Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Diana Szanto

We’re excited and proud to share the trailer and blog post from Diana Szanto who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filming Manish.


Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

From 2008 to 2016 I studied development in Sierra Leone, from a particular angle: that of disability. Originally focusing on the role of NGOs, my attention progressively shifted toward local civil society. I got interested in self-organized disabled communities. My encounters in this world led me to a group of disabled musicians to whom I became attached by long lasting ties of friendship. As I was drafting my thesis, I thought it best to keep my personal life out of my ethnography. Retrospectively, it was a bad idea, but nervous doctoral students do not always make judicious decisions. Luckily, I also realized that my time spent in the company of my friends was probably the most precious part of my learning process. Silencing this experience seemed to be too much of a loss and so I came to the idea of transforming it into something more accessible than an anthropology book. I started to use two complementary methodologies: collecting field notes for a book, supposedly for an academic audience and footages destined to become a film for a larger audience. At the end, I abandoned the assumption of artificial boundaries separating imaginary audiences, but the two types of material yielded indeed two different results: a book and a film. The book (Politicising Polio in Sierra Leone) came out at the end of 2019.  The film became a collective project, but for years, it stubbornly refused to materialize.

As I am not trained in visual anthropology, I needed help in filming. I asked a friend, an accomplished French documentarist, to join me in the field.  He recruited a small but heteroclite crew, which came to visit me in Sierra Leone in 2009, 2010 and 2011. We collected more than 30 hours of footages. Shootings took place almost exclusively following the haphazard daily movements of our protagonists. Plans, if they existed at all, had to be frequently changed. For long, it remained a mystery even for us what kind of film this material can make, if only because our protagonists also frequently changed their minds about what they wanted to see represented. Several crises – of hermeneutical and personal nature – discouraged us from getting the job done.

By 2017, we had definitely gave up ever finishing the film. Then suddenly we changed our minds. That year our main protagonist died. His death put an end to a long hesitation and gave us a new impetus to leave a visual trace of his life. In agreement with the rest of the group in Sierra Leone, we decided to dedicate the film to the homage of our lost friend. What was a strong but materially baseless intention, became a realistic possibility thanks to the Wenner-Gren Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship.

We started to work in the beginning of 2019. Based on a first selection accomplished collectively, I wrote the scenario. I wanted to create a multilayered film that speaks at the same time about Manish, our hero, his micro universe with its broader global entanglements, as well as about the emotional vulnerabilities of doing fieldwork in violent terrains. We worked on realizing this plan for a year. Our team is not only diverse, but also geographically dispersed. I am based in Hungary, the first cameraman, director and editor, Denis Ramos, and his assistant, second cameraman, Ferdinando Formisano, live in France and our most important consultants, the film’s surviving main characters are in Sierra Leone. We had to find a way to overcome the distance. I travelled to France three times, the rest of the time we exchanged draft versions, ideas and opinions online.  Final postproduction was done in a studio in Hungary in the summer of 2020.

The film, Manish, is a 75 minute-length documentary. It tells the story of a polio-disabled boy, who escapes the war, finds refuge, friends and hope in Freetown, remakes his life several times but does not live long enough to see his dreams realized. The film does more than rehearsing the events. It excavates and makes visible the social roots of suffering. In a counter-movement, it also attempts to understand the nature of collective happiness and the political potential inherent in hope.

We intended to embed a singular story in its local and global historical context, in order to show its universal implications. We strived for a delicate balance between allowing Manish to inhabit the front of the stage while showing enough of the back stage to produce a nuanced and multilayered contextualization.  The multiplicity of the layers complicated the story telling. We understood that it was impossible to follow the chronology without some additional information.  After some hesitation, I assumed finally the position of the narrator. In this way, my own fieldwork, the process of navigating complicated human relations, has implicitly become part of the film.

When we finished the postproduction, we thought that the biggest part of the work was behind us. We slowly realized that what was in front us was equally huge: we have to make the film live.  Our two most obvious options are festivals for recognition and VOD for wide coverage. We started to work on the first option. For a while we were hoping that festivals would start open offline but in December 2020 we gave up waiting and started to register for online screenings.  For most of them, we are still waiting for the response.  VOD marketing can start only after the festival season. In the meanwhile, we are communicating about the film on its webpage (manish-movie.org). With the site, I wanted to pay a tribute to ethnographic filmmaking. Therefore, I imagined a double function for it. On the one hand, it presents the film, on the other, it gives more information on the ethnography that grounded it with the intention to render it “teachable”.  Under the menu item “Teaching tools” the internaute will find four short edited video sequences. They illustrate 4 important themes discussed by the film and developed more in details in the book: 1, Being disabled in the South, 2, Contemporary forms of violence, 3, Expulsions, 4, Resistances. Instead of referring directly to the film’s story, the sequences introduce the viewer into the deeper intricacies of its social, political and historic background. These snapshots, although localized, are meant to nourish an analysis of current global processes, affecting in one way or another, beyond the disabled communities of Freetown, probably all of us.

