Announcing Wenner-Gren Foundation/SAPIENS Online Workshops in Writing for the Public

Date: April 11, 2019

Time: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm MDT

Class: How to Write an Essay for the Public

Instructor: Amanda Mascarelli

Cost: Free (class size limited to 99)

Location: Zoom (we will send out sign-in instructions approximately one week before workshop)

Learn how to pitch and write a successful essay for SAPIENS and other popular magazines. In this class, you will explore a framework to approach popular writing and an understanding of the publication process. Essay writing is a craft that must be cultivated, so please join the class to sharpen your skills and learn about how you can engage a broad public audience to make your research matter.

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Date: May 15 and May 22, 2019

Time: 10:00 am – 11:00 am MDT (each class)

Class: A Masterclass in How (and Why) to Write an Opinion Column

Instructor: Nicola Jones

Cost: Free (class size limited to 10)

Location: Zoom (we will send out sign-in instructions approximately one week before workshop)

An opinion piece can be one of the most powerful ways to get your work and its implications across to policy-makers, journalists, and the general public. Learn how to do it from a master: Nicola Jones, an editor at SAPIENS. A one hour crash course on how to write an opinion column, also known as an op-ed, will cover the typical structure and components of such a piece, along with writing tips to help you be as compelling and clear as possible, illustrated with examples. The first group class will be followed by a one-week homework period, during which the instructor will be available for quick e-mail feedback on your progress, and a second one-hour group session to share your work and lessons learned. Participants should emerge with the first draft of an opinion piece that they may wish to submit for consideration for publication in SAPIENS or elsewhere.

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Date: October 23, 2019

Time: 1–3 p.m. MDT

Class: Public Writing for Undergraduates

Instructor: Christine Weeber

Cost: Free (class size limited to 99)

Location: Zoom (we will send out sign-in instructions approximately one week before workshop)

Targeted at undergraduate students, this course involves a collaboration with professors teaching an anthropology course. The professor will prime students for the workshop by working through two SAPIENS pieces as examples and introducing the idea of what it means to write for the public. As part of this exercise, the students pair off and map out the journalistic elements as shown (or not, in some cases) in the examples. Then, the students will join the Zoom workshop where an editor will explore the writing process and provide concrete tools for students to improve their writing. The workshop concludes with a brief generative writing exercise with the students to brainstorm ledes (the opening lines) for an article.

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Date: December 4, 2019

Time: 11:00 am – 1:00 pm MDT

Class: Essay Writing

Instructor: Daisy Yuhas

Cost: Free (class size limited to 10)

Location: Zoom (we will send out sign-in instructions approximately one week before workshop)

Learn how to pitch and write a successful essay for SAPIENS and other popular magazines. Before the class you will brainstorm a list of 1-3 essay ideas and send them in advance to the instructor, as well as prep by reading two essays in advance. The class then begins with a discussion of where ideas come from and how to think of matching a piece of writing to a particular outlet. Next, the class will review the two assigned scientist-written essays and learn about the key components that make them successful (or not so much). Through these exercises students will learn about how to start a story, where the thesis, how narrative or anecdotal material is woven in, how background and history fits in, how sources are incorporated, strategies for organization, and more.

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NYAS Lecture 3/25: Where Has “Japanese Women’s Language” Gone?

On March 25th the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series returns when Dr. Miyako Inoue, Associate Professor at Stanford University, will present “Where Has ‘Japanese Women’s Language’ Gone? Language and New Forms of Gender Inequality in Post-bubble Japanese Society.” Dr. Jillian Cavanaugh, Professor and Department Chair of Anthropology and Archaeology at Brooklyn College will act as discussant. The event will be held at 5:45 PM at the Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065.

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. Early registration is strongly recommended, since seating is limited. For the buffet supper, registration is also required.

In this lecture, I will focus on what is called “women’s language” in Japanese, an ideology of a set of speech forms associated with femaleness and its accompanied cultural meanings of womanhood, and will discuss how its modality of reproducing gender inequality has been shifting in post-bubble Japanese society.  During the bubble economy of the mid 1980s through early 1990s, the discourse of women’s language proliferated with public passion, the effect of which was simultaneously to discipline women as mothers, wives, daughters, and laborers, and at the same time to incentivize and to seduce them with the promise of upward mobility and of aestheticized self-making.   In the post-bubble economy, however, public discourse on women’s language  has lost steam in the media.  This does not mean that somehow the reign of the indexicality of language and its ability to mark distinction has been diminishing, or that the population of women—in a demographic sense—who speak “women’s language” has been “decreasing.” Nor is it to be taken as any indication that sexism has eased.  Rather, I will discuss how the modality of power to govern the articulation between language and gender has been shifting in the post-bubble Japanese political and economic context.  Taking a cue from Gilles Deleuze’s notion of control societies, I will ask what has happened to “women’s language” as the society shifts from disciplinary society (Foucault) to control society (Deleuze).  In control society, language re-emerges as a robust site in which, and means by which, gender inequality is performed and reproduced.  We then need to forge a new mode of critique that undermines and disrupts this new mode of linguistic sexism.

