Monday evening saw November’s installment of our popular ongoing lecture series done in conjunction with the anthropology section of the New York Academy of Sciences. Audio from this panel discussion, featuring Daniel Goldstein of Rutgers University and Alyshia Gálvez of Lehman College, CUNY is available here.
Douglas London is Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology at Adelphi University. In 2009, while a doctoral candidate at Arizona State University, he received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on ‘Hunter-Gatherers and Dietary Double-Edged Swords: Food as Medicine among the Waorani Foragers of Amazonian Ecuador,’ supervised by Dr. Takeyuki Tsuda. In 2013, he was awarded the Engaged Anthropology Grant to follow-up on his research with two Ecuadorian indigenous groups and the complex interactions linking their diet, health, and local economic activities.
Engagement Grant Follow-Up to Study:
I.The Problem: The study, started in 2009, compared the diet and the health of the Kawymeno group of Waorani hunter-gatherer population still engaged in full-time foraging outside the modern food system with neighboring subsistence agricultural indigenous rain forest populations. The study focused on the pharmaceutical aspects (plant phytochemical content of their diet) rather than the nutritional aspects of their diet. There were major differences in health outcomes across the board; most of the infectious and chronic diseases present in neighboring indigenous farmers were completely absent among the Waorani hunter-gatherers. When confounding factors are controlled for study evidence demonstrated that particular aspects of the Waorani traditional diet protect against certain chronic and infectious diseases. Waorani that have abandoned their traditional diet now experience these dietary related diseases. Maintaining a traditional high dietary phytochemical intake has been discouraged by policies of oil companies, non-profits, government health and education institutions and Westernizing Waorani institutions themselves. However, many phytochemical-rich foods, such as rain forest fruit varieties, still exist near the Waorani but are just simply ignored in favor of processed and imported food. Unfortunately, westernizing Waorani are encouraged through example by their new Western role models, to discontinue their supposedly “primitive” diet. Informal dietary advice and food given to the Waorani by local Ecuadorians negatively affects health outcomes. This underlines the importance of making those institutions who provide dietary advice and food aid aware of the particular characteristics and striking health benefits of the native Waorani diet that is high in wild varied phytochemical and nutrient content that is lacking in a Western diet. Waorani are losing their foraging lifestyle due to the intrusion of oil companies and oil drilling in their rain forest homeland in previously protected Yasuni National Park.
Implementation: We were given a Wenner-Gren grant to disseminate study results with the overall goal of returning in person to the study site to start an ongoing dialogue with the Waorani, as well as Ecuadorian regional influencers and stakeholders in that region of the Amazon rain forest, regarding preservation of the tradition food system of the Waorani. Maintaining a traditional diet has been discouraged by policies of oil companies, non-profits, government health and education institutions and Westernizing Waorani institutions themselves. The Ecuadorian government has very recently giving the green flag to begin oil drilling in Yasuni national park one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world and our study site, a blow to global conservation efforts. However, armed with a small budget we wanted to make the oil companies, as much as possible, a part of the solution as oil companies officials pay for many Waorani schools, teachers, health clinics and health providers and provide limited food and employment while drilling. We had already participated in negotiations between the oil companies and the Waorani nation as a whole and through this process built up some trust with the overall Waorani population as a whole beyond our small Kawymeno community we focused our research on.