This section is dedicated to teachers, activists or amateurs of self-education who want to know more about the topic. Each video is accompanied by a short text, explaining the scenes and proposing a theoretical frame for their interpretation. The texts are completed by a list of suggested questions for class discussions, a glossary explaining the concepts, as well as by a short bibliography. The four texts together provide a good enough summary of the book’s arguments and make these available for those who do not necessarily have time to read hundreds of pages.

The webpage is also a place for fundraising. A Donation button invites the visitors to contribute to a Fund established in Freetown to financially help the disabled communities to which Manish belonged. It is managed by a local NGO, One Family People, created by the protagonists of the film. 10% of all income realized by the documentary will go to the people who participated in its realization.

We had to postpone the public premiere in Sierra Leone because the crew refused to travel in the heights of the pandemic. According to a cautious new plan, maybe we can visit “Salone” in June. In Sierra Leone, disability activists will not have to wait until the film is released officially. One Family People has access to it and can screen it on demand.

Public Statement by the Network of Anthropology Programs in Colombia

Public Statement by the network of Anthropology Programs in Colombia (Note 1)

Since April 28th thousands of Colombian citizens are protesting in many parts of the
country. In both rural and urban areas, the young and old, men and women have taken
to the streets – whether individually or collectively, as associations and organizations –
to demonstrate peacefully in discontent with the country’s situation. Exercising their
constitutional right to protest, workers, members of the LGBTQIA+ community,
peasants, afro-descendants, students, indigenous peoples and a myriad of social groups
are clamoring for the National Government to listen to their demands.

This movement has been met with disproportionate violence on the part of the Armed
Forces, from the use of lethal and so-called “non-lethal” weapons against protesters to
abusive force against both the State’s own Human Rights institutions and those of
international organizations including the UN mission. (Note 2).  In just one week, such violations
and attacks on the physical, emotional and mental integrity of Colombian citizens have
resulted in deaths, wounds and atrocities committed by the Armed Forces (Police, Riot
Police -ESMAD[Note 3] – and Army). While the exact number of victims (both fatal and nonfatal)
of the public powers’ violent and unrestrained use of force remains unknown,
preliminary evidence and information bear witness to the situation’s gravity and
magnitude. (Note 4).

As Colombian citizens and academics we call for dialogue and condemn all forms of
violence. We remain persuaded that no form of violence should be used, much less
when the demands are that fundamental rights are guaranteed. We invite those
participating in the marches to continue protesting through peaceful forms of expression
and we especially demand that the National Government cease the use of force against
democratic protests.

Neither militarized street action, military occupation of residential areas nor the use of
force against citizens, the stigmatizing of protests or any other form of violence is
admissible under the democratic rule of law. Democracy depends on the legitimacy of
its institutions and cannot survive unless individual and collective freedom and Human
Rights are granted by government. The unrestrained use of physical violence on the part
of public powers seriously undermines the legitimacy of the State.

Ample and expressive processes of social mobilization, such as those which gained
momentum in 2019 and those currently underway in our country constitute a legitimate
form of protest that should be addressed through dialogue. An open and effective dialogue that recognizes their legitimacy and is committed to opening up democratic
solutions. Dialogue is much needed to solve the conflicts undermining the peace
agreements, to prevent returning to glyphosate as a means of burning down coca
plantations with its damaging effects on all other plants and forms of life, and to stop
attacks on the leaders of social movements.

We demand that the National Government cease its military response to social
discontent, grant the demilitarization of cities, refrain from stigmatizing protesters and
does not turn to the state of siege as a means of re-establishing public order, (Note 4). We also
demand that inquiries are made into allegations of assassination, disappearance,
arbitrary detentions and sexual violence and that in Human Rights and International
Humanitarian Law are preserved in all circumstances. We require for clear and effective
channels to be opened up with protesters and social organizations.

