Upcoming June Conferences

A look at what we’re funding in the month of June.

Utopias, Realities, Heritages: Ethnographies for the 21st Century – 12th SIEF (Societe Internationale D’Ethnologie Et De Folkore/International Society for Ethnology and Folklore) Congress 

June 21-25, 2015

University of Zagreb

“This Congress’ theme takes the triad of utopias, realities and heritages as a challenge and seeks to relate it to the ethnographic study of expressive culture and everyday in European ethnology, cultural anthropology and folklore studies. The Congress theme thus aims at analyzing the contemporary moment in the production of imaginaries, projections, wishes, frustrations and anxieties that people have with regard to the past and future; and at the same time proposes to take a self-reflexive stance toward our discipline’s own role in defining the future and imagining the past. While the topic of utopias has recently surged as an iconic term in other academic conferences, ours gives it a special twist by linking it to specifically anthropological and ethnological approaches to everyday realities which are the context of both utopian visions of the future and representations of the past as heritage. The biennial SIEF conference, held for the first time in its history in southeastern Europe, aims at more intensely involving colleagues from Europe’s margins and beyond in international scholarly exchange in cultural anthropology, European ethnology, folklore studies and adjoining fields.”

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Brooke Bocast

Public health billboard urging young women to “Say no to sugar daddies.”

Brooke Bocast is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology at the University of Maryland – College Park, specializing in the areas of gender, youth, and global health. In 2010, while a doctoral candidate at Temple University, she received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “’If Books Fail, Try Beauty’: Gender, Consumption, and Higher Education in Uganda,” supervised by Dr. Jessica Winegar. In 2014, she was awarded the Engaged Anthropology Grant to return to her fieldsite in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, to publicly share and discuss her research findings on female university students’ strategies for social advancement in relation to higher education reform and rising rates of HIV on Ugandan university campuses.

 

It’s tough to be a university student in Kampala, Uganda. Students contend with crumbling facilities, ineffective administrations, campus closures due to faculty and student strikes, and social lives removed from rural kin networks. At Makerere University (the “Harvard of Africa”), students are saddled with expectations to succeed above and beyond their peers, a proposition made ever more difficult by decreasing opportunities for post-grad employment. While Makerere historically catered to the sons of the East African elite, in the 1990s, President Museveni privatized Uganda’s higher education sector and “democratized” Makerere admissions through quota systems. During my dissertation fieldwork (2010-2012), Makerere administrators and the general public debated the efficacy of these policies, with particular attention to affirmative action for women and the role of female students in general.

My dissertation research examined Makerere University’s sexual economy wherein university women exchange sexual favors for money, luxury commodities, and academic marks. These practices put young women at increased risk for STDs, pregnancy, and moral rebuke. Because of this, global health organizations often assume that women who participate in sexual economic transactions must be indigent, or ignorant, or both. Yet many university women engaged in “transactional” sex are members of Uganda’s nascent middle class and successful students at East Africa’s prestigious Makerere University. Based on data collected in Kampala and at students’ family homes throughout East Africa, I argue that participation in Makerere’s sexual economy is a central means by which female students pursue social advancement in a vastly transformed and contested education system. This strategy has profound consequences for kinship, marriage, and social structures, and gendered labor practices; in addition, campus-based relationships shape emerging HIV transmission patterns.

Dr. Kakuba presents his research on primary school enrollment trends.

UNAIDS identifies transactional, “cross-generational” sex (locally termed “sugar daddy” relationships) as a key driver of Uganda’s rising HIV prevalence rates. In recent years, Uganda’s federal government, educational institutions, and public health NGOs have honed in on female university students’ role in these relationships via behavioral change campaigns that seek to alter students’ choice of sexual partners. [see image 1] Popular discourse assumes that young women pursue sugar daddy relationships because they are either vulnerable and desperate or materialistic and predatory. Throughout my fieldwork, university administrators and global health practitioners approached me with questions about young women’s motivations for engaging in sugar daddy relationships. I was often asked how to get university students to stop dating older men. Of course, there is no single “answer” to the “problem” of sugar daddy relationships. Young women engage in diverse sexual interactions for myriad affective, aspirational, and material reasons. My informants reject campaigns that position them as passive and vulnerable, because they consider themselves to be agentive and knowledgeable. At the same time, the epidemiological ramifications cannot be ignored. By engaging in unprotected sex with multiple partners across age brackets, young women put themselves and their partners at risk for STDs, and contribute to intergenerational HIV transmission.

