contradictory, and ultimately unknowable violence. By attending to the open-ended quality of Cofán experiences with oil, the book treads the line between affirming the continuity of a meaningful way of life and describing how that way of life has been impacted by the petroleum industry, which, I argue, should compensate Cofán people for the losses they have suffered.

Members of the community of Zábalo discuss the proposed research protocol during a village meeting (photo by Bear Guerra).

While conducting research, it became clear that it was impossible to understand Cofán stances toward oil without investigating their perspectives on the dozens of journalists, anthropologists, filmmakers, lawyers, and activists who have come to their communities and produced representations of their petroleum-damaged lives. My Cofán collaborators expressed deep uncertainty and antagonism toward non-Cofán reporters and scholars. They told me that outsiders often portray them in problematic ways, do not compensate them for their collaboration, do not get informed consent for their work, and offer no real benefits to Cofán individuals or communities. Despite my more than two decades of involvement with the Cofán nation as a scholar and an activist, I learned that much of my fieldwork on oil was interpreted in the same way.

With the support of a Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant, I returned to Cofán territory in 2017 to share the results of my fieldwork and to gather information on Cofán ideas concerning how they can negotiate just, equitable, and transparent partnerships with non-Cofán researchers. To help guide the project, I enrolled Cofán anthropologist Martin Criollo and Cofán university students Hugo and Sadie Lucitante as full-time collaborators. Together, we interviewed past project participants, held community discussions on the possibility of ethical research collaborations, and formulated a written protocol that Cofán individuals, communities, and organizations can use to negotiate agreements with scholars and journalists. We spent more than a month visiting the communities of Dureno, Duvuno, Sinangoé, and Zábalo. We also presented our ideas at a meeting of the Cofán ethnic federation: the Nacionalidad Originario A’i-Kofán del Ecuador (NOAIKE).

From left to right: linguists Wilson Silva, Scott Anderbois, and Maksimilian Dabkowski discuss the practicalities of a potential research project with the Cofán protocol team (Hugo Lucitante, Martin Criollo, Michael Cepek, and Sadie Lucitante) (photo by Bear Guerra).

Our investigation allowed us to complete a draft research protocol with written versions in English, Spanish, and A’ingae, the Cofán language. The protocol is intended to let non-Cofán researchers know what they must do and how they must do it if they wish to work with Cofán people. It covers many issues: contacting Cofán individuals, communities, and NOAIKE; securing permission to begin research; selecting and paying community members as research subjects and project workers; compensating host communities in material and non-material ways; sharing income from book royalties and other research-related proceeds; establishing credit and authorship in publications and other project products; securing informed consent, privacy, and confidentiality; returning copies of research products to host communities and NOAIKE; and digitally archiving copies of project data so they will be accessible to and controlled by the people and communities from whom they came.

Although our team’s work dealt with a primarily applied topic, it was deeply ethnographic. It depended on developing a subtle understanding of Cofán notions of ownership, fairness, and individual, family, community, and national rights. It also demanded a more nuanced appreciation of the concepts of autonomy and sovereignty that orient Cofán visions of self-determination and political-economic advancement.

The protocol our team composed has yet to be approved by the Cofán nation as a whole, which hopefully will meet collectively in early 2018 to discuss our draft, amend it where necessary, and certify it as an official document. Nonetheless, our draft has already served to structure discussions between Cofán people and prospective researchers, including a Colombian artist interested in producing visual representations of Cofán territorial relations and a linguistic team from Brown University and the University of Arizona who intend to document the grammar of A’ingae and to generate A’ingae school materials for Cofán students. Finally, the protocol has helped me to reanalyze my own oil-related data and to envision the politics and practicalities of my next major project, which will examine the relationship between Cofán history and Cofán shamanism. Given the protocol’s demonstrated utility, we hope to make the final version available to other scholars, journalists, and indigenous populations who seek to develop research partnerships within and beyond Amazonia.

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Joanne Nucho

We are pleased to present a trailer and abstract for Dr. Joanne Nucho who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on The Narrow Streets of Bourj Hammoud.

The Narrow Streets of Bourj Hammoud from Joanne Nucho on Vimeo.

