Engaged Anthropology Grant: Dolly Kikon

Bihu dancers from Gelekey with a Naga Dobashi from Anaki C Village (Photo by Dolly Kikon)

While a doctoral student at Standford University Dolly Kikon received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2009 to aid research on “Blurred Borders: Unsettling the Hill/Valley Divide in Northeast India,” supervised by Dr. James G. Ferguson. In 2015 Dr. Kikon received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “A Foothill Sanrhutav: Sharing Experiences of Women Traders in Northeast India”.

I successfully completed the foothill community gathering and feast on July 13. As I had submitted in the proposal, I was able to complete the key proposed goals: (a) present my research to the host communities; (b) provide a forum for the communities to gather and share their experiences and establish mentoring networks; (c) invite key actors of different indigenous communities such as village headmen, student associations, coal traders, teachers, border peace committees, and householders from Naga and Assamese villages to discuss the plight of women traders, and broadly gender relations among foothill communities. Due to the monsoon and unprecedented floods across Northeast India, several landslides had washed away roads and bridges. This prevented certain Naga villages situated in the uplands to attend the meeting. Given the existing challenges, I chose Gelekey, a small town in the foothill border of Assam and Nagaland as the venue of the community meeting and feast. The border town of Gelekey town (in Sibsagar district of Assam) shares its boundary with the districts of Longleng and Mokokchung (in Nagaland). Thus, Ahom, Assamese, Phom, and Ao villages attended the community gathering and shared their experiences and hardships of living in the militarized landscape.

Women from Gelekey at the gathering (Photo by Dolly Kikon)

The gathering was held at the Adarsha Bidyapith School in Gelekey town. The location of the meeting was both symbolic and strategic. Gelekey is not only an important coal-trading hub and oil exploration site, but also attracts numerous Naga villages from the uplands to the Atkhel haat, a weekly market that takes place in the outskirt of the town. Although the electricity was erratic, I was able to make a power point presentation and shared my experience about doing an ethnographic work among the host communities in the Assam-Nagaland border. Drawing from my field notes and the publications I have brought out (Anthropology News, Economic and Political Weekly, South Asia: Journal of South Asia), I explained my ethnographic journey at the gathering. During the community interaction session, communities underlined the anxieties of living in the foothills. They reiterated my ethnographic notes that I had connected between 2006-2011 about the place that witnessed a heightened presence of armed forces. This was due to the extractive resource activities like oil explorations, tea plantations, and coalmines across the foothill border of Assam and Nagaland. In addition, the foothills, like other parts of Northeast India, were under the jurisdiction on an extra-constitutional regulation known as the Disturbed Area Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958). Movement of goods and people in the militarized foothills, as the community sharing revealed, immensely highlighted the importance of the Engaged Anthropology Grant that helped communities to come together and share their reflections and experiences. A central point of the community gathering and feast was to discuss the experiences of women traders from Nagaland in the foothill markets known as haats. Sharing my field notes and interviews of several women traders I had collected, I explained how these weekly markets represented the dynamic, multifaceted, and tangled lives of the residents of the villages in the foothills of Assam and Nagaland.

Ahom Women at the community feast (Photo by Dolly Kikon)

Women traders from Anaki C village shared their thoughts. Ms. Emer Phom, the president of the Phom women’s collective known as the Bedestha Group said that they had to go down to Assam for their basic needs like medicine, food, and clothing. Speaking at the research interaction, Mr. Shingnyu Phom, member of the Border Peace Committee from Yonglok village appealed to the gathering to maintain peace in the border areas and the importance of engaging in meaningful community dialogue. Adding to the conversations about peace, Mr. Imkong Phom, the village headman from Anaki C village thanked the gathering for the conversations and stressed the importance of understanding and respecting each others history. Mrs Kunti Borah Gogoi, an Ahom educationist from Gelekey reiterated the importance of maintaining the people to people dialogue and connection in the border area. She said that such communities gathering were important events to bring together the Naga people and the Ahom community to reaffirm their friendship and kinship as well. As a gesture of solidarity and love, she presented all the Naga guests with a phulon gamusa (a traditional Assamese scarf). Ms. Rashmi Saikia and Mr. Promud Monuranjan sang Nagamese, Assamese, and Hindi songs for the audience, and a group of mainas (little children) performed a Jhumur dance to conclude the meeting on a musical note. After the interaction, the guests were invited to a community feast.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Ralph Garruto

 

Aneityum island by air

Ralph Garruto is a Research Professor of Biomedical Anthropology at Binghamton University. In 2011 he received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on “Longitudinal Studies of Health Transition and Culture Change in Vanuatu”. In 2015 Dr. Garruto received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Using Anthropology to Build Research Capacity and Inform Public Health Policy in the Republic of Vanuatu”.