Workshop participants convene at lunch.

I applied for an Engaged Anthropology Grant because I wanted to facilitate discussion between various stakeholders around the dynamics that drive intergenerational sexual relationships on campus. In order to avoid reproducing the dominant framing of transactional sex as a problem of young women lacking life skills and/or sexual restraint, I collaborated with my colleague, Dr. Christian Kakuba at Makerere’s Centre for Population and Applied Statistic (CPAS), to produce an event that framed students practices’ within an analysis of structural inequalities in Uganda’s education sector writ large. We titled our workshop, “Inequalities in Education: A Multi-disciplinary Perspective,” and included presentations based on demographic and ethnographic data that addressed access to, and experiences within, Uganda’s primary, secondary, and tertiary educational institutions. CPAS hosted the workshop, and attendees included Makerere students and alumni, university administrators, policy-makers, civil society actors, education professionals, and public health practitioners. Dr. Kakuba presented his findings on demographic factors that influence primary and secondary school attendance [see image 2], and I presented qualitative data on gendered health disparities among university students, in relation to HIV and cross-generational sex. In addition to paper presentations, we led break-out groups over lunch and facilitated discussions that tacked back and forth between students’ everyday experiences, national trends, and implications for policy and practice. [see image 3]

A Makerere alumna explains the allure of sugar daddies.

Workshop participants raised a number of points for further discussion. For example, a secondary school headmaster noted that current policies fail to account for the needs of students with physical and intellectual disabilities, rendering their educational experiences especially trying. Multiple participants, including Makerere alumni, questioned the value of formal education in general, given the limitations of Uganda’s formal employment sector. Female Makerere students spoke about the factors that compel young women to acquire sugar daddies, pointing out that affective and aspirational motivations often trump health concerns. [see image 4] A representative from the Institute for Social and Economic Rights requested further collaboration with the Centre for Population and Applied Statistics, given their shared institutional interests in population data and social justice. It is heartening to think that my Engaged Anthropology project provided a forum for such conversations to occur, and facilitated connections that may lead to improved services for students at all levels of Uganda’s education system.

Meet Our 2015 Wadsworth International Fellow: Njabulo Chipangura

Every year, the Wenner-Gren Foundation awards the Wadsworth African Fellowship to a young African scholar, enabling them to undertake graduate training in anthropology at a world-class institution. This year’s recipient is Njabulo Chipangura of Zimbabwe, who will be commencing studies at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand.

I was born in 1984 in Mutare, Zimbabwe. I did my undergraduate honours degree in Archaeology, Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies at Midlands State University in Gweru, Zimbabwe between 2004 and 2008. In September 2009, I joined the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe as a curator in the archaeology department at Mutare Museum. Since then I have been involved in a number of archaeological researches which touches on conservation of all archaeological and historical sites, exhumations, rescue excavations and archaeological impact assessments. In 2011, I was awarded with the National Heritage Council of South Africa Scholarship and the Robben Island Museum Grant to study for a Master’s Degree in Museum and Heritage Studies at the University of the Western Cape.

For my PhD in Anthropology at the University of Witwatersrand, I am interested in understanding artisanal and small scale mining practices (ASM), technologies and processes in Eastern Zimbabwe using ethnographic and archaeological methodologies. The research seeks to pursue the significant lack of knowledge of all aspects of ASM in Eastern Zimbabwe, and the little knowledge of its history. Contemporary ASM activities have identifiable historical continuity with the past. This might be, for instance, include contemporary re-exploitation of nineteenth century or even much earlier mine workings and shafts, and there may be oral traditions or indigenous memory in some form.

The University of the Witwatersrand will be an ideal place for my study because of its reputation as one of the best universities in Africa. Moreso, the anthropology department at the university is a place with renowned scholars who will help me in achieving my own career goals. The diversity of anthropological issues that the department is involved in also places me at a vantage position in terms of learning and gaining new knowledge.

Interview: Michael Galaty

 

Alepotrypa Cave

Michael Galaty is Professor and Department Head of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures (AMEC) and Interim Director of the Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University. In 2013 he and Dr. Anastasia Papathanasiou of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture received an International Collaborative Research Grant to aid ‘The Diros Project: Greek-American Collaborative Archaeological Research & Training At Neolithic Alepotrypa Cave’ 

 

Tell us a little bit about the project that received Wenner-Gren funding.