The Narrow Streets of Bourj Hammoud

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Narrow Streets of Bourj Hammoud is a 90-minute experimental ethnographic film about a working class suburb of Beirut called Bourj Hammoud that was initially built to permanently settle Armenian refugees who had escaped the 1915 genocide in Ottoman lands. Today, it is a diverse district that is home to Lebanese of various sects as well as migrants and displaced peoples from Syria and all over the world. Filmed over a period of seven years, the film examines the overlapping histories of displacement through interlocutors’ experience of urban space over time. Through an innovative practice of “map-drawing interviews,” my collaborator and I, Lebanese artist Rosy Kuftedjian, asked participants to draw a visual representation of the neighborhood that reflects something that has changed over time, or that is meaningful. The results of the map-drawing interviews shape the narrative of the film, which is anchored in the city’s constantly shifting material urban infrastructures and the ways in which people variously experience rootedness and displacement through the materiality of streets, electricity cables, bridges and buildings. The result is a lyrical ethnographic reflection on space, time and material accretions of the past as narrated by longtime residents as well as recent arrivals to this city. The associated website for the film can be found here.

NYAS @ WGF 9/25: The Refugee as a Political Figure for our Time

Dr. Ilana Feldman

Join us at the Wenner-Gren Foundation on September 25th at 5:45 PM as we kick off the first New York Academy of Sciences lecture of the fall series. Ilana Feldman, Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University will be presenting, “The Refugee as a Political Figure for our Time”. Dr. Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor and Chair at the New School for Social Research will act as discussant.

Please note: the lecture begins at 6:30 PM, and while the event is free to attend pre-registration is required for entry into the building.

Event Registration:  If you will be registering for an event for the first time, the New York Academy of Sciences will ask you first to set up a user account with them. Registration is free and does not require divulging personal or financial information.

You can also register by phone, 212-298-8640 or 212-298-8600.  Early Registration is strongly recommended since seating is limited. 

Recent years have been marked by both tremendous population movement and incredible anxiety in refugee receiving countries and in relatively non-receiving countries. The moment seems apt to reconsider the refugee as a political figure, following a line of discussion first opened by a previous generations of scholars who examined earlier periods of large-scale human displacement and dislocation. In 1943 Hannah Arendt published an essay entitled “We Refugees,” a reflection on the position shared by herself and other Jewish exiles from Europe as they lived with displacement. In 1995 Giorgio Agamben published a short piece with the same title, commenting both on Arendt’s earlier piece and on the configurations of borders, movement, and population control that were defining the post-cold war European landscape. What does the current refugee “crisis” tell us about politics in the twenty-first century. Drawing from the Palestinian refugee experience, this paper explores the refugee as an enduring figure, one central to the existing, and persisting, political order. It also considers refugees as political actors, who struggle within and against this political order to create livable lives.

Buffet Dinner at 5:45 pm ($20 contribution for dinner guests / free for students).
Lecture begins at 6:30 pm and are free and open to the public.

Pre-registration is required to attend the lecture.

Missed the lecture? Listen to it here!

 

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: Alexander Titan Kabelindde

Alexander Kabelindde received his undergraduate degree from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in archaeology at University College London supervised by Dr. Ignacio De La Torre. Read the previous two entries in the series.

In October 2011 I was accepted into the Bachelor of Arts program in Archaeology at the University of Dar es Salaam. During my undergraduate studies, I received training in Palaeolithic Archaeology, Human Evolution and cognate courses. These courses gave me a greater understanding of lithic analysis and early humans’ biological and cultural evolution. Towards the end of my undergraduate studies, I did a hands-on analysis of Oldowan and Acheulean assemblages excavated by Mary Leakey at Olduvai Gorge and wrote a dissertation on the transition from the Oldowan to the Acheulean.

My enthusiasm and commitment to human evolutionary research enabled me to get a studentship to undertake a Postgraduate Diploma in Academic Research and Methods at UCL Qatar in August 2014, and then MA Archaeology of the Arab and Islamic World (2015-2017). During my Masters, I have participated in various archaeological projects as a student, collaborator, volunteer and research assistant in Africa (Tanzania), Middle East (Qatar), Central Asia (Kazakhstan) and Europe (UK). My participation enabled me to receive world-class research skills in conducting archaeological research projects. My newly learned skills were applied to conduct an independent research project, written up as a Masters Dissertation in August 2017.