As academics and university students we occupy spaces for the construction of
knowledge, reflection and critical analysis; for this very reason it is fundamental that we
raise our voice in the face of the unrestrained violence we witness on the streets. We
express our solidarity to all the relatives of people assassinated, disappeared or attacked
in the protests. Democracy is deliberative and grants the right to dissent, so we will
continue to contribute with public debates based on building the change that our country

May 4th 2021 14h30


Colombian Society of Anthropology-ACANT
Department of Anthropology University of Andes
Department of Anthropology University of Antioquia
Anthropology Program of the University of Caldas
Department of Anthropology of the University of the Cauca
Anthropology Program of the University of Externado
Archaeology Program of the University of Externado
Anthropology Program of the Icesi University
Department of Anthropology of the Javeriana University, Bogotá
Department of Anthropology of the National University
Anthropology Program of the University of Rosario
Anthropology Program of the University of Santander


Pronunciamiento de la RED de Programas de Antropología en Colombia

Desde el pasado 28 de abril, miles de ciudadanos y ciudadanas colombianos se han manifestado en diferentes lugares del país. Tanto en áreas rurales como en centros urbanos, jóvenes y adultos, mujeres y hombres –de manera individual o desde asociaciones, colectivos u organizaciones– han salido a las calles para demostrar con un sinnúmero de expresiones pacíficas su descontento ante la situación del país. En este ejercicio del derecho constitucional a la protesta, obreros, sectores de la comunidad LGBTIQIA+, campesinos, afrodescendientes, estudiantes, indígenas y otros tantos segmentos de la sociedad, han reclamado al Gobierno Nacional que sus demandas sean escuchadas.

Como respuesta a estas movilizaciones sociales, se han recibido tratos desmedidos por parte de la Fuerza Pública, que van desde el uso de armas letales y “no letales” en contra de los ciudadanos marchantes (y no marchantes), hasta abusos en contra de organismos de Derechos Humanos tanto del propio Estado, como de organizaciones internacionales como es el caso de la misión de la ONU. (Note 2). Luego de siete días, el saldo de estas violaciones, abusos y atentados en contra de la integridad física, emocional y mental de los ciudadanos se ha traducido en muertes, heridas y otros hechos cometidos por la Fuerza Pública (Policía, ESMAD [Note 3]y Ejército). Se desconoce aún el número de víctimas (mortales y no mortales) a causa del uso violento y desmedido por parte de la Fuerza Pública; no obstante, las evidencias y la información preliminar, se convierten en testimonios de su gravedad y magnitud. (Note 4).

Como ciudadanos y como académicos, convocamos al diálogo y condenamos todas las formas de violencia. Reiteramos nuestra convicción en que ninguna forma de violencia debería ser ejercida y mucho menos allí donde se reclame la vigencia de derechos. Invitamos a quienes participan de las marchas a mantener siempre las vías pacíficas de expresión, pero, sobre todo, exigimos al Gobierno Nacional el cese en el uso de la fuerza en contra de las manifestaciones ciudadanas.

Ni la militarización de las calles, ni la ocupación militar de áreas residenciales, ni el uso de la fuerza contra los ciudadanos, ni la estigmatización de la protesta, ni ninguna forma de uso de la fuerza en contra de la población civil son admisibles en un Estado de Derecho. La democracia depende de la legitimidad de sus instituciones y solo pervive en tanto las libertades y los Derechos Humanos sean garantizados por los gobiernos. El uso desmedido de violencia física por parte de la Fuerza Pública en contra de las manifestaciones ciudadanas socava la legitimidad del Estado.

Los amplios y crecientes procesos de movilización social, que tuvieron un punto álgido en noviembre de 2019, y aquellos vividos en el país en los últimos días constituyen una forma legítima de protesta, que debe ser atendida mediante el diálogo. Un diálogo abierto y efectivo, que reconozca la legitimidad de la protesta y abra mecanismos para la solución democrática de los conflictos sociales acrecentados por el desmonte de los acuerdos de paz, el retorno del glifosato y el ataque a los líderes sociales, entre otros.

Exigimos al Gobierno Nacional el cese de la respuesta militar al descontento social, la desmilitarización de las ciudades, la no estigmatización de los manifestantes, y la no declaración de estado de excepción bajo la premisa de la restauración del orden público.3 Exigimos, además, que se realicen las respectivas investigaciones en los casos denunciados de asesinatos, desapariciones, detenciones arbitrarias, violencias sexuales y, en todo caso, el estricto respeto por los Derechos Humanos y el Derecho Internacional Humanitario. Así mismo, invitamos a que se creen los canales claros y efectivos para el diálogo amplio y participativo con los manifestantes y las organizaciones sociales.