For several years, my Greek and American colleagues and I have been working in and around a very large cave located in the Mani, Greece, called Alepotrypa (Fox Hole).  It is one of the largest caves in Greece and housed a Neolithic village, mortuary, and ritual complex prior to its collapse around 3100 BC.  We’ve surveyed the cave’s catchment zone, which encompasses the Bay of Diros, and conducted excavations at a large open-air site called Ksagounaki, located outside of and above the cave, and built with very large “megalithic” stones.  Like many Neolithic villages, the occupants of Ksagounaki buried their dead “intramurally,” i.e. in the village and under house floors.  In 2014, Wenner-Gren helped support additional survey work, including geophysical surveys, in Diros and excavation at Ksagounaki.  Alepotrypa and Ksagounaki are extremely important settlements, since they span various periods of the Neolithic, including the Final Neolithic, or Copper Age, which is very rare in Greece. It was during the Neolithic Age that farming arrived in Greece (circa 6000 BC), allowing increased sedentism and the appearance of village life, laying the groundwork for the later Greek Bronze Age, during which the first states in Europe formed, the so-called Mycenaean states.  In 2014, we also excavated a Mycenaean “ossuary” at Ksagounaki, an unexpected, unique feature, filled with human bone and various grave goods, including a bronze dagger, ivory hair pin, fine pottery, and exotic stone beads.  Because Alepotrypa and Ksagounaki were large, important places, still visible on the landscape 2000 years after their abandonment, we hypothesize that some kind of “cultural memory” drew the Mycenaeans back to Diros, to rebury important dead.

 

What importance did this project hold for anthropological education in Greece?

Thanks to the generosity of Wenner-Gren, in 2014 we were joined in the field by Prof. Georgia Phillipakis, from the University of Athens, and four of her students. Greek archaeology is a stand-alone discipline, strongly influenced by history, less so by anthropology and anthropological thinking.  The four University of Athens students who worked with us were given a “crash course” in anthropological archaeology. They worked both in the field and in the lab, with Greek and American faculty and graduate students, all of whom practice an anthropologically-informed brand of archaeology.  Students were given practical training in new survey and excavation methods, including geophysics, excavation, and artifact conservation and analysis.  Several times a week, in the cool of the evening, professors and graduate students would lecture on some aspect of their work with The Diros Project, highlighting both what they were doing and its anthropological significance.  These lectures built theoretical foundations for the methodological training gained by students during the long, hot southern Greek days.  Of her experience, Greek student Effrosyni Roditi wrote: “I would like to thank you all for the opportunity you gave me to participate in this project . I learned so many things in just a few weeks, I met wonderful people and I had a great time. Since this was my first excavation , I would like to say that this project  has  increased my desire to work as an archeologist. It was a unique and memorable experience.”  Our training program for Greek students would not have been possible without the help of the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

 

What were some challenges that arose during the course of the research, and how did you adapt?

Greece is currently suffering economically.  As a result, the government has slashed funds for archaeology and laid many archaeologists off.  This has made doing archaeology in Greece that much more difficult.  Costs are very high.  We American archaeologists continue to marvel at the tenacity and determination of our Greek colleagues, who are  committed to protecting and studying their cultural heritage, despite the tough times.  The economic and political troubles in Greece have slowed the permitting processes, making planning difficult.  In 2014, we arrived in Greece to begin work and were informed that our permit had been delayed.  Despite the stress this caused, our Greek colleagues sprang into action and our permit was delivered in a matter of days.  Learning to work under conditions of uncertainty took some adapting, but we pulled together as a project, got our permit, and had an incredible research season.

 

The “embracing” remains have generated quite a bit of press in the non-scholarly world. What are your thoughts on how the popular media has portrayed your findings and their possible implications?

the infamous "spooning" remains, Ksagounaki

In 2014 we uncovered at Ksagounaki the remains of a couple, a man and woman in their late 20s (based on DNA analysis), who were buried together, embracing.  While prehistoric double and multiple burials are not uncommon in Greece and worldwide, a 5800-year-old “spooning” burial is unique. We do not yet know how they died and exactly why they were buried together, but there must be some kind of personal story, a relationship, that prompted their shared internment.  This story captured the imagination of the popular press and for a few short days in February (the Greek government announced the find on Valentine’s Day), the Diros couple held the web public’s attention. Our opinion is that if archaeologists (and, more generally, anthropologists) are to make a difference in the world, we must do a much better job of accessing social media and shaping the public’s understanding of the human past.  If we do not do so, we cede that territory to those who would distort the past and use it, sometimes with malicious intent.  Finds like that of the Diros couple help us connect with a global public eager to know more about our shared humanity, which is ground in a shared archaeological past.