Three major thematic research areas within the Binghamton University Health Transitions Project are 1) adult health and chronic disease risk, 2) behavior and lifestyle change, and 3) child health and nutritional status. Thus far, field research studies relating to these thematic areas have been conducted on the islands of Ambae, Aneityum, Efate, Futuna, and Nguna inVanuatu. A fourth research area, post-disaster stress, was added in 2015 to assess to impact of Cyclone Pam on the people of Vanuatu. The latter study includes the islands of Tanna and Erromango as well as Efateand Aneityum (Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, P.I. Kelsey Dancause).

Low tide in Umej

The Binghamton University Vanuatu Health Transition project has resulted in a number of publications in scholarly journals, including the American Journal of Human Biology, Obesity, the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and Public Health Nutrition. Results from the project have also been presented at major national and international scientific meetings, including five scientific presentations at the “Asia-Pacific Region Joint Conference on Modernization and Health”,Hilo,Hawaii, August 19-20, 2016. The latter conference was co-sponsored by the Japan Physiological Anthropology Society, the Human Biology Association, and the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The P.I. gave a 30 minute keynote presentation on Health Transition in the Pacific.

The Wenner-Gren Engagement Grant (Gr. EAG-84) allowed the P.I. (Ralph M. Garruto) to produce a signed memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Director General, Vanuatu Ministry of Health, Republic of Vanuatu, and the State University of New York at Binghamton. The MOA is a five-year renewable collaboration effort to foster engagement and advancement in research, education, training and cultural understanding. The MOA specifically calls for:

  • Conducting long-term research projects in the areas of mutual interest to the Vanuatu Ministry of Health and Binghamton University.
  • Providing training for both Vanuatu Ministry of Health personnel, and students in the MS and BS/MS Program in Biomedical Anthropology at Binghamton University.
  • Securing funding for anthropological and public health research in Vanuatu.

Off loading on mystery island

The original signed agreement by the President of Binghamton University was handed to the Director General of the Ministry of Health, George Taleo. The PI also gave him an overview of our research results on the Binghamton University Health Transitions Project in part sponsored by Wenner-Gren (Parent grant Gr. 8301 and Engagement grant Gr. EAG-84). In addition, the P.I. was able to meet with the Honorable Ralph Reganvanu, Minister of Lands and a member of Parliament, and himself an anthropologist, and update him on our findings and explain the details of the MOA and how it would provide not only for continued research on the long-term health behaviors of the people of

Vanuatu as a result of modernization and change, but also on how we would train members of the Ministry of Health to carry out future research, implement surveys, perform anthropometric measurements, and evaluate child growth, development, and nutrition. We also explained that graduate students in Anthropology could intern with the Ministry of Health to assist them specifically with their own ongoing projects that they deemed vital for the health of the nation.

Presentation to the Chiefs and the Community

The last component we were able to implement as a result of the Wenner-Gren Engagement Grant was to return to six villages on three different islands (Efate, Nguna, and Aneityum) and give a bound copy of our research results to the communities and local dispensaries. Additionally, the P.I. gave an oral presentation of our findings to the Council of Chiefs and Community Members of Aneityum Island. The island, further south in the archipelago, has been a part of our research survey on health transitions since 2007 and the oral presentation to the community detailed our results in lay language and the recommendations we thought useful to stem the tide of hypertension, overweight and obesity, and poor nutritional practices that have ensued over the past 10 years.

Overall, the P.I. viewed our engagement with the Ministry of Health, with government officials and with the local communities as highly successful and one that would reflect well on both Wenner-Gren as the engagement funding institution, Binghamton University as the co-signer of the MOA, and on the researchers and students, past and present, from three separate institutions: University of Montreal, Temple University, and Binghamton University.

NYAS @ WGF 12/5: Ancient Genomes, Paleoenvironments, Archaeology and the Peopling of the Americas REGISTRATION REQUIRED]

Join us Monday evening December 5th at 5:45 PM at the Wenner-Gren Foundation for the next installment of the New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Lecture Series. Dennis O’Rourke, Foundation Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas will be presenting “Ancient Genomes, Paleoenvironments, Archaeology and the Peopling of the Americas”. Our president, Leslie C. Aiello, 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.

Traditionally, indigenous American populations have been viewed as descendants of a small subset of the Eurasian population that migrated to the Western Hemisphere less than 15,000 years ago from Asia via the Bering Land Bridge. Recent archaeological discoveries indicate that humans occupied high-latitude regions in Northeast Asia and Western Beringia before 30,000 years ago, prior to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). The early settlement of Beringia now appears part of the broader dispersal of modern humans out of Africa and across Eurasia. Recent metagenomic evidence suggests the earliest migrants south of the glaciers likely followed a coastal route rather than an interior continental path between retreating glacial masses. The merging of the increasingly rich and robust genomic (both ancient and modern), archaeological, and paleoecological records is proving to be challenging in elucidating the origin of a distinctive Native American genome in both time and space.