La academia y las universidades somos espacios de construcción de conocimientos, de reflexión y análisis crítico; por esta razón es imperativo levantar nuestra voz ante la violencia desmedida que estamos viendo en las calles. Nuestra solidaridad con todas las familias de personas que han sido asesinadas, desaparecidas y agredidas en medio de la protesta. La democracia es deliberación y derecho al disentimiento, por eso seguiremos contribuyendo con los debates públicos y argumentados en función de la construcción de los cambios que nuestro país necesita.

4 de mayo de 2021, 2:30 pm


Asociación Colombiana de Antropología – ACANT
Departamento de Antropología Universidad de los Andes
Departamento de Antropología Universidad de Antioquia
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad de Caldas
Departamento de Antropología Universidad del Cauca
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad del Externado
Programa de Arqueología de la Universidad del Externado
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad Icesi
Departamento de Antropología Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad de Magdalena
Departamento de Antropología Universidad Nacional
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad del Rosario
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad de Santander
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad Surcolombiana


Pronunciamento da RED de Programa de Antropologia na Colômbia (Note 1)

Desde o último 28 de abril, milhares de cidadãs e cidadãos colombianos estão se manifestando em diferentes lugares do país. Tanto em áreas rurais como em centros urbanos, jovens e adultos, mulheres e homens – de maneira individual ou associativa, coletiva ou organizacional – saíram às ruas para demostrar de forma pacífica seu descontentamento com a situação do país. Ao exercer seu direito constitucional ao protesto, trabalhadores, setores da comunidade LGBTQIA+, camponeses, afrodescendentes, estudantes, indígenas e outros tantos grupos da sociedade, exigem que o Governo Nacional escute suas demandas.

A resposta a estas mobilizações tem sido uma violência desmedida por parte da Forças Nacionais, desde o uso de armas letais e “não-letais” contra manifestantes (e não-manifestantes) até abusos cometidos contra órgãos de Direitos Humanos do próprio estado e de organizações internacionais, como é o caso da missão da ONU5. (Note 2). Em sete dias, o saldo de tais violações, abusos e atentados contra a integridade física, emocional e mental dos cidadãos pode ser visto em mortes, ferimentos e outras atrocidades cometidas pelas Forças Nacionais (Polícia, ESMAD[Note 3] e Exército). Ainda é desconhecido o número de vítimas (fatais e não-fatais) das ações violentas e desmedidas do Poder Público; não obstante, evidências e informações preliminares se transformaram em testemunhos da gravidade e magnitude da situação. (Note 4).

Como cidadãos colombianos e acadêmicos, chamamos para o diálogo e condenamos todas as formas de violência. Reiteramos a nossa convicção de que nenhuma forma de violência deveria ser usada, muito menos quando se exige que direitos sejam garantidos. Convidamos aos que participam das marcham que continuem protestando por meio de formas pacíficas de expressão e, sobretudo, exigimos que o Governo Nacional cesse o uso da força contra manifestações democráticas.

Nem a militarização das ruas, a ocupação militar de áreas residenciais, o uso de força contra cidadãos, a estigmatização de protestos, nem qualquer outra forma de uso da violência contra a população civil é admissível em um Estado de Direito. A democracia depende da legitimidade de suas instituições e apenas pode sobreviver quando as liberdades (de expressão, individuais e coletivas) e os Direitos Humanos são garantidos pelos governos. O uso desmedido de violência física por parte do Poder Público contra manifestações civis prejudica a legitimidade do Estado.

Processos de mobilização social amplos e expoentes, que tiveram seu auge em novembro de 2019 e aqueles vividos no país nos últimos dias, configuram-se como uma forma legítima de protesto que deve ser atendida por meio do diálogo. Um diálogo aberto e efetivo que reconheça sua legitimidade e se comprometa a abrir canais de soluções democráticas daqueles conflitos sociais aumentado ao desmonte de acordos de paz, o retorno do glifosato e o ataque a lideranças de movimentos sociais, dentre outros.

Exigimos que o Governo Nacional cesse a resposta militar ao descontentamento social, garanta a desmilitarização das cidades, não produza a estigmatização dos manifestantes e não declare estado de exceção sob a premissa de que irá restaurar a ordem pública7. Exigimos, ainda, que sejam investigadas as denúncias de assassinatos, desaparecimentos, detenções arbitrárias, violências sexuais e que se respeitem, em todos os casos, os Direitos Humanos e os Direito Humanitário Internacional. Pedimos também que sejam criados canais claros e efetivos de diálogo amplo e participativo, compostos por manifestantes e organizações sociais.