 

What are some next steps? What are you working on now?

In 2015 we will spend a month in Athens studying the artifacts collected over the course of five years by The Diros Project and excavated at Ksagounaki.  In the future we hope to continue excavation at Ksagounaki and to extend our survey work outside the immediate hinterland of Alepotrypa.  We assume that those who lived at Ksagounaki used a much wider territory, including the mountains.  Those buried in the cave may have come from distant communities.  And we have no idea where the Mycenaeans who built the Ksagounaki ossuary circa 1200 BC lived.  These questions can be best addressed through expanded regional survey work.

Meet Our 2014 Wadsworth Fellows: Tegenu Gossa

Better late than never! Our final report on the 2014 class of Wadsworth International Fellows – Ethiopia’s Tegenu Gossa.

I have a BA degree in History from Alemaya University in Eastern Ethiopia in July 2004. Some of the basic archaeology courses I have taken in my undergraduate study helped me to develop an initial interest in this field of study. Hence, I eventually took up the chance to study my graduate study in Archaeology in Addis Ababa University from 2010 to 2011. I have worked as a lecturer of Ancient History of Ethiopia in Arba Minch University in Southern Ethiopia between 2009 and 2011. I have also been lecturing Archaeology in the same university since 2011.

The research project for my graduate study focused on the analysis of MSA/LSA lithic artifacts excavated from the site of Aladi Springs in the Afar Rift. The research proved to be successful where the major findings of the research were published in an international journal (Gossa et al 2012). Besides, this study provided me with best opportunities to have continuous contact and communications with foreign and Ethiopian researchers working in the country and thereby participate in various paleoanthropological field projects organized by those international team of researchers. To this end, I have participated in the expedition to the Blue Nile Basin of northwestern Ethiopia in 2010, the Main Ethiopian Rift system (Gedamotta MSA site) in 2011 and 2012, and the Ledi-Grearu research project in the Afar Rift system in 2013.

Besides elevating my interest in the discipline, these field engagements also greatly shaped my future research interests. The research project I have proposed for my PhD training is going to be held in the newly discovered site of Melka-Wakena located at the headwaters of Wabe-Shebelle River found in South-central Ethiopia. This site appears to be one of the few highland hominin occupation sites at world scale with an elevation of about 2400 m.a.s.l.  In the exploratory survey we have conducted in the site in 2013 and 2014, we already identified numerous localities rich in Early Stone Age lithic artifacts and faunal remains along the banks of the river.  Hence, the research project is going to revolve around lithic analysis and Early Stone Age hominin foraging strategies. This relatively unique site is expected to produce important paleoanthropological and paleoecological data pertaining to the Lower and Middle Pleistocene hominin highland adaptations.

Institutional Development Grant Awarded to Baltic Universities

Dr. Aivita Putnina

The latest Institutional Development Grant brings together four Baltic-region universities, three of which have already entered into a collaborative framework for the implementation of tertiary level education through establishment of the Baltic Graduate School in 2008. The project will support the establishment of a separate doctoral program in anthropology within the framework of the Baltic Graduate School and thus will also contribute to strengthening the discipline of anthropology in the Baltics. Our Foundation Anthropologist for International Programs, Judy Kried, spoke to Dr. Aivita Putnina, chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Latvia, to learn more about the program, the grant, and anthropology in the Baltic region.

 

First can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be interested in anthropology? Who have been the anthropologists that have most influential in your own personal formation and why?

I first met anthropology at Vytautus Magnus University in Lithuania where I went as a philology exchange student. I had studied general medicine before but soon realised that it offered a limited view. I switched to the humanities. I was so excited to find that there actually was something that I longed for and which encompassed both perspectives. Vytautus Magnus was a brand new university (re-)established by expatriate Lithuanians to help their newly-liberated country. Quite a few of them, including the acting rector Liucija Baskauskas, were anthropologists. I did not get a degree in Anthropology but in Sociology, which I did not study, simply because anthropology was not included in Lithuanian science nomenclature. I am grateful to my undergraduate teachers as they gave me good foundations in anthropology and inspired me to continue my studies. My further studies at the University of Cambridge were made possible by Soros and Chevening grants in 1995. The next year I received a William Wise studentship to continue my studies at doctoral level. Cambridge is an incredibly intense place where you literally can do so much. I cannot name here all the anthropologists – my professors and peers – that I met there. I received enormous support from Professor Marilyn Strathern. Her personality, her style of writing and speaking made her one of the most important teachers I have ever met in my life. In my doctoral research I focussed on childbirth practices in Latvia, capturing and theorising societal change at a family, health care and political level. However, I realised that my informants did not get as much from our encounters as I did. Thus, there was one more consequence of my Cambridge experience. I realised that a sterile academic environment does not attract me and since then I have tried to make anthropology public and engage with the field which I study. I am glad I could partly “repay” my informants in helping to establish home birthing or introducing cancer screening in Latvia based on my research data. This kind of engagement has gone along with the establishment of anthropology in Latvia.