About the Speakers:

Miyako Inoue is an Associate Professor At Stanford University where she teaches linguistic anthropology and the anthropology of Japan. Her interest in women’s language dates back to her first book, titled, Vicarious Language: the Political Economy of Gender and Speech in Japan (University of California Press), where she offers a genealogy of women’s language showing its critical linkage to Japan’s national and capitalist modernity. Professor Inoue is currently working on a social history of “verbatim” in Japanese.  She traces the historical development of the Japanese shorthand technique used in the Diet for its proceedings since the late 19th century, and of the stenographic typewriter introduced to the Japanese court for the trial record after WWII, drawing the connections between such technologies and liberal governance. Professor Inoue’s research interest span multiple areas, including linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, semiotics, and linguistic modernity.

Jillian Cavanaugh is Professor and Department Chair of Anthropology and Archaeology at Brooklyn College, and Professor in the Anthropology Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is a linguistic and cultural anthropologist whose geographical area is northern Italy. She has done extensive field work in Bergamo, Italy, on language shift, language ideology, gender, accent, materiality, food production, and social transformation. She is interested in the ways in which people use the symbolic and material resources at their disposal to live meaningful lives. Her list of publications includes “The Blacksmith’s Feet: Embodied Entextualization in Northern Italian Vernacular Poetry,” in 2017 and “Documenting Subjects: Performativity and Audit Culture in Food Production in Northern Italy,” in 2016.

All talks in this series take place at Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065. A dinner and wine reception will precede the talk: Buffet dinner at 5:45 PM. ($20 contribution for dinner guests/free for students).  Lectures begin at 6:30 PM and are free and open to the public, but registration is required

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Jennifer Heuson

Wenner-Gren is proud to present the following blog post and trailer from Jennifer Heuson who in 2016 received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filming on Sounding Western: Aural Sovereignty in a Sacred Land.

Sounding Western: Aural Sovereignty in a Sacred Land

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

This is a film about listening, hearing and, ultimately, about not being heard. It is about what happens when an entire people are protected as silence makers for others. It is about what it sounds, looks and feels like to be colonized by frontier myth. For centuries, the Black Hills of western South Dakota have been held sacred to Lakota peoples. Today, the Hills are at the heart of a billion-dollar industry that uses Lakota presence to create frontier experiences for tourists. This film tells the story of Lakota attempts to negotiate and resist cultural and spiritual appropriation through sounds, noises and even silence.

Sounding Western focuses on three Lakota stories. Paul Summers/LaRoche is Lower Brulé Lakota and founder of the contemporary Native American rock band Brulé. With his daughter Nicole on flute and son Shane on drums, Paul uses keyboards, Lakota-inspired vocals and oral storytelling to share his personal tale of adoption, heritage recovery and reconciliation. Mary Bordeaux is Sigancu Lakota; she is former curator at Crazy Horse Memorial and founder of the Native art collective Racing Magpie. Mary uses visual art and advocacy to make noise and resist the silent, spirituality central to tourist appropriations of Lakota identity in the Black Hills. Nicole LaRoche, along with her father Paul and brother Shane, performs in Brulé, negotiating her roles as an award-winning Native female performer, daughter, and mother with her conflicting hope and skepticism for the future of Native empowerment through music.

Sounding Western is based on field research conducted in South Dakota’s Black Hills from 2008–2014 and supported by a Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant and dissertation writing funds through the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund. Over the course of visiting and living in South Dakota, I conducted dozens of interviews, collected hundreds of field observations – including sound recordings and mappings and local folklore related to aurality – and completed historical research that collectively enabled me to make a case for the consistent role of aural colonization in contemporary regional tourism. In my resulting dissertation “Sounding Western: Frontier Aurality, Tourism and Heritage Production in South Dakota’s Black Hills,” I argue that “aural sovereignty” is a crucial new framing for understanding how contemporary tourism impacts Indigenous communities. I feel very fortunate to have received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2017–2018 to explore visual modalities for telling this aural tale.

Over the course of the fellowship year, I reconnected with subjects from my research and reimagined the film’s aesthetic approach based on collaborative conversations with Mary Bordeaux and Paul and Nicole LaRoche. I created a new film treatment that approaches the 20-minute film as a triptych. The film opens with a sequence of audio archival recordings, moving into three distinct Lakota approaches to tourism and life, and closes with a super-8mm montage overlaid with sound designed from key field recordings. The fellowship year enabled me to work through nearly 200 of my field recordings to select and edit those most essential to my argument. I also conducted archival sound research for the film’s opening and created a super-8mm montage for its closing sequence. I made trips to the Black Hills to film three portraits using a Canon Mark III DLSR camera; these visits allowed me to learn a new workflow and camera, but also provided wonderful opportunities to reevaluate my work and local relationships.