-PLEASE NOTE EARLIER START TIME FOR DINNER AND LECTURE-

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.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Claire-Marie Hefner

 

June 7th, 2016. Posing for a picture after a presentation and discussion session with administrators and teaching staff at Madrasah Mu’allimaat Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta.

Claire-Marie Hefner is an Assistant Professor in Cultural Anthropology at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. In 2011, while a doctoral student at Emory University, she received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Shaping Muslim Subjectivities: Gender, Piety, and Modernity in Indonesian Islamic Boarding Schools,”supervised by Dr. Michael Gates Peletz. In 2016 Dr. Hefner received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Women, Piety, and Achievement: Dissemination of Research Findings in Indonesian Islamic Boarding Schools for Girls”.

Monday June 13th, 2016. It’s four-thirty in the afternoon and the pre-rain heat hangs heavy in the tropical air. Thirty university students sit in gender-segregated groups on the carpeted floors of the prayer hall at Pesantren Krapyak Ali Maksum, an Islamic boarding school in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The women wear colorful floor-length skirts, long-sleeve tunics, and headscarves while the men don long pants or sarongs, long-sleeve shirts, and prayer caps. The students—all alumni of Krapyak—chat amongst themselves as they wait for the rest of their peers to trickle in. It’s the fasting month of Ramadan and in these final hours before sundown, students look tired. I circulate the room, stopping to catch up with several young women with whom I became friends during my research and now serve as dorm supervisors at their alma mater while they attend university nearby. Soon I begin my presentation in Indonesian, explaining my research findings on women’s achievement, moral education, and piety at Krapyak and a neighboring school. Afterwards, as a rain shower begins to cool the air, students ask questions like, “How did your time at Krapyak influence you view of Islam?” “Since ethnographers spend so much time at the place of their research, how can they maintain objectivity?” “How do the success rates of our school compare to others?” “What can we do to make our students even more successful?” As our lively discussion draws to a close, we pose for pictures together until the call to prayer sounds out from the school mosque signaling that it is time for our shared iftar meal.

May 27th, 2016. Workshop with first-year high school students at Madrasah Mu’allimaat. After a brief discussion of my research at their school, this event centered on activities to help students think about how to use different kinds of research methods. Students participated in short group activities that focused on interviewing and surveys. Here a student shares her findings with their classmates.

Caricatures of Islamic boarding schools as places of rote memorization, curricular inertia, radicalization, and limited human flourishing overlook the diverse and proactive ways in which Muslim schools mediate modern aspirations, gender practices, and citizenship, and play a critical role in molding educated, pious, and thoroughly modern youth. My dissertation, Achieving Islam: Women, Piety, and Moral Education in Indonesian Muslim Boarding Schools, explores the topic of ethical learning, subject formation, and new forms of women’s achievement at two nationally prominent Islamic boarding schools for girls in the city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The first school, Madrasah Mu’allimaat Muhammadiyah, is under the direct guidance of the “modernist” Muslim social welfare organization, Muhammadiyah. As a cadre school (sekolah kadre), school faculty and administrators aim to shape the future female leadership of the organization. The second school of my study, Pesantren Krapyak Ali Maksum, is among the most respected traditionalist Islamic boarding schools (pesantren) in Indonesia and it is a prime example of a pesantren that has adapted to meet the demands of modern Indonesian students and their parents, incorporating the national curriculum into its largely Islamic curriculum in the late 1980s. Both schools run six-year programs from middle school to high school. Based on twenty-one months of fieldwork, my research findings provide a snapshot of young prominent women members and potential future leaders in these organizations; a reflection on how these organizations have changed and the directions they have yet to go in.

June 13th, 2016. Presentation and discussion session with alumni from Pesantren Krapyak

The Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant generously supported a one-month visit to Indonesia in the summer of 2016 during which time I was involved in three main activities. First, I presented and discussed my research findings and analysis with educators, administrators, alumni, and students at the schools of my study. Achieving Islam builds off of eight years of collaboration and friendship with members of these communities and, in the interest of open dialogue and possible further collaboration, I was eager for feedback from my interlocutors. Second, I ran workshops with current students on social science research and what it means to be an anthropologist. Thirdly, this visit was an integral opportunity to cultivate and develop new connections with the local academic community and to develop possible future collaboration in the form of research and Indonesian-language publications.