 

Can you tell us a little about anthropology in the Baltic states of
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania? What are the pressing questions and
concerns for the discipline there?

Dr. Lauren-Rhodes and Dr. Ieva Raubisko with a student.

The history of anthropology in the Baltics starts in 19th century when most of the area which now forms the Baltic states was part of the Russian Empire. The word ’anthropology’ itself was used mostly in the context of physical anthropology. Culture and society were mostly the domain of ethnologists and folklorists, either in the Volkskunde or Soviet traditions, depending on the era. Since the beginning of the 1990s social and cultural anthropology, informed mostly by the British and American schools, started to be taught across the Baltics as separate subjects, partly due to the influx of Western-educated local people.  Latvia now has one Bachelors program and two Masters programs and these have developed in the last eight years. Estonia has had a Bachelors and Masters program for about ten years. It is producing PhDs – although these have to be done in another program in Humanities. Lithuania has had some Anthropology courses since the 1990s and PhDs can be done, but in Sociology. Anthropology is not considered as a separate field of science and rigid science classification procedures inherited from the Soviet period influence both the opportunities and funding for the development of anthropology education and research here.  We will try to solve this frustrating issue with the establishment of the joint doctoral program.

 

Anthropology classes.

Is anthropology a subject that attracts students in the Baltic States?

Indeed, and increasingly so. As time as progressed we are now teaching people who have done both their Bachelors and Masters studies in anthropology, who wish to go further. This IDG comes at the right time to meet this need for doctoral students. However, at every level, anthropology attracts people because it offers interesting and alternative perspectives in changing societies. We try to be as publicly visible as possible, getting involved in debates within society at parliamentary, other political, media and general public engagement levels so this encourages students as they can see that what anthropology does can have some impact.

Dr. Ieva Raubisko working.

 

Can you tell us about your department, its specialties and how the
award will help your department as it moves forward?

The department at the University of Latvia is very keen to develop its public role, and has adopted public anthropology as its specialisation within our joint doctoral program as a result. We have staff who have researched in Latvia itself, but also in Germany, Russia, Norway, the UK on themes of morality, violence, gender, medical anthropology, economic anthropology, rhetoric culture, business anthropology among other things. Our partners in Latvia and the other Baltic states add greatly to our joint expertise. This is one of the main benefits of the grant for a doctoral program as students can receive supervision and training in many things, but geographically fairly closely. It also helps create a critical mass in anthropology in the broader region as we will become more visible and attractive to students at home and hopefully abroad. On that last note, it must be said that this is a problem for the Baltic states in general and not only for anthropology. The ‘brain drain’ towards Western Europe is only one aspect of the massive emigration all three countries have faced in the light of EU expansion and financial crises. We hope that more students from this region stay and study here and help to build up a beacon of anthropology in the Baltic states.

 

WGF Symposium #151: “New Media, New Publics?”

Front: Laurie Obbink, Joe Masco, Daniel Salas, Gabriella Coleman, Rosalind Morris, Mary Murrell, Maria José de Abreu, Patricia Spyer, Kajri Jain, Winnie Won Yin Wong, Rosa Norton Back: Christopher Kelty, Rebecca Stein, Charles Hirschkind, Zeynep Gürsel, Sha Xin Wei, Martin Zillinger, Alex Dent, Carlo Caduff, Leslie Aiello

The 151st(!) symposium of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, “New Media, New Publics” was held this past March 13-19 at Palácio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal, organized by Charles Hirschkind (UC Berkeley), Maria José de Abreu (University of Amsterdam) and Carlo Caduff (King’s College London). Like all of our symposia, the work presented here will be featured in a future special open-access issue of Current Anthropology!