In 2017 and 2018, I shared raw excerpts from the film and edited field recordings at two public workshops on sound ethnography at UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art in Brooklyn. I also shared sounds from the film and discussed its core methods and arguments at a public presentation on Stone Tape Theories at UnionDocs in 2016. And, I have begun work on an audiobook version of the dissertation, which I hope will provide the research in form more accessible to local communities in South Dakota. During the last week of October 2018, I returned to the Black Hills to complete final interviews. I will return again in late spring 2019 to share rough cuts with my collaborators and others in the tourist production communities of the Black Hills. I expect to complete the final cut of the film for application to film festivals in the summer of 2019.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Andrew Hernann

While a doctoral student at City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, Andrew Hernann received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2012 to aid research on “Ethics on the Margins: Religious Transformation in a Labor Regime in Timbuktu, Mali,” supervised by Dr. Gary Wilder. Then in 2016 Dr. Hernann received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Narrating Crisis: Collaborative Storytelling in Post-Crisis Timbuktu.”

Through my Engaged Anthropology Grant, I was able to intensify and decenter my collaborative research among northern Malians by organizing the production and exchange of local narratives of occupation, displacement and military intervention. In 2012, northern Mali was occupied by ethnic Tuareg nationalists and allied religious extremists. As this cohort of armed militants attempted to occupy more central and southern regions of the country, the French and UN armies intervened, pushing the fighters north into the desert. Officially “liberated” in 2013, northern Mali – especially the city of Timbuktu – has remained dangerous and in crisis. Indeed, there remains the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks, as well as the foreboding nature of a foreign military presence. While many Timbuktians have returned to northern Mali, many have also chosen to remain displaced, particularly in Bamako, the Malian capital. Furthermore, some subtle and not-so-subtle tensions remain among differing ethnic groups and between rural and urban Malians.

Such conditions foster the development of unofficial narratives among those experiencing displacement and occupation, particularly as residents continue to feel misrepresented by foreign organizations that seem reluctant to substantially engage with local communities. However, and as has been my experience working with residents of northern Mali, such conditions also foster a level of secrecy that somewhat limit the exchange of such narratives. Storytelling, nevertheless, retains empowering and reconciliatory effects, especially during times of crisis. Therefore, while in Mali during summer 2018, my interlocutors and I organized two storytelling workshops during which participants developed and shared their experiences of the northern Malian crisis with one another. The participants were of diverse socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, gender and professional backgrounds, including students, teachers, religious experts, humanitarian workers, UN contract employees, tourist guides, journalists and community activists.

I offered my experience facilitating collaborative storytelling during these workshops. However, given the importance of incorporating local and culturally relevant values, I emphasized a more collaborative approach, empowering my interlocutors to organize and facilitate these workshops as they best saw fit. Therefore, while occurring over multiple days, the workshops took on a seemingly more “informal” element relative to those more common in the USA. They were less structured than I had originally anticipated, with more down time spent chatting over tea and meals. Nevertheless, participants were able to successfully share their experiences and analyses of the ongoing Malian crisis and organically develop and re/produce authentic, culturally resonant products. Unfortunately, due to ongoing security concerns and the (then) upcoming presidential elections, a shadow of secrecy clouded the workshops. In order to facilitate the safe production of crisis narratives among participants, the group decided not to permit photography/video/audio recording, the use of full names or a written version of their stories. However, most expressed feeling able and eager to reproduce the storytelling workshop format that we developed in increasingly local settings throughout Bamako and northern Mali as a way of distributing stories and facilitating the catharsis that such storytelling often produces. Furthermore, our hope is to publish both a manual of how to conduct similar workshops and a written version of the stories developed this summer – stories which many of my interlocutors jokingly stated were more authentic and analytically useful than anything that an outsider would be able to produce – when they collectively sense that the need for secrecy has abated.

NYAS Lecture 2/25: The Pensioner’s Dilemma: Generations, Class, and Inequality in Southern Europe

The New York Academy of Sciences lecture series continues on February 25th when Susana Narotzky, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Barcelona, Spain, will present, “The Pensioner’s Dilemma: Generations, Class, and Inequality in Southern Europe.” Jane Schneider, Professor Emeritus, C.U.N.Y Graduate Center will act as discussant. The lecture will be held at 5:45 PM at the Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065.

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. Early registration is strongly recommended, since seating is limited. For the buffet supper, registration is also required.

The current crisis in Europe creates new practices and understandings of inter-generational dependencies reaching beyond the intimacy of the home to the reproduction of society as a whole. This talk addresses how older and younger men and women have seen their expectations of stability and wellbeing shattered. In a social context that promotes the entrepreneurial self, autonomy is increasingly difficult to attain and inter-generational forms of care overlap with conflict and resentment.