Regional visits and meetings took place in 32 remote Waorani communities, and attendant schools and health centers, as well as with local and national officials who oversee these regions. For almost two months study results were disseminated to remote Waorani communities and people most influential in affecting Waorani dietary decisions: oil companies, non-profits, indigenous representative groups, health and education providers and government officials. The goal was to encourage the preservation and recognize the value of the native Waorani diet. This also meant measures to provide continued access to the rain forest where the native food comes from. The practical emphasis of the meetings was on planting the seeds of potential future collaborations and projects with multiple stakeholder participation. Our regional “workshops” used food demonstrations, role-playing/theater, and a brief PowerPoint show where possible. In general we avoided lecturing as a medium as it is not effective with foraging communities and has less impact than more dynamic approaches for other stakeholders as well. We often had to perform on the spot with no preparation time. Our Waorani assistants and promotors often accompanied us
All these regional meetings disseminating study results and discussing the value of the Waorani native diet culminated in a conference to which both indigenous leaders and Amazonian regional and national influencers and stakeholders were invited. We set a tentative date early on during these regional meetings for a final conference to bring all the people we talked to together to form a blueprint as to how each stakeholder might participate in preserving and promoting the native Waorani diet. The conference took place in the regional capital Coca in the Hotel Auca, a hotel named after an earlier name given to the Waorani and generally sympathetic to Waorani concerns. Many indigenous leaders and regional educators, health providers, oil company and government officials, academics, non-profits and other stakeholders came.
Our goals were first to create awareness of the value of the Waorani food system and culturally appropriate ways to preserve the Waorani food system, second to generate respect for the Waorani culture via the food system and promote Waorani pride in their native diet, third to plant the seeds for future collaborations among the stakeholders to preserve the native Waorani diet. We felt we did create awareness of the value of the Waorani food system where there was previously little understanding or interest in the native diet. We also made some headway with arranging collaborative for future projects through bringing together stakeholders that rarely meet on the issue of food system preservation. Stakeholders we contacted are now more aware of the health value of the Waorani diet where before it was not considered an important issue. In reality we needed more time, money and a longer more permanent presence to make lasting change to avert the destruction of the food system that is occurring. Beyond this grant lifespan we plan to continue research, dissemination and building relationships in this Amazonian region of Ecuador
Conclusion: Wenner-Gren funds anthropological projects that go beyond studying the indigenous group and get to what matters in real life, making use of what is learned in way that really helps the people studied. An academic product discussing the lessons learned from the study returned in a written form to indigenous leaders and stake holders is a culturally inappropriate vehicle to create positive change in the local region. While benefiting the anthropologist this method of research dissemination often has no immediate useful impact on the actual indigenous participants in the study. Wenner-Gren engagement grants go the next step and give back something tangible to the indigenous participants who so generously give time to the researchers. It is hoped that more researchers will dedicate time to giving to as well as receiving from their indigenous partners and Wenner-Gren will continue to be a leader in making anthropology more relevant to the real world problems and issues.
Bottom Line: We personally feel for anthropologists to fare well in what is a changing world and appear relevant to our audiences and supporters at home and abroad we must move with the times and practice more community development along with research. We are grateful Wenner-Gren is taking a leadership role and hope more funding will be available for community development component of research. Anthropologists will move with the times to go beyond being “activists” to becoming implementer of the things we hold dear such as the preservation of global human diversity. Paid to work closely with indigenous groups we have a unique opportunity to make a difference. Our upcoming article funded by Wenner-Gren describes a pilot methodology we hope is useful in helping other anthropologists to become implementers in the preservation of diversity.
- London D. (2014) Melding data collection methodology with community assistance: benefits to both researchers and the indigenous groups they study. Journal of Ecological Anthropology (in print)
November’s New York Academy of Sciences meeting will be underway next Monday, November 17th, 7:00 – 9:00 PM, as we and NYAS welcome a panel discussion featuring Daniel Goldstein of Rutgers University and Alyshia Gálvez of Lehman College, CUNY. Dr. Goldstein will present a paper entitled “E-Terrify: Electronic Surveillance of the Immigrant Worker in Obama’s America”while Dr. Gálvez will give a talk on “Vampire Capitalism: New guises of colonialism in a post-labor and post-migration age”.
A dinner reception (suggested donation $20 but free to graduate students) will precede the panel discussion at 6:00pm.
The meeting is free to attend. Please do not contact the Wenner-Gren Foundation with inquiries regarding registration.