One thing that’s special about this symposium (and that we’re especially excited about) is that it is the first in WGF history to feature an audio-visual component with the participants themselves. In the coming weeks, expect to see a series of short videos with the organizers, participants and others outlining their particular projects, what the symposium means for the anthropological study of media, and the larger history of the Wenner-Gren symposium program. This is something of a new frontier for the Foundation and the program, so please let us know what you think once they go live!

Read the Organizer’s Statement below for a better grasp of the symposium’s theoretical concerns and goals.

» Read more..

Engaged Anthropology Grant: M. Kamari Clarke

M. Kamari Clarke is Professor of Anthropology at Yale University. In 2009 she received the Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on ‘Negotiating Justice: The International Criminal Court at the Intersection of Contests Over Sovereignty’. Last year, she received the Engaged Anthropology Grant to travel to Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia and home of the African Union Commission, to share her research on the ICC and international law in African contexts.

It is undisputed that African States have played, and continue to play, a crucial role in the development of international criminal justice. Over a decade after the adoption of the Rome treaty, Africa has continued to be a central player in the pursuit of international criminal justice. African countries comprise the largest single group of States Parties to the ICC and, through the African Union (AU), in June 2014 they also adopted a protocol to establish the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples Rights (African Court). This protocol sets the framework for the establishment of a regional court with both civil and criminal jurisdiction.  With a mandate that spans not only the crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and – when in force – the crime of unconstitutional change of government, it also includes a range of transnational crimes including toxic dumping, mercenarism, drug trafficking, illicit exploitation of resources and piracy. Although Africa continues to be a key player in the fight against impunity, the reality is that both the ICC and the African Court are new institutions undergoing resistance, scrutiny, and amendments of its many articles.

A central goal of the African Geographies of Justice project was to highlight both the relevance and the limits of these courts as the basis for justice.  The African Geographies of Justice Engaged Anthropology project allowed me to travel with my collaborator to Addis Ababa where we worked with the African Union Court legal counsel to further develop the technical aspects of the treaty provisions of the new protocol of the African Court. During my time in Addis Ababa, I participated in a workshop that helped to set the foundation for what has been a larger collaborative research endeavor.

My colleague, Charles Jalloh and I were invited to develop, construct, organize and participate in an international criminal workshop entitled, African Geographies of Justice: African Court and Heads of State Immunities. The goal of the workshop was to examine the African Court and Heads of state immunities question in relation to Africa’s emerging African peace and security landscape and its political history. By providing historical, political and legal analyses of the African court heads of state immunities debate participants were able to fully assess the prospects of justice in Africa in its complexities.

The workshop took place over a three-day period from November 19th to 21st 2014 at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the planning for the event leading up to workshop took place over a twelve day period. For the workshop itself we began with a reception on the opening day and the sessions followed on day two and three with plenaries and panels on select themes.   The themes ranged from the historical and political context of heads of state immunities and the historical application of universal jurisdiction and extradition in international customary law to sessions on the relevance of international criminal law in Africa to discussions about the expansion of the African court with criminal jurisdiction, core and transnational crimes, issues of complementarity, and matters related to the obstacles and possibilities for pursuing justice in African regional and sub-regional courts.  The sessions also provided detailed legal and political analysis for understanding the challenges of effective regional justice mechanisms in Africa. Over the course of the three-day period I shared my research findings and solicited input and feedback.  I also offered feedback to others engaged in analytic and policy work with the African Union.

According to our sign-in records, a total of sixty-two people attended the workshop over the three-day period. The majority of participants were from the diplomatic and research/academic communities in Addis Ababa.  There was also a range of civil society representatives and members of the African and European Unions in attendance. Various embassy representatives, from countries in Africa and Europe, attended with great interest in being more fully involved next year.  Experts involved in the training included the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor, the Pan African Lawyer’s Union drafter of the Malabo Protocol, Academics in international law, social and political science academics, lawyers at the UN legal office, a judge from the ECOWAS court in Abuja and former and current defense attorneys at the ICC and various ad hoc tribunals in Africa, and an ISS researchers involved in Peace and Security issues at the African Union.

The Geographies of Justice workshop was a great success. The feedback that we received from the participants suggested that it provided them with rich contexts for understanding the place of social science and legal research in such international and regional sites of decision-making. Many told us that they appreciated the presentation of the various sides of the immunities for heads of state debates, and that they learned a tremendous amount about the challenges and possibilities ahead for the institutionalization of international criminal justice in Africa and beyond.