Neoliberal policy and media discourse present the elderly as a privileged group dispossessing the younger generation from its future. In contrast, my research demonstrates that exchanges of funds, labor, resources, and knowledge between generations within and across households contribute to complex solidarities. Class rather than age is the marker of social differentiation. Important mobilizations in support of public pension systems in Europe challenge a discourse where social security rights are increasingly represented as a form of privilege rather than as a means by which a state more equitably distributes resources.

About the Speakers:

Susana Narotzky is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Barcelona, Spain and a Fellow of the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam. She studied at the University of Barcelona and at the New School for Social Research in New York and obtained an M.A. degree in 1984 and a Ph.D. in 1989. In 2011 she was awarded the ICREA-Academia five year Fellowship by the Institut Català de Recerca I Estudis Avançats, Generalitat de Catalunya to support her research. She has served as scientific coordinator of the project “Models and their Effects on Development paths” (MEDEA) (2009-2012) 7th FP, and since 1998 is the head of the Study Group on Reciprocity (GER) at the University of Barcelona. Her main research focus has been on the anthropology of work, with particular attention to unregulated production and care practices within and across generations. The recent global crisis has led her to investigate the articulation between folk models of the economy that inform practices at the micro-sociological level, and expert models of the economy that frame policy, corporative and institutional behavior. Her work is inspired by theories of critical political economy, moral economies, and feminist economics. 

Jane Schneider is Professor Emeritus from C.U.N.Y. Graduate center (2005), where she had been Professor of Anthropology since 1985.  Professor Schneider became an anthropologist after earning a degree in Political Theory from the University of Michigan and continued to straddle the two with her theoretical work and her fieldwork. After an early interest in textiles and in the world-system approach that led to seminal publications, she moved into a career of research on and in Sicily and to a fruitful partnership with Peter Schneider, which culminated in numerous publications, including, Reversible Destiny: Mafia, Antimafia, and the Struggle in Palermo (2003). Currently, Jane Schneider is working on “contraband capitalism”–how this “mode of production” gained momentum from the U.S. “war on drugs,” and how it transformed criminal organizations around the world, with special attention to the Sicilian Mafia.

All talks in this series take place at Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065.

 

A dinner and wine reception will precede the talk: Buffet dinner at 5:45 PM. ($20 contribution for dinner guests/free for students).  Lectures begin at 6:30 PM and are free and open to the public, but registration is required

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Alex Fattal

Wenner-Gren is excited to share the following trailer and blog post from Alex Fattal who in 2016 received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on Limbo. Prior to receiving a Fejos Fellowship Dr. Fattal received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2009 to aid research on, “Guerrilla Marketing: Information Warfare and the Demobilization of FARC Rebels,” and an Engaged Anthropology Grant in 2014 that allowed him to return to the field to share his research with the community.

LIMBO – trailer ENG. from Casatarántula on Vimeo.

Limbo

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Producing Limbo has been quite a journey, literally. It has entailed transforming the payload of a truck into a giant camara obscura. That meant not only convincing the truck’s owner to allow me to open a five-centimeter hole in the side of his truck, but figuring out how to craft a lens for that hole (it involved Universidad de los Andes’s physics department and a local eyeglass shop). Once the truck camera (camion cámara) was built it became the place in which I interviewed eight former guerrilla fighters. In that darkened chamber they told me about their lives: why they joined the guerrillas, what life was like inside the FARC, and why, despite the risk of being executed, they chose to leave the insurgency? The camión cámara became a confessional, dreamlike space, and many of the stories revolved around dreams. The project emerges from my ethnographic research, which was recently published in the book Guerrilla Marketing: Counterinsurgency and Capitalism in Colombia (University of Chicago Press, 2018).

My Fejos Fellowship allowed me to rethink and revamp this project. Rather than trying to weave a single narrative out of the eight stories, I decided to focus on one former guerrilla. This required not only taking the truck out to film crucial landscape shots, but also an extensive reframing of the narrative and all new editorial challenges. I’ve worked very hard with great partners in Colombia to figure out how the funky form and compelling content of the film could best come together. It’s been a challenge but I am happy with the result.

The film now focuses on the life of Javier Alexander, his troubled childhood, his education and military experience in the FARC, and his decision to desert after the devil makes repeated appearances in his dreams. Alex (the protagonist) can only vanquish his devilish dream by going back to his roots, a Shaman from the indigenous community that he comes from. His narrative is not linear, but bounces from present to past, from dream world to real world. Its topsy turvy jumble is apropos for the life in limbo that most former combats live, between a militant past and a civilian present, between the countryside and the city, between their experiences as victims and perpetrators — a world in limbo.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Preeti Sampat

Display in Kerim.

While a doctoral student at City University of New York Graduate Center, New York Preeti Sampat received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2011 to aid research on “Right to Land and the Rule of Law: Special Economic Zones in India,” supervised by Dr. David Harvey.  In 2017 Dr. Sampat was able to build upon her fieldwork when she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Living Histories of Land Museum.”