Enquanto acadêmicos e universitários, ocupamos espaços de construção de conhecimentos, reflexão e análise crítica; por esta razão, é fundamental que levantemos a nossa voz diante da violência desmedida que estamos vendo nas ruas. Expressamos a nossa solidariedade a todas as famílias das pessoas assassinadas, desaparecidas e agredidas nos protestos. A democracia é deliberativa e garante o direito a discordâncias, por isso seguiremos contribuindo com debates públicos que sejam baseados na construção das mudanças que nosso país necessita.

4 de maio de 2020, 14h30


Asociación Colombiana de Antropología – ACANT
Departamento de Antropología Universidad de Andes
Departamento de Antropología Universidad de Antioquia
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad de Caldas
Departamento de Antropología Universidad del Cauca
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad del Externado
Programa de Arqueología de la Universidad del Externado
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad Icesi
Departamento de Antropología Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá
Departamento de Antropología Universidad Nacional
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad de Magdalena
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad del Rosario
Programa de Antropología de la Universidad de Santander

Note 1: Thanks to Pedro Fermin for providing this English translation and to Maira Vale for the Portuguese translation.

Note 2: https://www.elheraldo.co/colombia/denuncian-ataque-contra-la-comision-de-la-onu-en-cali-814425

See also https://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/investigacion/procuraduria-abre-indagacion-por-ataque-a-comision-humanitaria-en-cali-585828


Note 3: The riot control squad ESMAD constitutes a separate branch of the Colombian National Police.

Note 4: https://www.eltiempo.com/politica/gobierno/paro-nacional-2021-balance-tras-cuatro-dias-de-protesta-en-colombia-585351



Save the Date! June 1st: Proposal Writing for the Wenner-Gren Foundation: Introducing the Engaged Research Grant Program

The events of 2020 have forced anthropologists to reckon with their discipline’s history and the nature of the relationships they forge through their research. They are finding themselves asking themselves hard questions about the ethical implications of the work they do.

The best way to advance knowledge in anthropology is to draw on new sources of insight. The best way to ensure anthropological research has an impact is to make sure projects are meaningful for everyone involved. By supporting projects that are collaborative from the get-go, the Wenner-Gren Foundation hopes to demonstrate the value of this new approach to research for the field more generally.

Join the Foundation’s president, Danilyn Rutherford, for a discussion of the Engaged Research Grant program. Danilyn will describe the program’s objectives, go over the criteria of evaluation, and offer tips on writing a winning proposal. There will be lots of time for questions.

This workshop will have CART captioning.

Tuesday, June 1 from 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM (Eastern). Click here to register for this event.

Tuesday, June 1 from 9:00-10:30 PM (Eastern). Click here to register for this event.


COVID-19 Emergency Grant Fundraising Effort Meets the Challenges of the Day

Photo credits (l to r): Alessandra Rosa, Dada Docot, Dawn Burns

In 2020 the American Anthropological Association received a Global Initiatives Grant to help support the AAA Emergency Relief Fund for Anthropologists.

At the American Anthropological Association, we are committed to bringing together scholars, practitioners, educators, and the public to advance the field of anthropology and its role in the world. That is why at the onset of the COVID-19 health pandemic, we knew that many members in our community needed emergency support, and that a meaningful way to advance our mission was by ensuring they have the financial resources they need to get through this challenging moment. These are members who make valuable contributions to our field but who, by virtue of being independently employed, working in a small business, or occupying a position at the margins of a university, suddenly find themselves in a position of financial uncertainty and hardship.

The AAA Emergency Relief Fund for Anthropologists offered financially vulnerable members one-time grants and a registration waiver for the fall virtual event series, “Raising Our Voices.” Two of our sections, the Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA) and the Society for Linguistic Anthropology (SLA) also created relief funds. Over the course of a few months, we witnessed an outpouring of generosity from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, which was matched on a 9-1 basis with donations from our Board, Sections, and members around the world.

In total, we were able to raise sufficient funds to make grants to 190 individuals from 18 countries. In addition, we invited all 190 grantees to join the fall virtual event series, Raising Our Voices, which replaced the Annual Meeting that had to be canceled due to the pandemic. Funds from the COVID-19 Emergency Grant Fund were used to cover the registration fees for these individuals. The funds provided by the Wenner-Gren Foundation were disbursed to 20 individuals, all living outside the United States, in keeping with the spirit of the Foundation’s Global Initiatives Grant program.