Experts on West Africa and infectious disease control/prevention will present their recommendations to assist the global Ebola crisis response during a public forum on Friday, Nov. 7. The forum will be webcast.
Convened by The American Anthropological Association (AAA) with the support of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Canada’s International Development Research Centre, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and The George Washington University, the public forum will be accessible in person and online.
Where: The George Washington University, Media and Public Affairs Building B07,
805 21st St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20052.
When: Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, 2:30-5 pm E.S.T.
Friday’s public session will present the findings and recommendations of the Ebola Emergency Response Workshop, a two-day workshop of intensive sessions drawing together the expertise of more than 25 of the world’s leading anthropologists on implementation issues regarding the Ebola response in the United States, Ebola-affected countries and African regional neighbors. Topics will include: prevention, control, surveillance, response, treatment, clinical trials and interventions, health communications, risk factors and the streamlining of local, national and international systems of response.
Experts attending the Ebola Emergency Response Workshop include anthropologists and other social scientists from such leading institutions as the University of Florida, Johns Hopkins University, the Max Planck Institute, the University of Washington, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Arizona, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Cheikh Anta Diop University, as well as other researchers who have been working in Ebola-affected regions.
Their distinctive knowledge of social and cultural institutions provides critical context in reviewing current responses and providing actionable guidance to humanitarian responders. During Friday’s open forum, practitioners, policy makers, scholars and the public will be invited to pose questions to the assembled anthropological experts.
This event is co-sponsored by:
American Anthropological Association
International Development Research Centre
Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation
The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research
The George Washington University -IGIS
The George Washington University-ESIA Humanitarian Studies Program
The George Washington University-Institute for Ethnographic Research
- – AAA – -
Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association is the world’s largest professional organization of anthropologists, with more than 10,000 members. The Association is dedicated to advancing human understanding and tackling the world’s most pressing problems.
D. Rachael Bishop,
Director, Communications and Public Affairs, 703-528-1902 x 1163
2300 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 1301
Arlington, VA 22201
I am a PhD student from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, studying in the Hominid Paleobiology program at the George Washington University (GWU).
I graduated from Addis Ababa University with a BSc degree in Earth Sciences (2008) and a MSc degree in Paleontology and Paleoenvironments (2012). After graduating, I have been teaching at the Department of Earth Sciences at Addis Ababa University. During this time I have also been undertaking research activities focusing on understanding the paleoenvironments of early humans from fossil sites in Ethiopia.
My research interest focuses on studying early humans, their evolution, adaptations, biogeography and environments especially during the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs. I am also highly interested in understanding modern environments to have a better understanding of the past. I have a special interest in understanding the extent and the type of impact the environment had on the course of human evolution. Thus, my graduate research focused on understanding the paleoenvironments of early humans in the Shungura Formation, a Pliocene-Pleistocene fossil bearing site in the Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia.
To pursue my PhD I chose the George Washington University because the Hominid paleobiology program in the Anthropology Department has the right set of professors and research community with expertise and interests parallel to mine. The program is one of the few anthropology programs mainly focusing on human origins and offers a multi-disciplinary approach in addressing questions in human evolution. Thus, during my graduate study, I intend to acquire a professional training in the field of paleoanthropology and also improve my knowledge and understanding of paleoenvironments and learn new techniques in understanding the impact of the environment on early humans.
I am grateful to be one of the recipients of the Wadsworth International Fellowship. The Fellowship is helping me to pursue my PhD studies at the George Washington University. I believe this is a great opportunity for me to get the professional training I will need to contribute to the scientific community and society at large.
Listen to last week’s New York Academy of Sciences anthropology section lecture featuring Stuart J. Fiedel, Senior Archaeologist at the Louis Berger Group and author of Prehistory of the Americas to discuss the challenges recent genetic, archaeological, and paleological evidence present to attempts to unambiguously document human occupations in the Americas prior to 13,500 BP and “break the Clovis Barrier” followed by comments by discussant Peter Siegel of Montclair State University.