The Living Histories of Land in Goa Mobile Museum initially anticipated large printed mounts curated with visuals of campaign materials from historical environmental struggles in the state such as press releases; posters; news clippings; photographs, excerpts from speeches; and symbolic installations using sound, visual materials and natural materials. After much effort locating materials from older struggles from the 1970’s to 1990’s however, it was clear that largely news media archives and a few pamphlets were available for the older struggles, although more recent struggles had preserved posters and banners. This posed a challenge since a display of mostly black and white press clippings and pamphlets on mounts seemed visually unappealing and would defeat the purpose of attracting bystanders and local residents to the museum venues as it traveled. There was also an imbalance of materials available from older struggles compared to more recent struggles.

Explaining the campaign materials to students at Ponda.

After much brainstorming with colleagues to create a visually attractive display, I took the decision to create an installation with an online museum hosted in a dedicated website, that would curate multi-lingual press coverage (in English, Marathi and Konkani) of the struggles, available video archives, and other materials related to the environmental struggles that we could locate. This also put a nice spin on the definition of a ‘mobile museum,’ as the museum could now be ‘visited’ on mobile phones, with a long lasting archive available much after the Museum display period. With the help of curatorial and design assistance, the Museum to put up installations on hired tablets and laptops, curated available videos of struggles into a running loop displayed on a projector screen, and created a short dramatic skit to attract footfall to the venues. Posters and pamphlets from older struggles (where available) and more recent struggles were also put on display around the installation.

Film screening in Panjim

The earliest archived struggle dated from the 1970’s agitations against Zuari Agrochemicals that also catalyzed the Fish-workers movement in Goa and across India. This was followed in the 1980’s by the massive and long-standing agitation against the Konkan Railway; the struggles over controversial tourism projects in coastal areas; and the 1990’s agitations against polluting Du Pont (Nylon 6,6) and Metastrips industries. More recent struggles included those from the mid-2000’s, against the Regional Plan 2011 and 2021; Special Economic Zones; and on-going agitations against mining; the Mopa Airport; the Coal Corridor and Mormugao Port Expansion; and the Declaration of Rivers as National Waterways. While there are many more environmental struggles in Goa, the ones archived and displayed in the museum represented some of the better-known ones in the state.

Performing the theatrical skit at Margao.

Each of these struggles coalesced in opposition to capitalist development projects initiated by the state, and their implications for local environments, livelihoods and culture. The modes of protest included collective protests on project sites, villages and cities influenced by the project, and the capital city Panjim; as well as legal action by concerned residents. The Museum’s online archive organized the historical archives of these struggles along five key sub-themes emerging from the nature of development projects: infrastructure; industry; tourism; mining and real estate. As the Museum was curated and the archive emerged, the periodization of the struggles also shed light on the shifting dynamics of capitalist accumulation in the state. Despite continuing overlaps, some of the earliest controversies erupted around projects related to infrastructure and industry; followed by tourism; with mining and real estate projects more recently.

Poster

The Museum traveled to five locations across Goa, Margao, Ponda and Panjim cities, and Kerim and Verna villages from June 21 – 25, 2018. The Museum had initially anticipated displays in three venues, but this was later extended to two more, as the costs of transportation and labor were reduced with the lighter, mobile installation equipment. Margao and Ponda cities in South and North Goa districts respectively (Goa has only two districts) were added to the venues. Margao is the center of many agitations from South Goa; while Ponda is close to the villages in North Goa where a number of environmental agitations have taken place; and both are bustling market towns with a number of people from nearby villages visiting for work, leisure or other activities. Since all the venues were public spaces arranged with due government permissions, the theatrical skit was used to introduce the Museum to bystanders and visitors at the Museum venue. This was followed by an invitation to view the original pamphlets and posters from the struggles; and the archival materials on laptops, tablets and mobile phones arranged at the venue. The film screening of short films from various struggles was held in the evening to allow for clearer viewing at dusk and after sunset.

The interactive installation in Verna.

The audience in each of the venues ranged from curious bystanders; local residents passing through; students; local activists; and journalists. For many, this was a novel archival display, a people’s history of the state. Local residents from different villages also extended invitations for hosting the Museum in their localities in the future. The Living Histories of Land in Goa Mobile Museum hopes to continue adding to the online archive with support from volunteers and to travel to other locations in the future. With the positive feedback and interest the Museum generated, discussions to this effect have been held with interested activists.