We received a good deal of feedback from grant recipients, all of it expressing appreciation for being able to provide assistance in a time of acute need:

I am so, so grateful to have received the AAA COVID-19 Emergency Grant Fund. It really makes such a difference as a freelancer, also balancing a PhD and with lost income from this situation. Thank you for your generosity and this wonderful initiative.

Please extend my gratitude to the AAA and to the donors that made this possible.

Thank you very much for establishing this series of grants; it really means the world to know that the AAA is looking after unemployed anthropologists such as myself during this difficult period.

Thanks so much for informing me about this award, it is so helpful in this time of uncertainty and I am grateful to know that my colleagues are supporting me and others who need a little boost right now. I hope I can pay this forward in the future when I get a chance.

Thank you for the emergency grant, my family and I really need it at this time. I would also, through you, like to thank the AAA. It is my wish that in the future it will be my turn to assist, not to be assisted.

Thank you so much for this grant – it is coming right as the spring semester ends and helps fill the gap while I figure out what my next employment can be.

The global disruptions brought about by the pandemic and associated public health interventions were abrupt and precipitous. Recovery is proving to be much slower and uneven. The Foundation’s willingness to step in and strengthen the fabric of the safety net supporting some of the more vulnerable members of our anthropology community will almost certainly mean that as we make sense of this profoundly influential moment, anthropologists who might otherwise have had to seek their livelihoods elsewhere will be around to contribute to this sense-making.

Webinar 5/26: Narrating the Ineffable: How Does Inequality Get Reproduced?

Mark your calendar! On Wednesday, May 26, 3:00 – 5:00 PM EDT you won’t want to miss, “Narrating the Ineffable: How Does Inequality Get Reproduced?” To register for this event click here.

To solve a problem, it must first be defined. When it comes to enduring and endemic socio-economic inequality, this seems to be particularly the case. But in a post-truth world, we have become unmoored from any “arbiter” that could convincingly establish the measures of vital pillars of the economy, such as “inflation” and “growth.” All the more so for something as complex, multi-varied, and intersectional as “inequality.” Measurements of inequality and the tactics for reducing it (or even, hopefully, eliminating it) abound across our two disciplines of Anthropology and Economics, forestalling our ability to find helpful pathways forward. In short, could agreeing upon a specific definition for socio-economic inequality be a worthy step toward better solving the problem? Or would clarifying the definition do more harm than good, elevating some forms of inequality as meriting solutions while devaluing others?

A first step might be for anthropologists and economists to come together and develop a shared language that traverses their commonly divided domains. Classically, anthropology relies on qualitative data, while economics relies on quantitative data. How can we make these domains more commensurable, and thus, less ineffable to both ourselves and the publics with whom we hope to converse? Could our stories become more powerful if we transcended the qualitative/quantitative domains that divide our disciplines?

To investigate these possibilities, we will hear from three anthropologists and an economist, all of whom will discuss their own strategies for reaching various publics through their research, and how they continually attempt to define and circumscribe the meaning of “inequality”.

Panelists: Gustav Peebles, Isabelle Guérin, Caroline Schuster, and Sylvia Yanagisako


Webinar 5/20: “Skeletons in the Anthropological Closet” Museum Collections and the Demand for Principles of Accountability

On Thursday, May 20th, 12:00 – 2:00 PM EDT, the Wenner-Gren Foundation will be hosting, “Skeletons in the Anthropological Closet”: Museum Collections and the Demand for Principles of Accountability. To register for this event click here.

The recent controversy surrounding the existence of the remains of two black children killed in the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE revolutionary collective in Philadelphia that were thought to be repatriated and buried by their family members have ignited new questions about anthropology’s use of those remains in museums and teaching forums.  Many questions abound about why contemporary museums still hold the skeletal remains of people who never consented to their use and what responsibilities universities and funding agencies have to ensure that their researchers are in compliance with moral, ethical and political standards.

This panel serves to open a series of conversations dedicated to exploring the possibilities of an anthropology grounded in a commitment to “radical humanism.”   In a radically humanist anthropology, equality, connection, and becoming serve as guiding principles that (1) disrupt predominant conceptualizations of a stable, knowable, liberal subject in “the field,” (2) recognize the many ways that humans and non-humans are entangled, and (3) center justice, equity, and the reduction of harm as key aims of the anthropological project.  The goal is to not only understand the histories that shape this development but to also ponder a new way forward in considering the foundational basis upon which we rethink anthropological work.