Andrew Tarter is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow, and PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Florida. Tarter’s research in Haiti has been supported by NSF, The Wenner Gren Foundation, the Fulbright Program, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. We continue with his four-part guest blogging series (previous installments) outlining his experience collaborating with students from the Faculté d’Ethnologie (Department of Ethnology) at L’Université d’État d’Haïti (State University of Haiti).
6. Research collaboratively
Regrettably, the crystallization of the research plan—often formalized during multiple rewrites for granting agencies—may lead a researcher to believe they must dogmatically adhere, word-by-word, to what they originally proposed. This is a mistake. Viewing potential research collaborators simply as “research assistants” along to strictly adhere to the dirty work of data collection often compounds this mistake, and prevents the researcher from benefiting from valuable emic insights. Instead, collaborators should be involved in as many steps of the research process as possible.
Early in our research schedule our team visited a series of different rakbwa (managed woodlots)—the unit-of-analysis of the research design. Visits were followed by long conversations about what constitutes a rakbwa. These exercises ultimately led to the operationalization of the rakbwa concept for our research purposes. I also introduced the students to the concept of the ‘domestication of energy’ (Murray 1987, 1991)—an important theoretical construct of the research. They immediately grasped it at its analogs from theories related to the domestication of plants and animals, and provided valuable feedback about the usefulness of the construct from within the Haitian context.
The students also were intimately involved in the creation of open-ended interview questions, as well as the questions on the survey, which formed the backbone of the research design. Since the research seeks to identify patterns in land-use and land-changes based on sociocultural, ecological, economic and spatial variables, the research team had to generate a wide range of questions that would accurately and reliably measure these multiple variables. Questions that would never have occurred to me were raised by students multiple times and found their way into the final survey. For example, one of the students suggested that rather than simply asking if an individual has a motorcycle (one indicator in our ‘wealth’ index), we should follow up by asking if the individual makes money using the motorcycle as a taxi to transport goods or people. Rather than simply asking if an individual owns animals, we should ask which kinds of animals, and whether they own them outright or if they are involved in gadinaj (a Haitian system of outsourcing the caretaking of an animal—animal fosterage). Thanks to input from the students, several such questions were further plumbed for additional data by follow-up questions I had never thought to ask. Collaborating in such a manner is an effective way of making sure you don’t miss out in the collection of important data that may inform your research question(s).
7. Check in with collaborators
Humans can be politely mum, for any number of reasons. This fact can result in the build up of resentment over unsettled or unaddressed issues, making it important to frequently check-in with collaborators to assess their well-being and the progress of the research and issues related to its execution. An easy way to address this is through weekly meetings, but these can become trite if there is nothing new to address. The right balance will depend on the nature of the research. The three student research collaborators from UEH used meetings on more than one occasion to address difficulties in the work plan we had devised. One difficulty involved the walking distance to plots of land we needed to visit. ‘As the crow flies’ all of the plots were no farther than 3 kilometers one-way. However, the up-and-down mountainous terrain of Haiti and the fact that many land plots lay far from established paths meant that often times the students were walking much, much farther than the originally estimated maximum of six round-trip kilometers a day. After a check-in meeting where they expressed this concern, we made an adjustment to the number of plots we expected to visit each day, and readjusted the weekly work schedule to account for the ‘exhaustion factor’ of so much walking in the sun. During another instance we failed to communicate and I was confused about how long of a break students intended to take for the week of Easter, putting the research behind by a couple of days. These quick examples—a successful communication and adjustment, and a communication failure—highlight the importance of establishing a check-in schedule that addresses the needs of the PI and the research collaborators.
8. Make yourself available
Being flexible and making yourself available outside of the context of the research schedule is an important part of collaboration and building lasting relationships with collaborators. My students were interested in learning English, and offering a time to practice with them was important. I ended up teaching a short-course in English at the local community center, which the students attended, as well as speaking in English with the students during shared mealtimes. I also implored the students to immediately correct my Kreyòl whenever I made a mistake, in order to help me improve not only my pronunciation, but also grammar and the contextual appropriateness of certain common Haitian expressions.