NYAS Lecture 1/28: Urban (In)Equality and Materiality: A Global, Deep Time Perspective

It’s the beginning of a new year and the New York Academy of Sciences is back with another great installment of its lecture series starting on January 28th at 5:45 PM at its new location, Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065. Dean Saitta, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Urban Studies program at the University of Denver will be presenting, “Urban (In)Equality and Materiality: A Global, Deep Time Perspective.” Rita Wright, Professor of Anthropology at New York University, 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. Early registration is strongly recommended, since seating is limited. For the buffet supper, registration is also required. If you will be registering for an event for the first time, the New York Academy of Sciences will ask you first to set up a user account with them. Registration is free and does not require divulging personal or financial information.

Scholarly research suggests that the more inclusive and equitable a city, the more prosperous and sustainable it is overall.  Today, race and class-based segregations continue to plague cities worldwide. To remedy these inequalities, we need to look for new sources of ideas about urban planning and policy.  This talk considers the 6000-year history of city building as one such source. Ancient cities in Asia, Africa, and the Americas are wellsprings of learning about equitable urbanism. They illustrate collective governance in the distribution of life-sustaining resources.  They demonstrate effective resource sharing across ethnic and ecological boundaries. They show how public space can accommodate the masses, delight the senses, and cultivate a shared identity and destiny.  Together, ancient cities tell some different stories about social being and belonging in urban contexts, and implicate alternative principles and pathways for building the equitable city.

About the Speakers:

Dean Saitta is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Urban Studies program at the University of Denver. He teaches courses in urban anthropology, archaeology, and evolutionary anthropology. His research interests are in ancient city planning and design, comparative architectural and urban form, and North American archaeology. Professor Saitta is a co-author of “Denver: An Archaeological History.” Currently, he is  researching and writing about issues facing the contemporary city from an archaeological, historical, and intercultural perspective. Specifically, he focuses on how people of different cultural backgrounds interact with, and are shaped by, the urban built environment.  He writes a blog called “Intercultural Urbanism” and is a featured blogger at the public interest urban planning website Planetizen.

Rita Wright is Professor of Anthropology at New York University.  Her research interests include comparative studies of urbanism, state formation, gender, and cycles of change in ancient civilizations.  She has conducted field research in South Asia (Afghanistan and Pakistan) and the Near East (Iran). Her research at Harappa included studies of ceramics and craft production and a regional survey of Harappan Settlement Patterns on the Beas River.  Dr. Wright is founder and editor of Case Studies in Early Societies (Cambridge University Press), editor of Gender and Archaeology, co-editor with Cathy L. Costin of Craft and Social Identity, and author of Ancient Indus: Urbanism, Economy, and Society (2010, Cambridge University Press in UK/US and India.

A dinner and wine reception will precede the talk. Buffet dinner begins at 5:45 PM. ($20 contribution for dinner guests/free for students).

Lectures begin at 6:30 PM and are free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Symposium #158: Atlantic Slavery and the Making of the Modern World: Experiences, Representations, and Legacies

In October Wenner-Gren once again made the journey back to Tivoli Pálacio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal for the 158th Symposium, “Atlantic Slavery and the Making of the Modern World: Experiences, Representations and Legacies”, organized by Ibrahima Thiaw (IFAN-University Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar) and Deborah Mack (National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington DC). Be on the lookout for the upcoming special issue of Current Anthropology for the meeting’s papers, available to all 100% Open-Access.

Front: Laurie Obbink, Mark Leone, Liza Gijanto, Ibrahima Thiaw, Deborah Mack, Catherine Hall, Joseph Inikori, Ana Lucia Araujo, Kelly Goldberg.
Back: Cameron Monroe, Jemima Pierre, Hannes Schroeder, Michael Blakey, Jean Muteba Rahier, Katharina Schramm, Temi Odumosu, Fátima Pinto, Danilyn Rutherford.

ORGANIZERS’ STATEMENT

“Atlantic Slavery and the Making of the Modern World: Experiences, Representations and Legacies”

Ibrahima Thiaw (IFAN-University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar)
Deborah Mack (NMAAHC-Smithsonian)

Even today, Atlantic slavery and the slave trade continue to haunt our present and to impact our everyday lives. The persistence of racist ideology and its contestations, economic disparities within and between nation states and across continents, human trafficking and massive migratory movements in world populations today are stark reminders of global processes unleashed by capitalist and imperial expansions concomitant with the Atlantic economy. While the institution of slavery and the trade in people were important components in other major global trade networks (e.g., Roman empire, trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean commerce, etc.), the historical proximity of Atlantic slavery, its strong racial and racist foundations, its scale and its long-term effects make it profoundly relevant to the modern experience. Its enduring legacies and multiple reverberations on various domains of modern life are sensitive topics of tremendous political and popular concern in various regions of the globe, and particularly in Africa, the Americas, and Europe.