May 30th, 2016. Some audience members from a presentation for Tarbiyah (Islamic Education) Department at Universitas Islam Negeri (State Islamic University)-Sunan Kali Jaga in Yogyakarta

As premiere educational facilities invested in producing achievement-oriented young women, the school administrators and teachers at both Mu’allimaat and Krapyak expressed strong interest in my findings. My engaged anthropology project was an opportunity to have discussions with and presentations for administrators and teachers at each respective school. At these meetings, the findings of greatest interest were the results of my extensive student survey conducted on their campuses in 2011-2013. This survey addressed students’ socio-economic and familial backgrounds, their attitudes towards their experiences at school, their dreams for future careers and family, as well as their reported interest in continuing their involvement in NU and Muhammadiyah as compared to their parents’ generation. This latter point was of particular interest at Madrasah Mu’allimaat where most teachers and administrators are activists in the parent organization, Muhammadiyah, and very much invested in inspiring student involvement in the organization. These events were an opportunity for dialogue and debate with members of the school community during our lengthy discussions following my presentation. This dialogue centered around what my findings illustrate with regard the overall success of the schools’ respective curricula, a concern for how their school compared to others, as well as discussion of new programs administrators had been pursuing since the time of my research.

This engaged anthropology project also involved creating opportunities for discussion about my findings with former and current students at both schools. To do so, I carried out formal presentations and organized semi-formal discussion groups with recent alumni from each respective school like the one described above. I also ran activities and exercises with current students. For example, on May 27, 2016, ninety-five first-year high school students at Madrasah Mu’allimaat participated in a workshop that addressed the uses of qualitative and quantitative research methods, using the example of my own time at their institution (see Figure 2). In most Indonesian schools, the social science high school track is often considered second-tier compared to natural sciences, so my workshops were also an important opportunity to discuss the value and importance of the social sciences and humanities.

Standing with the provost and dean of the State Islamic Institute (Institute Agama Islam Negeri or IAIN) in the city of Surakarta after a public lecture. Our discussions lead to my joining the editorial staff of their burgeoning Islamic studies journal.

During this summer visit, I also had the pleasure of discussing women’s achievement and moral learning with some of the leading scholars of Islamic education and youth studies in Yogyakarta, Jakarta, and Surakarta. I presented my findings at three local universities in academic forums that were open to the public. At the Universitas Islam Negeri Sunan Kali Jaga (State Islamic University) in Yogyakarta, I presented my work for an audience of ninety Islamic education (tarbiyah) students. These students—almost all alumni from Islamic schools—are planning to go on to teach in Islamic educational institutions; as such, our discussion centered around contemporary developments in the Indonesian Islamic educational field. This presentation was documented in an article in Suara Muhammadiyah (Voice of Muhammadiyah), the national journal of the Muslim social welfare organization of the same name. I also reconnected with colleagues at the Center for Cross-Cultural and Religious Studies (CRCS) at Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta—the research center that had been my sponsoring affiliate during my fieldwork.

With the generosity of Wenner-Gren Foundation, my summer engaged anthropology project was a resounding success. I look forward to developing the personal, academic, and professional relationships it helped to foster and maintain.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Anand Pandian

Anand Pandian is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Johns Hopkins University. In 2008 he received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on “Framing Feelings: Landscape and the Production of Affect in South Indian Cinema”. In 2012 Dr. Pandian received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Engaging Vernacular Publics in an Anthropology of Cinema”.

In November of 2015, I published a book called Reel World: An Anthropology of Creation with Duke University Press. The book examines the creative process of filmmaking in India, building on many years of fieldwork with directors, cameramen, actors, editors, composers and other artists and professionals working in the Tamil film industry of south India. This is one of the largest film industries in the world, with tens of millions of avid fans and consumers, highly keen on these films and deeply curious about the invisible process of their creation. In writing this book, it was therefore important to me to try to reach not only other academics such as myself, but also a wider lay audience in India.

One element of this endeavor has been to publish a more accessible trade edition of the same book in India with Penguin Random House Books, which appeared in print in January 2016. A second element of this endeavor has been to reach a vernacular public of Tamil language readers in south India through a Tamil translation of the trade edition. It is here that an Engaged Anthropology Grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research has proved essential. The fieldwork itself for this project was supported by a Post-PhD Grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation as well as research grants from the American Institute of Indian Studies and the National Foundation. Thanks to this new program for Engaged Anthropology, however, I have been able to work closely with a Tamil translator in preparing a vernacular edition of this book and my research.