Rachel Watkins, PhD, Associate Professor, American University

Chip Colwell, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, SAPIENS

Carlina de la Cova, PhD, Associate Professor, University of South Carolina

Ciraj Rassool, PhD, Senior Professor of History, University of the Western Cape

Michael Blakey, PhD, NEH Professor, College of William and Mary

Moderated by Justin Dunnavant, PhD, Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt University and Co-founder/President of the Society of Black Archaeologists

CART captioning – Joshua Edwards

Hosted by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

Organized by the Association of Black Anthropologists, Anthropology Southern Africa, and the Center for Experimental Ethnography

Concerning the Possession and Unethical Use of the Remains of the Children of MOVE and the Africa Family: A Collective Statement from the Association of Black Anthropologists (ABA), the Society of Black Archaeologists (SBA), and the Black in Bioanthropology Collective (BiBA)

On May 13, 1985, after almost a decade of relentless harassment and confrontation, the City of Philadelphia dropped two bombs on the roof of 6221 Osage Avenue, the compound of the MOVE organization – a revolutionary group of Black people opposed to capitalist growth and committed to environmental justice and interspecies harmony. The bomb caused a fire that ripped through the compound, incinerating 11 of the 13 MOVE members inside, including five children aged seven to 13 (Tree Africa (14), Netta Africa(12), Delisha Africa (12), Little Phil Africa (12), and Tomasa Africa (9)), and razed the neighborhood, destroying at least 61 homes.

This past week, a number of outlets revealed the disturbing history of what became of the remains of one (and perhaps two) of the child victims of the bombing. What emerged was the disturbing complicity of anthropologists and anthropological institutions. Two forensic anthropologists, Alan Mann (at the time, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania), and Janet Monge (at the time Mann’s PhD student) had been hired by Philadelphia officials to identify the remains. While Mann and Monge were unable to make a positive identification, the assumption is that the remains belonged to Tree and Delisha Africa, aged 14 and 12, respectively. After the investigation, apparently either Mann or Monge kept the remains in their personal possession, moving them between the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and Princeton University. As late as last week, the remains were the focal point of the Princeton online Coursera course titled, “Real Bones: Adventures in Forensic Anthropology,” taught by Monge. Some 5000 students were enrolled. Princeton claimed not to know the location of the remains; UPenn later admitted that they were in Mann’s possession and that he would release them.

The parents of Tree and Delisha were not notified of the existence of the remains, nor were the remains returned. The Africa family believed that their children were buried, and were not aware that their children’s bones were being used as specimens for the forensic anthropology course. Mike Africa, Jr., speaking on behalf of the family, lamented: “Nobody said you can do that, holding up their bones for the camera. That’s not how we process our dead. This is beyond words. The anthropology professor is holding the bones of a14-year-old girl whose mother is still alive and grieving.”

The Association of Black Anthropologists, the Society of Black Archaeologists, and the Black in Bioanthropology Collective are painfully aware of the barbaric history of anthropology, especially when it comes to populations of peoples of African descent. We know that our discipline has been mobilized to rationalize eugenics and white supremacy and to justify slavery and colonialism. We also know that ethnographic museums, like Penn’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (which houses the collection of the notorious racist Samuel Morton) , have supported the academic rationale for the institutionalization of racism in anthropology textbooks, courses, and curricula.

It is because of this history of racism in anthropology, and because of the missions of ABA, SBA, and BiBA to counter it, that we as organizations condemn in the strongest possible language the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Coursera, along with Professors Alan Mann and Janet Monge, for their horrific treatment of the remains of Tree and Delisha Africa, and for the unfathomable heartlessness and disrespect shown towards the Africa family. We are outraged by the stunning ethical indifference shown by all parties involved to both Tree and Delisha and to the Africa family, but also by the fact that these entities effectively monetized the remains of Black children murdered in a state terrorist attack – a fact made all the more painful given the heightened public awareness of brutal murders of Black children and youth by the police over the past few years.

Moreover, this revelation represents a painful reminder of anthropology’s history with the Black dead – of which the Penn Museum, as the physical manifestation of Morton’s legacy, provides a potent symbol. Even as UPenn earlier this year has tried to grapple with the legacy of Morton, we are faced with yet another affront to Black life and dignity.

Black anthropologists should not be alone in expressing this outrage and bearing this heavy ethical burden. All anthropologists should be enraged. All anthropologists need to condemn this barbaric and savage act by its own practitioners. And white anthropologists, in particular, should not only hold themselves accountable to the ways that they continue to uphold normalized forms of antiBlackness and harm through their research and theorizing, but should also actively work to undo the centuries of violence and trauma done to nonwhite communities.