In my PhD study, I intend to focus on the technological behaviour of Homo erectus in Beds III and IV, Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). Throughout my study, I intend to undertake fieldwork (survey and excavation) and labwork (Leakey’s collection) to address the technological capacities of our ancestors during late Early Pleistocene. My research will require the use of integrative methods to analyse lithic assemblages unearthed from Beds III/IV sites and those stored in the field laboratory at Olduvai Gorge. Although the goal is to better understand Homo erectus technological behaviour at Olduvai Gorge, my research will also increase our understanding of the Leakey collections and adds new knowledge in Palaeolithic research in East Africa. More importantly, the results of my study will provide a new understanding of Acheulean assemblages from Olduvai and Homo erectus behaviour.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Erin Moore

The inaugural workshop of the Kampala Critical Development Collective, a collaborative ethnographic writing project, was held at 32 Degrees East/The Uganda Arts Trust

While a doctoral student at the University of Chicago Erin Moore received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2012 to aid research on “Women into Girls? Translating & Transforming Development in Ugandan ‘Girls’ Empowerment Programs,” supervised by Dr. Jennifer Cole. In 2016 Dr. Moore went on to receive an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Race, Gender, and Geopolitics in Uganda’s NGO Economy: A Consortium”.

In Uganda, more than 15% of the national budget is controlled by foreign development agencies and multinational NGOs. In the wake of state retrenchment, Ugandans look to NGOs for employment, education, and other social and health services. Moreover, the international development industry drives both curricula and research in universities, as funds for tertiary education have been entirely privatized in recent decades. This national context – what I describe as Uganda’s “NGO economy” – hinges upon partnerships between western development agencies and local institutions.

Professor Godfrey Ddumba stands next to list of common themes that emerged from members' descriptions of their experiences working in the aid industry

These partnerships are asymmetrical: because Ugandans depend on development partnerships for income, they must work assiduously to maintain them. As I found over the course of my dissertation fieldwork in both activist and academic settings, this foreign-local partnership model explicitly shaped particular research objectives and precluded others. For example, at a 2012 meeting hosted by a Makerere University professor and her colleague from DFID, the UK’s state development agency, DFID’s desire to understand “cultural” obstacles to girls’ schooling foreclosed a prominent legal scholar’s proposed investigation into young women’s strategies for resilience.

Ugandan scholars and NGO practitioners often remark upon these experiences as structural inequalities systemic to an industry that they nonetheless rely upon for their livelihoods. Similar private conversations with Ugandan interlocutors over the course of my fieldwork suggested a need for a scholarly space outside the auspices of the development industry to critically assess the structural inequalities of Uganda’s NGO economy. To create such a space, with support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research’s Engaged Anthropology Grant, and together with six artists, scholars, and activists the Kampala Critical Development Collective (KCDC) held its inaugural meeting in February 2017.

Hosted by the Kampala arts center, 32 Degrees East, KCDC met for an ethnographic writing workshop. Before the workshop, pariticipants posted relevant articles from academics and journalists in critical development studies to a shared database and circulated short autoethnographic pieces reflecting on the intersections of economic injustice and gender, generation, and geopolitics in the NGO industry.

KCDC members workshopping each other's submissions

The workshop opened with a discussion of the history of anthropology and its relationship to colonialism and the international development industry in Uganda. We then turned to ethnography and autoethnography as methods for relating one’s personal experiences to broader structures of inequality. For many, autoethnography was a new (and fruitful) writing genre, one that the group found useful for drawing connections across individual experiences.