There is a massive body of scholarly (anthropologists, historians, sociologists, economic historians, art and architectural historians, preservationists, landscape and urban planners and various other heritage professionals, etc.) and non-scholarly production (e.g., visual artists, storytellers, musicians, performance artists, etc.) on Atlantic slavery and its afterlives. Over the past decades, however, the strong resonance of histories of slavery in local and global politics, the challenges they pose to modern governance and policing, the multiplication and multivocality of actors, as well as the racial polarization of these debates have collectively rendered the discipline of anthropology ever more relevant. Politically engaged anthropologists have dismantled Eurocentric assumptions about racial hierarchies and stigmatization, gender and class biases, and essentialist views on cultural identity. Many anthropological explorations of Atlantic slavery today are self-reflective and highlight the capacity of the discipline to reinvent itself by examining its paradigms, theories, and methods and by challenging accepted models of thought, as well as commonplace understandings of cultural, racial, ethnic and even socioeconomic differences. Anthropology has taken a stand against many power-driven assumptions to be more attentive to subaltern voices worldwide, particularly on issues related to slavery and its aftermath in the global North as well as in the global South.

Building on such momentum and on the large corpus of existing literature, this symposium will gather pioneering academic and public scholars working from a wide range of perspectives. The symposium will not only evaluate existing literatures and practice, it will also provide a unique opportunity to generate and explore new ideas for future directions. We hope to build conversations among several disciplines of evidence, contexts and frameworks to challenge pre-existing approaches, and in the process identify new approaches in both theory and practices that benefit both scholarship and our globalized communities on the ground. Participants from different disciplinary homes, cultural backgrounds, and research traditions in Africa, the Americas and Europe are invited to reflect on the different geographies of power and cultural economies of Atlantic slavery and their enduring legacies in the 21st century. Because we want these conversations to be among people who are both strangers to each other and bring different types of new knowledge to the table, we hope that we serve as a strong voice to building bridges within anthropology and across disciplines. We are intentionally challenging intellectual traditions within and across the field of anthropology and offer models of what anthropology has to become in order to have greater impact in policy as well as public culture and action. Our goal is to provoke productive, cross-pollinating conversations across geographical, methodological and theoretical boundaries, to revisit, reactivate, and redirect debates on Atlantic slavery for the 21st century and beyond.

The symposium is organized around five major themes:

1. Historicizing Capitalist Expansion, Atlantic Slavery, and Empires: How have the historical linkages between capitalist expansion, Atlantic slavery and the making of empires been explored in different world regions? How central was the institution of slavery for the development and expansion of capitalism and empire? What were the roles of local versus translocal situations and processes in the polarization of power and wealth in specific world regions? How were these processes maintained and/or changed in different contexts and localities around the globe?

2. Atlantic Slavery and the Politics of Identity: How, when, where, and under which specific conditions did Atlantic slavery produce national and/or transnational identities and political strategies (e.g. diaspora, panafricanism, white supremacy, etc.)? How does the history of Atlantic slavery continue to inform contemporary racialization processes? How and when did the tangled genealogies of the Atlantic blur the very ideological reification of race and ethnicity upon which the institution of slavery was built? How then should we assess the contemporary relevance of identity categories and their eventual use in modern governance? What is the cultural and political significance of the growing industry of genetics and root identity?

3. Slavery and the Production and Reproduction of Social Inequality: How can anthropological approaches to slavery elicit the linkages between slavery and other regimes of inequality based on a manipulation of race, ethnicity, caste, class, gender, religion, etc.? How were these constructed and reproduced, and how did they influence one another in different contexts across the Atlantic and beyond?

4. Remembrance, Memorialization, and the Governance of a Difficult Past: How is slavery remembered in different regions of the world? How and why do different political subjectivities claim and/or contest established modes of memorialization? How do processes of memorialization intersect with the governance, management, and interpretation of these sites of memory and their commodification?

5. Societal and Ideological Responses to Slavery and its Legacies: How are slavery, its memories and/or its legacies produced, experienced, and contested? What are the counter ideologies and other societal responses to slavery, and what effects have they had? How can anthropology contribute to inform policy and the public on slavery and its legacies for a healthier society?

There might be different sensibilities in the ways the terms slave, slavery, and enslavement are used in different academic traditions. However, participants should keep in mind that our prime objective is to generate an up-to-date anthropological knowledge on Atlantic slavery that would dismantle prior assumptions and open up a renewed perspective foregrounded in research and evidence.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Anna Weichselbraun

Banner announcing the annual General Conference above one entrance to the Vienna International Center which houses the IAEA.

In 2013 while a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, Anna Weichselbraun received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Regulating the Nuclear: The Textual Production of Technical Independence at the International Atomic Energy Agency,” supervised by Dr. Joseph Maco. Building upon her fieldwork Dr. Weichselbraun then received an Engaged Anthropology Grant in 2018 to aid engaged activities on “Designing Effective and Credible Nuclear Safeguards.”