The generous support of the Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant has provided me with the opportunity to begin to develop a longer-term African Court Project in collaboration with the Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU) and the Open Society Initiative—West Africa. As a result of the funding received from Wenner-Gren to conduct a research study and present my findings I have been engaged in the writing of Opinion Editorials for the New York Times. Very recently I published a New York Times op-ed piece entitled, “Justice Can’t Prevail in a Vacuum”, which was included in the Room for Debate on A Global Court’s Effectiveness. I also contributed an article entitled, “Accountability and the Expansion of the Criminal Jurisdiction of the African Court” to the second Arguendo Roundtable, which is an online discussion among experts on the future of the African Union and International Criminal Court.

The Wenner-Gren grant was an important success paved the way for me to share my findings with my interlocutors and to develop longer lasting collaborations with a range of informants in my fieldsite.

NYAS @ WGF: Anna Tsing and “Life in Past and Coming Ruins: On living in the Anthropocene”

Tonight we have a special treat for fans of the NYAS Anthropology Section lecture series at Wenner-Gren and anthropologist Anna Tsing, as the University of California – Santa Cruz joins us to present her talk “Life in Past and Coming Ruins: On Living in the Anthropocene” at 7:00 PM at our offices at 470 Park Avenue South.

Farming, fishing, and other human livelihoods have depended on the ability of forests, wetlands, oceans, and other multispecies ecosystems to rebuild themselves amidst repeated disturbances. I call such rebuilding “resurgence,” and I argue that humans as well as other species depend upon it. Yet industrial processes caninterfere with this kind of resurgence. This talk explores biological capacities brought into being by industrial processes—but outside human control. Think, for example, of industrially empowered pests and pathogens, from the virulent E. coli that emerged from beef-cattle feedlots to the algal blooms of sewage-saturated waterways. Thinking through fungi, my talk explores how industry sets loose feral forms that get in the way of the resurgence on which both humans and nonhumans depend.

Might it be useful to consider the forms of resurgence upon which we have historically depended “Holocene” forms now under threat from Anthropocene processes? Such Holocene resurgence is not over—but suddenly we have to fight for it. Furthermore, anthropological skills are needed. The threats I describe are neither universal nor limited to a single place; they travel. Anthropologists, I argue, are needed to investigate nonhuman as well as human Anthropocene travel, as this empowers still-mysterious feral biologies that are simultaneously local and global.

A dinner reception precedes the lecture at 6:00 PM. Registration is not required, and please DO NOT contact the New York Academy of Sciences or the Wenner-Gren Foundation regarding registration.

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Yu Huang

 

satellite view of Leizhou peninsula in southern China. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Yu Huang is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her involvement with the Wenner-Gren Foundation goes back to 2007, when she received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant as a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington, Seattle to aid research on ‘Cultivating ‘Science-Savvy’ Citizens: Empowerment and Risk in Shrimp Aquaculture Development in China,’ supervised by Dr. Ann Anagnost. The Engaged Anthropology Grant allowed her to return to her field site in southern China’s shrimping industry and share her research with her collaborators. 

Since 2006, I have been conducting research on the science extension network of shrimp aquaculture in Leizhou, Guangdong Province, China. Through my own experimental farming experience, as well as interviews and participation observation with shrimp farmers, extension officials, and marine biologists, I have tried to understand the two vicious cycles that shrimp farmers fall into. The drive to overproduction has lured farmers to increase stocking intensity, leading to both ecological and economic crises. Ecologically, high-intensity farming has deteriorated the pond environment and made shrimp more stressful, rendering them more vulnerable to disease attacks. Economically, overproduction depreciates the value of shrimp, making it difficult for farmers to get out of poverty. Moreover, as shrimp prices drop, a lot of farmers have to stock more shrimp juveniles to balance high input costs, incubating new risks of diseases. If few farmers benefit from the treadmill of overproduction, who gains? As farmers are enticed to become “science-savvy” farmers, they have adopted various kinds of “inputs” and equipments to boost yield, changing their mode of production from polyculture with fish and crab to monoculture of shrimp. The plight of farmers has formed stark contrast with the dramatic growth of agribusinesses that monopolizes the upstream sector of credits and inputs for shrimp juveniles, compound feed, aeration machines, and shrimp pharmaceuticals, and the downstream sector of processing, marketing, and sales.