Two of the three students requested my assistance with the memoirs they were writing for their degrees. Due to my Fulbright placement the year prior—specifically my position on the taskforce convened to overhaul NGO registration, monitoring and regulation—I was able to provide one student who studies NGOs in Haiti with important documents that he otherwise didn’t have access to. In the case of another student who studies the contradictions between rural and urban life in Haiti, I was asked to participate in an interview of my impressions, having just spent one year in the city followed by a second year in the countryside. I was also able to connect this same student with a senior anthropologist for an additional interview, and provide him with a newly published summative anthropological research document of which he wasn’t yet aware.
Toward the end of our time, I became aware of a higher education fellowship program to study in France, and encouraged the students to apply. I was able to help two of the students craft their applications to the program, and provide solid letters of recommendation that detailed our collaborative efforts and presumably strengthened their applications. Another student asked me to produce a certificate—an important component of the Haitian CV—that specified the research he helped collaborate on. These examples are but a few of the ways in which we were able to mutually cooperate outside the immediate parameters of the research.
9. De-brief and meet afterword
Debriefing is important from both a personal and research standpoint. I conducted exit interviews with each student, to try to glean any final insights they had gained from nine months in the field. Debriefing also gave students a chance to offer constructive criticism of the overall experience and to suggest ways I might improve the process of collaboration in the future.
Meeting in a new context after the research is completed is important as well. Doing so demonstrates that the PI is interested in the students beyond what they helped the PI achieve. I’ve met several times with students once they returned to the capital, both at their homes and at local restaurants. It’s a nice way to bring closure to the entire process in a less formal way.
Murray, Gerald F. 1987. The domestication of wood in Haiti: A case study in applied evolution. In Anthropological Praxis. R. Wulff and S. Fiske, eds. Pp. 223-240. Boulder: Westview Press.
Murray, Gerald F. 1991. The Tree Gardens of Haiti: From Extraction to Domestication. In Social forestry: Communal and private management strategies compared. D. Challinor and M. Hardt Frondorf, eds. Pp. 35-44. Washington, D.C.: School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University.
Our popular lecture series rolls on! Join us Monday, October 27, at 7:00 PM as we welcome Stuart J. Fiedel, Senior Archaeologist at the Louis Berger Group and author of Prehistory of the Americas to discuss the challenges recent genetic, archaeological, and paleological evidence present to attempts to unambiguously document human occupations in the Americas prior to 13,500 BP and “break the Clovis Barrier”.
Since the antiquity of the Monte Verde site in southern Chile was certified in 1997, most archaeologists have accepted that peopling of the Americas began more than 14,500 years ago. A few sites in North America also contain artifacts that seem to be older than Clovis fluted points (which date from ca. 13,500 to 12,800 cal yr BP). The Paisley Caves in Oregon have yielded 14,300-year-old coprolites from which human DNA of Native American types has been extracted. These ostensibly early sites have been linked to a model positing multiple early migrations down the Pacific coast. It has even been proposed that Clovis developed from the Solutrean culture of France and Spain (despite the intervening ocean and a temporal gap of 6,000 years). However, all of these pre-Clovis claims remain dubious. The most recent genetic, archaeological, and paleontological evidence shows that: 1) Native North, Central, and South Americans are all descended from a single founding population derived from northern Eurasia; 2) a child of that population was buried with Clovis tools at the Anzick Site in Montana 13,000 years ago; 3) interior Clovis-linked sites are older than any coastal sites; 4) a Clovis-derived population rapidly occupied South America 13,000 years ago; and 5) rapid human expansion caused an ecosystem catastrophe that entailed the extinction of some 80 genera of megafauna.
Fiedel’s talk will be followed by comments by discussant Peter Siegel of Montclair State University.