V. Kamalalayan

The individual I have worked with most closely on this translation project is a Tamil writer and translator based in the south Indian city of Chennai, V. Kamalalayan. I first met him in 2011, when we began to work together on a previous book project that took my nonagenarian grandfather’s life in India and Burma as a prism through which to examine a century of history in modern India. Kamalalayan and I worked together closely on that project, and he was the most natural person to whom to turn in pursuing a Tamil translation of this next book. He and I have been working together closely on this translation, chapter by chapter, with insights and advice also gleaned from other writer friends and colleagues in south India. The translation is complete now, and in the stage of final editing, with our next task being one of identifying the right Tamil publisher for the book.

Our goal with this project has been to make the stories and ideas that animate the book as engaging and accessible as possible to a broad-based Tamil audience. I have already seen that this is possible with the English-language Penguin edition of Reel World, which has been reviewed very favorably in the last few months in leading popular newspapers such as The Hindu and The Telegraph. We hope and expect that the same will be the case with regard to the Tamil edition. Our plan is to submit the book to an appropriate publisher very soon, and to have the book published in advance of the 2017 Chennai Book Fair, the most important annual event in the world of Tamil letters. By means of this project, I hope to reach, as readers, some of those who have made the very phenomenon I studied, Tamil cinema, possible and appealing as a medium of cultural expression in contemporary India.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Minghao Lin

Visit at Sanxingdui Museum

While a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Minghao Lin received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2012 to aid research on “The Origin and Early History of Oxen Plowing in China,” supervised by Dr. Preston Miracle. In 2015 Dr. Lin received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “The Early History of Cattle Traction in North China”.

I started my journey from Jinan, Shandong Province, in early March, by delivering an academic presentation, entitled “Cattle traction and its role in the making of Chinese early civilization”, to my colleagues at the School of Culture and Heritage, at Shandong University. My research questions were first clarified to them: why is the exploitation of cattle labor important to understand human history? What do we know now (prior to my project) regarding this question? A systematic review was elaborated from lines of evidence including historical documents, oracle and bronze scripts, picturing records, and archaeological remains. Then my talk went to the theory and methods my project had been applied. After successfully establishing the comparative models from modern control samples, I then applied these reliable models to interpret Chinese archaeological assemblages, revealing intensive cattle traction had been exploited since the Late Shang period (c. 1300-1046 BC). It was the intensive use of cattle labour that helped build the fantastic civilisation in Chinese Bronze Age, as characterized by the Late Shang. I finally closed my speech and speculated some likely scenarios by weaving my results into the broader trans-Eurasian network in the Old World.

Speech to colleagues at Shandong University, Jinan.

The success of my talk in Shandong University rendered me more confidence and enthusiasm to continue my scheduled trip to spread out my research results with other Chinese colleagues in other institutes. In the following few weeks, I traveled among many cities across nearly the whole China by means of flights or trains, to further address the significance of the exploitation of animal power in human history. Apart from personally discussing this topic with professors, I also contributed with a formal academic speech at these institutes, such as Northwest University (Xi’an), Sichuan University (Chengdu), Peking University (Beijing) etc.

To summarize, there were three levels of knowledge flow from my research trip. First, not only the prestigious professors, those students (both undergraduates and graduates) were also impressed by my research methods and discussion within the broader trans-Eurasian context. Some of these students expressed that the pictures I drew in my talk had, to some extent, enlightened them to well construct their own thesis projects, which makes my efforts over these weeks much worthwhile. Meanwhile, I also benefited from the discussion with those professors and students in terms of how to address my research questions from other interesting perspectives. Second, apart from preparing the talks, I was also interested in seeking potential lines of evidence to broaden my expertise, within which visiting local museums was a useful means. By exploring the Sanxingdui civilization in Sanxingdui Museum, I have been considering the role of cattle traction in building its own civilization as well as its connection with the civilizations in the Central Plains region. The pottery model at Nanjing Museum vividly displayed the use of cattle in dragging a cart in Chinese historic period. Three, non-archaeologists were also impressed by the information revealed from small pieces of cattle lower limb bones. For them, this was not only an academic seminar to understanding the ancient cultures in China, but also helped build the sense of preserving multiple archaeological remains – even pieces as fragmental as cattle feet bones could deliver important messages from the past. As such, this served as a good opportunity to educate the general public.

Pottery ox cart model at Nanjing Museum

This Engaged Anthropology Grant has provided me this valuable chance to engage with the Chinese colleagues, which becomes one of my unforgettable experiences. The support from Wenner-Gren is even more significant for Chinese zooarchaeology, as this field has just been aroused in the most recent decade to contribute to our understanding of the past civilizations.

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Harjant Gill – U.S. Film Premiere

We are pleased to present a trailer and abstract for Dr. Harjant Gill who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on Sent Away Boys.

Sent Away Boys will be making its U.S. premier this November at the Society for Visual Anthropology’s Film Festival at the AAA meetings in Minneapolis, MN.

Screening to be followed by Q&A with Harjant Gill.