From these methodological convervations, we turned to workshopping each participant’s pre-circulated autoethnographic piece. One KCDC member working for a major multinational children’s rights NGO described the irony of sending NGO beneficiaries, school-aged young people, to donor events in the Unites States and Europe while refusing to distribute monies for school fees to these same nominal beneficiaries. One prominent popular author involved in literacy activism wrote about the contingencies of accepting international donor funds, which demand accountability in the number of physical books distrubted to rural schools but whose metrics cannot capture the cultivationg of a “reading culture” among young people. A feminist activist involved in Uganda’s preeminent women’s movement lamented the impossibilities for the intergenerational transmission of feminist thought between older and younger women given the costs of attending both national and international feminst consortia. Over the course of reviewing each other’s writing, KCDC together discussed shared experiences of socioeconomic injustice across an industry that has become a primary source of employment for middle class young people in Uganda.

In June 2018, KCDC will meet for its second collaborative writing workshop to further develop these initial pieces for publication and to grow the collective’s reach. Additionally, KCDC is developing a collaborative blog as well as capacity for montly networking meetings to gather more Kampala-based scholars, activists, and artists interested in purusing projects related to critical development studies.

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Maple Razsa

We are pleased to present a trailer and abstract for Dr. Maple Razsa who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on The Maribor Uprisings: An Interactive Documentary.

Trailer: The Maribor Uprisings: An Interactive Documentary.

The Maribor Uprisings: An Interactive Documentary

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

In the once prosperous industrial city of Maribor, Slovenia, anger over political corruption became unruly revolt. In The Maribor Uprisings: A Live Participatory film—part documentary, part conversation, and part interactive experiment—you are invited to participate in the protests. Dramatic frontline footage from a video activist collective places you in Maribor as crowds surround and ransack City Hall under a hailstorm of tear gas canisters. As a viewer, you must decide collectively with your fellow audience members which cameras you will follow and therefore how the screening will unfold. Like those who joined the actual uprisings, you will be faced with the choice of joining non-violent protests or following rowdy crowds towards City Hall and greater conflict. These dilemmas parallel those faced by protesters everywhere as they grapple with what it means to resist. What sparks outrage? How are participants swept up in—and changed by—confrontations with police? Could something like this happen in your city? What would you do? What audiences see, the emotional quality of their experience, perhaps even whether they feel personally implicated in unruly protest, will all depend on the choices they make.

For more on The Maribor Uprisings check out the official website as well as POV Magazine’s in-depth review and IndieWire’s article about the nine independent films that deserve more attention in 2017. 

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: Ehsan Lor Afshar

Ehsan received his undergraduate degree at Iran University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Tehran, Iran. He also has a Master’s degree from the University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran and The New School for Social Research, New York, NY. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in anthropology at the State University of New York in Binghamton, Binghamton, NY, supervised by Dr. Thomas M. Wilson. Read the previous entry in this series.

My journey in anthropology began in 1999 when I was accepted to the graduate program of anthropology in the University of Tehran. Since then, I have always been engaged with the field as student, academic, ethnographer, member of the Board of Directors of Iranian Society of Anthropology, and again student and adjunct in the United States. My Master’s thesis, which was focused on Iranian caravansaries, received the University’s Research Grant for its novel approach and scholarship. After earning my degree, I taught anthropology in Tehran and two other cities in Iran.

Between November 2005 and August 2012, I worked as an academic at the Department of Anthropology of Sistan and Baluchestan University in the southeast of Iran, at the country’s borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan. While there, I became interested in the question of continuity and change in Baluchestan: how has the Baluch society in this relatively arid and isolated area come to be what it is today? Besides teaching, I also conducted three long-term ethnographies on rural communities of Baluchestan.

In August 2012, I moved to the U.S. to attend the graduate program of anthropology at the New School for Social Research. I completed the Master’s program in May of 2014 and started teaching at Saint John’s University the following year.

In September of 2016, I entered the PhD program of anthropology at Binghamton University, the State University of New York, where I can work on my research project under the supervision of world-class experts in anthropology of borders, state, and globalization. I have envisioned a multidimensional entry to the question of change in Iran’s Baluchestan with particular attention to the vortex of three interrelated dynamics: international borders, state surveillance, and forces of globalization.  I seek to contextualize the economic transformation of the Baluch society within the broader frameworks of nation-state and globalized world. The Baluch merchants, for instance, have to cope with the challenges posed by their group historical modes of adaptation and emerging forces of modern governmentality and market economies. My study’s goal is to investigate the confluences and socio-political consequences arising from these challenges.