A reception will precede the meeting at 6:00 pm. Please do not contact the Wenner-Gren Foundation with inquiries regarding registration.
Part Three of our introductions of 2014′s class of Wadsworth International Fellows – Nasrin Khandoker of Bangladesh, an anthropologist working on questions of gender, colonialism, and inequality. Khandoker will complete her doctoral studies at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
Being an anthropologist of Bangladesh, my interest area is the interdisciplinary connections between gender and colonialism. I am working as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology in Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh and I just completed my MA in Gender Studies from Central European University, Hungary. Before that, I completed my Master’s from the Department of Anthropology in Jahangirnagar University where I am teaching now. Besides that, I am also a founder editorial member of a Bengali journal named ‘Public Nribiggan’ (Public Anthropology) in Bangladesh.
I did my master’s research in Anthropology in a quest to understand marital inequality and the resistance to it. My recently completed Master’s thesis is about the historical construction of the ideal images of ‘Muslim’ and ‘Bengali’ woman. All of my previous research experiences have been related to gender, sexuality and the subversion of identity. Likewise, it is from here that my PhD interest emerges as well.
My PhD research will focus on the codification of marriage in the context of colonial trasformation. In my research I will problematise the colonial narrative of ‘progress’ of woman through the emergence of modern ideas of ‘love’ and will deconstruct the ‘victim’ images of colonised women. For that, I will enalyze the other forms of sexual/passionate relations articulated in some folk songs which have been marginalized by institutionalization of marriage.
I have been working as a teacher for more than ten years in the Dept. of Anthropology and having a PhD will help me for further advancement of my professional goals. During my teaching years I have offered a varied range of courses in undergraduate and postgraduate level in a variety of Anthropological areas like Biological, Linguistic, Economic, Educational, Urban, Philosophical and Gender Anthropology. I have chosen to go to the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, for my doctoral training since it has a vibrant Anthropology Department in another postcolonial country with a strong interdisciplinary tradition in the study of the British Empire. I will be working with Dr. Chandana Mathur, an engaged anthropologist who has directed several other doctoral projects focused on gender and South Asian themes.
two gorgeous locales for these two WGF-sponsored events in November!
4th Southern Deserts Conference – “Quaternary Evolution of Deserts Landscapes and Peoples”
November 10-14, 2014
Uspallata City, Mendoza, Argentina
The central aim of the workshop is to foster and systematize a comparative approach to the archaeology of deserts from the southern hemisphere and provide the opportunity for discussing large-scale patterns of historical stability and change, and how it relates to landscape evolution. We will focus on an exploration of the dynamics and mechanisms implied in socio-demographic processes in time and space: a) Regional archaeological gaps and their meaning (bottlenecks, extinctions, relocalizations); b) Interaction of different societies: migrations, replacements, and assimilations; c) Role of information in desert societies: group boundary formation and territoriality. By pursuing a comparative archaeological perspective across continents, the workshop will provide the basis for developing long-term archaeological projects connecting disciplines and countries.
November 10-13, 2014
Queenstown, New Zealand
This combined conference of the New Zealand and the Australian anthropological societies explores and extends the critical study of cosmopolitan anthropologies by debating the theoretical value and practical applicability of an array of grounded Antipodean cosmopolitan anthropologies and by engaging systematically with the literature on cosmopolitan anthropologies from the perspective of medical anthropology. The aim is thus to further internationalize anthropological thinking and practice in New Zealand and Australia and to create a formal contribution to anthropological scholarship through the publication of two peer reviewed, edited collections drawn from the keynote addresses and plenaries and one special issue of the New Zealand-based journal Sites featuring the best quality (peer reviewed) conference papers on the theme of cosmopolitan anthropologies of the Pacific. Two prestigious keynote speakers will address the delegates, Professor Nigel Rapport ( St Andrews University, Scotland) and Prof Sharon Kaufman (University of California).