After I received the Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant in August 2012, I started to think about the issue on how I could disseminate my findings to the community of shrimp farmers. The problem is not so much that farmers are unaware of their dilemmas, but they do not know how to get out of the treadmill of overproduction. As petty commodity producers, the slogan “work more, gain more” failed to come true. While they see their income squeezed away by agribusinesses, they have to bear the risks of shrimp diseases and market fluctuation. Rather than just telling farmers the cause of their plight, I thought that I needed to do something to help them. The idea of organizing a co-operative came to mind.

The re-cooperatization movement in China sprouted at the turn of the century when family farms collaborated together to shield themselves the full costs of market relations and to capture a higher portion of the added value of the agro-food products in the commodity chain. After the Law on Specialized Farmer Cooperatives was passed in July 2007, farmers’ cooperatives mushroomed. The registered cooperatives totaled about 100,000 in 2008, grew to 689,000 by the end of 2012, and was projected to reach 900,000 by 2015.

However, the cooperative movement has not spread to Leizhou, which is located at the south end of mainland China. I decided to do some mobilization work to make farmers understand how a cooperative might help them. In summer 2013, I organized focus groups and household visits to introduce to farmers the concept of cooperative. Here are the potential benefits:

1)     Uniting together, farmers can regain the pricing power by directly negotiating with hatcheries, feed manufacturers and processing factories. When the cooperatives grow bigger, farmers can even set up their own hatchery to supply quality shrimp juveniles to its members. In the downstream, farmers can develop CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to exchange with consumers directly without the extortion of the middlemen and processers.

2)     The cooperative makes decisions democratically. The mode of operation, profit distribution, and administrations are based on democratic consensus of all cooperative members. “Two heads are better than one” – yet the key is to maintain the cooperative as an organization for all, not serving only a couple of big households.

3)     Cooperative members are encouraged to share farming technologies and consult others for advice in disease control. The co-op also encourages experiments on ecological aquaculture and polyculture that minimize inputs. If there are 100 ponds in the cooperative, ten can be used for fish-shrimp or shrimp-crab polyculture trials.

 

Soon two co-operatives were established in two villages with about ten household members each. The co-operative in one village were composed of young farmers at the age of 30s, while the co-op in the next village had mostly elderly farmers over 50 years old. At my suggestion, both co-ops agreed that their first business would be bulk purchase of shrimp feed.  We did a quick calculation. In summer 2013, farmers usually ordered shrimp feed from an agent who asked for 150 yuan for a bag of 20kg (1 US$=6 RMB). The cooperative could order from the feed mill directly to save RMB20 per bag (or RMB1 per kg). Given that the average size of a pond is 5 mu (1 mu about 667 m3) and yield per mu is 750kg, a pond can produce 3,750kg of shrimps (and save RMB3,750) per crop. If RMB3,750 is saved from each harvest, RMB7,500 can be saved for a year of two crops. RMB7,500 will be split evenly between the household and the cooperative. This means that the cooperative can establish a common fund both for expanding production and cushioning farmers’ loss from shrimp disease attack.

To help farmers better understand the operation of a cooperative, I took some members from each cooperative to Yongji, Shanxi to join a training workshop organized by an NGO that works on rural development. “Puhan Rural Community” was originally formed in 1998 as a cooperative that provided technology extension service to less than ten households. Now the Community has grown to incorporate 6,520 household members in 35 villagers, covering an area of 260 km2. There are 40 specialized cooperatives that offer a whole range of services for the production and marketing of wheat, cotton, peanuts, sweet potatoes, fruit trees, and farmed animals. The Community is reputed as a comprehensive community that integrates economic, cultural, and social functions in a democratic manner. In August 2013, we stayed in the Community for one week to learn how to run the different services of a cooperative, including administrative planning, member mobilization, agricultural science extension, input supply & product sales, financial management, and even social service provision, including elderly care and women empowerment. The Community’s recent plan is to promote organic agriculture by offering members standardized services in soil test, fertilizer use, pest control, seed selection, and sales. We have found that the secret of their success lies in their large team of community coordinators (fudaoyuan) that maintain a close relation with household members. Each month, a coordinator needs to visit a household at least once to learn their needs and assess the service provided. In the spirit of “from the masses, to the masses,” the Community seeks to serve the needs of members rather than profiting from them, a widespread problem that has dampened the potential for cooperatives to bring prosperity to poor farmers.

By now, the shrimp farming cooperatives that I helped establish have been running for over one year and members are delighted not only for the economic benefits, but more importantly, the spirit of solidarity that binds them together. The Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant has inspired me to think about how anthropologists can apply our knowledge for social change as I move forward in my next ethnographic study on action research, rural co-operatives, and food sovereignty in China.