DATE: November 16, 2016, 10:30 AM

LOCATION: Minneapolis Convention Center, Auditorium 2 (SVAA Film Festival at the AAAs)

Trailer: Sent Away Boys from Tilotama Productions.

Sent Away Boys: A Rural Landscape Transformed by Transnational Migration

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

What happens to families in the absence of sons? What happens to land in the absence of farmers? What happens to communities in the absence of men? Sent Away Boys weaves together testaments of individual ambitions and family biographies from Punjab, India to chronicle the gradual transformation of agrarian landscape and patriarchal traditions through ongoing transnational migration. As the promise of a secure future in agriculture grows increasingly uncertain for young men across the region, escaping India to join the low-wage labor in countries like Canada and USA becomes their sole aspiration. In rural Punjab, being a successful man now entails leaving their village, traveling abroad, and sending money home. Through interviews with men preparing to undertake often risky journeys and women awaiting the return of their sons, brothers and husbands, Sent Away Boys shows how the decision to emigrate implicate the entire family and the larger community.

 

 

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Roger Canals – U.S. Film Premiere

We’re pleased to announce the U.S. Premiere of Wenner-Gren Foundation’s Fejos Fellow Roger Canals’ film, A Goddess in Motion at the Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival.

Screenings are followed by Q&A with Kathryn S. Oths and Roger Canals.

The cult of María Lionza, one of the most important religious practices in Venezuela, is beginning to manifest itself in Barcelona. Through the testimonies of believers, artists and esoteric art sellers, this documentary depicts, for the first time, the appearance of this religion in the Catalan capital.

DATE: November 19, 2016, 1:20 PM
LOCATION: Minneapolis Convention Center, Auditorium 2 (SVAA Film Festival at the AAAs)

Wenner-Gren’s newest grant program, the Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship in Ethnographic Film, is named in honor of Paul Fejos, the first director of the Wenner-Gren foundation and a pioneering ethnographic filmmaker. The grant allows an early-career academic to pursue the completion of a work of ethnographic film based on anthropological research already accomplished by the applicant.

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Na’amah Razon

Photo from the symposium "Trauma, Health and History: Perspectives on the Bedouin Community" held at Ben Gurion University. Photo courtesy of Sharon Benheim

While a doctoral student at the University of California, San Francisco, Na’amah Razon received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2011 to aid research on “Mediating Citizenship: The Role of Health Professionals in Israel’s National Health Reform,” supervised by Dr. Sharon Kaufman. In 2015 Dr. Razon received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “The Impact of Military Rule and Language on Healthcare Provision in Southern Israel”.

Engagement 1: Military Rule Workshop

In collaboration with Prof. Nadav Davidovich, chair of the Department of Health Systems Management, I helped develop a workshop for healthcare practitioners and local academics to address the southern military rule and its legacy. Early in the planning stages of the workshop we decided that a discussion of the military rule needed to be framed within the larger context of history, memory, and trauma. We were able to collaborate with the Center for Conflict Resolution and the Health, Humanism, and Society Center to develop an interdisciplinary workshop to address these topics and potential directions forward. While we initially proposed a two-day workshop, because the Israeli University’s semester schedule, we were only able to hold a one-day workshop.

The workshop was very well attended with approximately 35 participants, including a number of local experts whose work focuses on the Bedouin community and health inequality in southern Israel. One of the strengths of the workshop was its interdisciplinary engagement as we brought together participants from the medical school, departments of anthropology, public health, political science, law, and politics and government.

Workshop Flyer

The workshop was organized into two parts. The morning had three lectures (Prof. Michal Alberstein on transitional justice, Dr. Nihaya Daoud on the historical and continued health inequalities among the Palestinian Arab population Israel, and my own work on the military rule in the Negev/Naqab). The discussant, Dr. Mansour Nasasra, from the Department of Politics and Government, is an expert on the military rule and provided critical comments on the long term reverberations of the military rule on the Bedouin community.

The discussion that ensued was rich and difficult. One participant drew the comparison to South Africa, Rwanda, and other sites of trauma and reconciliation and asked the key question: “How do we move forward when there is still not acknowledgement of past wrongs?” This question organized much of the discussion that followed—around anger by the Bedouin community and continued challenges of trust and access specifically in the realm of health. Prof. Alberstein suggested that in situations when a full recognition of past wrongs is not possible, as in this case, creating acts of justice may still be possible. It is this notion of acts of justice that participants began to address and hopefully we spur continued dialogue and work. Dr. Nasasra and I hope to put together an article specifically addressing the military rule and the healthcare system as there is minimal published work on this ear. The second component of the workshop was a lecture on trauma by Prof. Sandro Galea of Boston University. He provided critical evidence of the long term consequences of trauma and how trauma follows landscape of inequality and across generations. He provided important comparative framework for thinking through how experiences such as the military rule impact the health of Bedouins who lived through this period and how this trauma moves and impacts the health and health of multiple generations.