My dissertation research explored the practices that make up the production of “nuclear safeguards”—the verification of states’ international legal commitments to not build nuclear weapons. It asked the question: How, against accusations of politicization, does the IAEA demonstrate “technical independence” in order for its judgments to enjoy global legitimacy? During 24 cumulative months of archival and ethnographic research at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria and at the US National Archives, I explored this question at nuclear safeguards workshops and training courses and during a twelve-month internship in the safeguards department’s training section. There I joined newly hired inspectors in the training course for their job over the course of six months. I interviewed inspectors, analysts, and technicians throughout the department about their work and about what the competencies they thought were necessary to do safeguards properly. I attended the IAEA’s annual General Conference and followed debates in the policy-making bodies. I also interviewed editors, writers, and translators about the production of texts across the Agency.

Delegates and staff taking a coffee break.

My research showed that nuclear safeguards are highly constrained by politically normative expectations about appropriately technical knowledge. Safeguards bureaucrats must constantly demonstrate the supreme technicalness of their findings lest they be accused of being influenced by politics. My work demonstrates that the distinction between technical and political domains at the IAEA has been institutionalized through bureaucratic practice that is imagined to produce “objective” knowledge. Bureaucratization acts as a centripetal force, pulling all attempts to produce knowledge into its vortex. The result is a strong institutional preference for the quantifiable, the calculable, and the predictable. This, however, poses problems for recent attempts to strengthen the nuclear control role of the IAEA which seeks to expand the scope of safeguards activities by including analysis of a wide variety of information in order to paint a more complete picture of the state. “Analysts” are viewed with suspicion as their use of judgment is conflated with bias. Further, this perspective also conceals the role of judgment in the “technical” tasks of the inspectors. I argue that the bureaucratic vision of nuclear control derives from the political imperatives of equal treatment at the time of the organization’s founding, which nevertheless conceal the hierarchical nuclear order.

Secretary Perry delivers the US statement at the opening plenary session of the General Conference.

The Engaged Anthropology Grant allowed me to return to my field site to engage my interlocutors on their continued challenge of designing safeguards that would be technically credible but also politically legitimate. While I had planned to conduct a collaborative workshop with former supervisors and colleagues in the inspector training section, finding a time to schedule such an event proved extremely difficult, and indicates some of the challenges of studying elites with tight schedules who frankly have better things to do than to indulge a visiting anthropologist. In response to an encouraging note from one former supervisor about timing, I planned my visit to the IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria to overlap with the organization’s annual General Conference, which was both a busy time but also gave me the opportunity to access the building during the entire week with an observer badge. This gave me the freedom to schedule meetings with former colleagues and interlocutors and it also provided opportunities for chance encounters, not to mention further participant-observation.

.The French booth in the “rotunda” promoting nuclear power as a “climate-friendly” low-carbon energy alternative.

During the week I met individually with eighteen people including ten current IAEA staff members, two former staff members, three diplomats, and three NGO participants. When I was not having breakfast, coffee, lunch, coffee, drinks or dinner with interlocutors, I was following the general debate in the plenary hall (including Secretary Perry’s bizarre speech) and paying attention to the gossip circulating in the hallways concerning the state of that year’s resolution on safeguards which the diplomats were hammering out. I learned upon arriving in Vienna that the Russian delegation had surprised the usual process by introducing a draft of a resolution on safeguards a few days before the European countries who customarily present a working draft were able to do so. NGO observers and staff were curious as to whether the Russian disruption would threaten the outcome of this year’s General Conference as the draft text brought up issues about the objectivity of safeguards that I discussed in my dissertation.
After days of procedural debate, the resolution included wording that expressed concern with the “objectivity” of safeguards evaluation practices and called for returning the inspector’s work to a “technical” basis. In meetings with IAEA staff during the week, I explained that I thought that the insistence on the “technical” and “objective” would constrain the work that safeguards inspectors and analysts were doing. Instead of defending their safeguards expertise as merely technical, safeguards experts should articulate that their unique contribution was a combination of technical know-how and trained judgment (referring to Daston and Galison’s expression in their 2007 book Objectivity), similar to the kind of evaluative diagnostics a physician does. A staff member in the safeguards director’s office was particularly interested in this line of argument so I wrote up a short memo for internal use detailing this alternative argumentative strategy for describing safeguards expertise. I am in touch with my interlocutors to follow up whether this argument resonates, and to secure possibilities for continued engagement.

This experience has led me to reflect on the role that anthropological knowledge (our own particular expertise) can play in my field site and in similar organizations, and how this form of engagement among elite groups must express itself differently than engagement with disadvantaged or even oppressed communities. One of the reviewers of my application flagged that a project such as I proposed in which I would essentially attempt to advise members of the organization on its challenges would not be acceptable in a “non-Western” community. I agree that the particular form of engagement with our interlocutors should be sensitive to the expectations and needs of their communities. Thankfully, we have decades of reflexive anthropological thinking on these matters to support us as we attempt to engage our research communities. I am extremely grateful to the Wenner-Gren Foundation for the opportunity to do so and look forward to the future opportunities for engagement this grant has made possible.