Engagement 2: Arabic Language Services

I was able to meet with the pediatric team members I worked with at Southern Hospital to disseminate information on the results of my research on communication, translation, and language in the hospital setting. I prepared for them a summary of my research findings as well as a summary document regarding the importance and challenges of language services. Importantly, they noted that the make-up of staff in the hospital has changed over the past five years. Due to a number of programs encouraging Bedouins to enter health professions there is a growing number of Arabic speaking staff (especially nurses and social workers) which has helped this problem. Nonetheless, there continues to be no translation services available in the hospital, and staff members were not aware of the Ministry of Health programs that provide phone translation services. It will be important for future work to document the make-up of Arabic speaking healthcare professionals and brainstorm methods of continued documentation of the challenges of language in the hospital.

My discussions with policy makers were more optimistic. Officials in the Ministry of Health’s division on health inequality have been very active about improving cultural and linguistic access. They opened an Arabic phone translation services to Ministry of Health hospitals and a number of clinics. Unfortunately, because Southern Hospital is owned by one of the Health Funds (Clalit) they have not provided this service there. They appreciated the findings regarding the problem of language services in southern Israel and have held cultural competence training at the hospital.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Christopher Hewlett

A group of Amahuaca people building the Casa de Cultura Indígena in the community of Nuevo San Martin on the Inuya River. Preparations for the opening took several months and required long hours of collective work. Here a group shares manioc beer with those working on the roof.

While a doctoral student at the University of St. Andrews Christopher Hewlett received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2009 to aid research on “Mobility, Sociality, and Perceptions of Time among the Amahuaca of Lowland Peru,” supervised by Dr. Peter Gow. In 2014 Dr. Hewlett received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Amahuaca Cultural Heritage Centre: Anthropological Engagement with Amahuaca People in the Past, Present and Future”.

The original engagement grant project entailed working with Amahuaca people in the Peruvian Amazon to establish a cultural center in the Native Community of Nuevo San Martin on the Inuya River. The idea for the cultural center stemmed from a conversation with Professor Carlos Melendez Piño, an Amahuaca bilingual teacher, during the late stages of my doctoral research (2009-2011). In the course of this conversation Professor Melendez pointed to an empty lot next to his house, saying that this was where he wanted a cultural center for the community to be constructed. As I left the Inuya River to write my doctoral thesis I told Professor Melendez and other members of the community that I would seek funding to build the cultural center.

During the course of my research on Amahuaca history during the 20th century I was fortunate to have the cooperation of Robert Russell, the founder of the first mission for Amahuaca people in the 1950s, and anthropologists Robert Carneiro and Joseph Woodside who carried out research in the 1960s and 1970s respectively. I was able to gain access to extensive archival materials based on their research including video and audio recordings, photos and descriptions of collective life, as well as details pertaining to the lives of individuals during the period from the 1940s to 1980s.

Young Amahuaca/Yaminahua girl making necklaces and armbands in order to participate in the opening ceremony of the Casa de Cultura Indígena.

In July of 2015 I returned to the Inuya River with this material to begin work on the project. We set out with four primary aims. Firstly, to create a space where Professor Melendez and other Amahuaca people could store and display artefacts of their cultural heritage such as pottery, bows & arrows, photos and other audio-visual materials. As part of the preparation for the center, Professor Melendez and I looked for further material, and we located a collection of historical photos held in a Dominican archive in Lima, which we hope will be included in the cultural center at some time in the future.

Preparations also included Amahuaca people themselves engaging in practices that were no longer part of everyday life such as making pottery, headdresses, necklaces, armbands and painting themselves. These activities relate to the second aim, which was for Amahuaca people to use the making of material culture as a way to engage in conversations about culture more broadly, and to reflect on the ways in which their relationship to their past relates to contemporary life. Thus, we hoped that the processes of making materials for the cultural center would facilitate wider discussions regarding both material and immaterial cultural heritage. This proved to be an important part of the process, and led to some important additions to the original project, which I return to below.

A collection of participants and visitors inside the Casa de Cultura Indígena. Visitors included members of the public who traveled 8 hours by boat from the town of Atalaya to participate in the event.

The third aim of the project was to make the cultural center an educational space where young people could learn about their past through photos and videos, as well as participate in the making of their own adornments. This was highly successful as young people made their own adornments, and enthusiastically participated in all aspects of the project.

Finally, it was hoped that the center would become a space where tourists could visit to learn about Amahuaca people’s culture, past and present, as well as create a market for Amahuaca goods. Although there are not many tourists in this area, occasionally groups do visit the community and there is a movement in the region to expand tourism thus opening up new opportunities for indigenous people.

As the project progressed over the course of several months new ideas were expressed and a series of opportunities emerged that would transform the original idea into something more comprehensive. Firstly, it was decided that the cultural center should be made more inclusive and, thus, the name was changed from Amahuaca Cultural Center to the Casa de Cultura Indígena. This would allow the inclusion of Yaminahua and Ashaninka people, who are neighbors and friends of Amahuaca people.

Professor Melendez explaining the history of the photos to a group during the day of the inauguration. These photos were taken by Robert Carneiro and Gertrude Dole during their fieldwork with Amahuaca people in 1960-61.

Secondly, this discussion regarding inclusion resulted in the idea of forming an indigenous federation that would incorporate all the Native Communities in this area. In the end, the organizing idea created a platform for celebrating the history and culture of this particular area, which was used to bring together these groups of people to form a new political organization that would represent them both socially and politically.

Thirdly, through contacts with a network of indigenous leaders and NGOs we began coordinating with ProPurus, an organization initiating a new project on the Inuya and Mapuya Rivers that entails helping with land-titling processes, establishing committees to monitor logging, and strengthening protection of areas where people live in isolation. The idea of this new project is to include indigenous people living near the adjacent protected areas to play a role in their protection, thus building the capacities of those who participate, raising awareness about those living in isolation, and increase the potential for getting greater support for community projects.

A group of people watching film-footage recorded by the Anthropologist Gertrude Dole during her fieldwork with Amahuaca people in 1960-61. The woman in front, Margarita, appears in the film along with many members of her family.

Finally, as momentum built around the Casa de Cultura Indígena it was decided that a film should be made about this process. As a result, we raised additional funds and invited Fernando Valdivia, an award-winning Peruvian film-maker, to document the inauguration of the Casa de Cultura Indígena, the formation of the new federation and interview those working to monitor logging in protected areas.

The three-day event took place from the 25th-27th of November 2015, and included three major components: formation of a new indigenous federation, the inauguration of the cultural center, and a celebration that included food, manioc beer, and a soccer tournament. Fernando Valdivia filmed the proceedings and we aim to have the documentary completed by the beginning of 2017.

Leaders from the Native Communities of Raya (Yaminahua), Alto Esperanza (Amahuaca), San Juan (Amahuaca), Nuevo San Martin (Amahuaca), and Paujilero (Ashaninka) during proceedings to establish the new indigenous federation for the upper Inuya and Mapuya Rivers.

The meeting to form the federation was organized for the first day of the event and included leaders from the five native communities: Nuevo San Martin (Amahuaca), San Juan (Amahuaca), Alto Esperanza (Amahuaca), Raya (Yaminahua), and Paujilero (Ashaninka). Importantly, leaders of the two largest regional indigenous organizations OIRA and CORPIAA based in the provincial capital of Atalaya participated to assist with the proceedings, and officially recognize the newly formed Indigenous Federation of the Upper Inuya and Mapuya Rivers. It is the first of its kind in this specific area, as it is comprised exclusively of leaders from the five participating Native Communities.

On the second day of the event, the Casa de Cultura Indígena was officially inaugurated. Amahuaca, Yaminahua, Ashaninka and others gathered together to sing the Peruvian national anthem, speak about the importance of indigenous identity and history, and thank those who had worked to make the Casa de Cultura Indígena possible. In addition, representatives from government ministries, the local university, and members of the public attended to show support for the communities. The Casa de Cultura Indígena is the first cultural center to be established in the province, and promotes opportunities for those living on the Inuya and Mapuya Rivers to claim greater ownership of the ways in which they are represented. Furthermore, it is a project that is not yet completed, and will continue to develop over time. This includes the completion of the documentary film and its incorporation as part of the exhibition, as well as the inclusion of Ashaninka and Yaminahua materials.

The inauguration ceremony for the Casa de Cultura Indígena on the morning of November 26th, 2015 being led by Professor Melendez. Yaminahua, Ashaninka and Amahuaca people from five Native Communities on the Inuya and Mapuya Rivers, as well as representatives from indigenous organizations, NGOs, and the regional university all participated.

Overall, the combination of engaging in the practices of making pottery, body adornments, and other material artifacts, as well as working together to build the Casa de Cultura Indígena itself, became part of a wider experience that inspired people across communities to reflect on their past and come together to forge a path for the future. Thus, the idea of the cultural center, first expressed in 2011, became the impetus for a much more expansive and inclusive series of projects that are based on collective work towards the documentation, defense and strengthening of indigenous identities in the area, which we hope will continue to develop in the coming years.