We support and are republishing the demands of Mike Africa, Jr., a MOVE family member who was 6 years old at the time when the Philadelphia police dropped the bomb on MOVE, currently circulated in the following online petition:



  • The immediate return of the remains of Delisha Africa and Tree Africa to The MOVE Family.
  • An immediate apology by the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, the Penn Museum, and Coursera to The MOVE Family and the Black community of Philadelphia for this racist and abhorrent behavior.
  • Financial reparations to The MOVE Family for the continued harm and trauma caused by Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the Penn Museum, and Coursera, for the profits made by the use of our relatives as teaching tools and research objects.
  • The immediate removal of all online content in which these remains are used, including the online course Real Bones taught by Janet Monge.
  • The termination of Janet Monge from her role as curator at the Penn Museum and faculty in the department of anthropology.
  • The creation of a transparent, public investigation led by a MOVE-approved investigator and funded by the Universities, into how these remains ended up in the Museum’s possession over the past 35 years.

We ask those who are able, to attend the MOVE Children Deserve to Rest in Peace Rally
on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 5:30 P.M. EST at Penn Museum to demand the repatriation of the remains of Delisha Africa and Tree Africa and reparations for MOVE family members for these atrocities. We encourage everyone to review the MOVE Press Conference 4/26, the documentaries “40 Years a Prisoner” and “Bombing of Osage,” and the official website of the MOVE Organization at http://onamove.com.

We realize that Penn and Princeton are not the only universities trafficking in the human remains of nonwhite peoples. And while both the Penn Museum and Princeton Anthropology have issued statements of contrition, we believe that they must do more. The Association of Black Anthropologists, Society of Black Archaeologists, and the Black in Bioanthropology Collective therefore demand, first, that the Penn Museum self-report this egregious IRB violation. Second, we demand that the American Anthropological Association (AAA) work in haste to help facilitate the repatriation of the remains of the Africa family children, as well as other remains held in the many anthropology museums and departments throughout the country. These include, but are not limited to, the numerous remains of peoples of African descent. Towards this end we also call for a national audit of all human remains in museum and university collections. We believe it is imperative that this information become public record, allowing descended communities to reclaim sovereignty of the remains of their ancestors.

As we come upon the 36th anniversary of the state sanctioned bombing on May 13th, we ask that you keep the families and friends of MOVE in your thoughts, prayers, and actions. Continue to push MOVE’s call for the freedom of Mumia Abu Jamal and all political prisoners!

And let us bury our dead.

In solidarity,

The Association of Black Anthropologists (ABA)

The Society of Black Archaeologists (SBA)

The Black in Bioanthropology Collective (BiBA)

Save the Date! May 6th: WCAA- World Council of Anthropological Associations 9th Webinar Debate/Roundtable

On Thursday, May 6th, 12:30pm UTC, be sure to check out the WCAA-World Council of Anthropological Associations 9th webinar debate/roundtable.

8:30 pm in Taipei; 3:30 pm in Nairobi; 1:30 pm in Lisbon; 9:30 am in Florianópolis; 8:30 am in New York; 8:30 in Québec; 5:30 am in Vancouver.


North-South relations in Anthropology

Convenor: Clara Saraiva, WCAA

Web Mediator: Michel Bouchard, WCAA


Kerim Friedman, National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan

Mwenda Ntarangwi, Commission for University Education, Kenya

Francine Saillant, Laval University, Canada

Carmen Rial. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina,  Brazil

Danilyn Rutherford- Wenner-Gren Foundation, USA

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 659 6735 5582
Passcode: 452690

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Gina Knapp

Wenner-Gren is proud to present the following blog post and trailer from Gina Knapp who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filming Voices of Kula.

Voices of Kula Trailer from gina knapp on Vimeo.

Voices of Kula

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Voices of Kula is a feature-length ethnographic film that tells a story of empowerment, of local responses to cultural and economic changes and of the strive to revitalize cultural heritage. A group of elders from Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea and a cooperating anthropologist set out on an intriguing journey around an island network in the South Pacific to strengthen kula, a traditional system of exchanging shell-valuables around a ‘ring’ of approximately 40 islands. Fearing the destructive impacts of cash-economy on kula practice, the team takes action to fight misconduct and the corruption of the system. I joined the group on their fascinating quest for economic and cultural autonomy.

Voices of Kula (86min) was produced from footage taken during two research expeditions around the ‘kula ring’ in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, in 2016 and 2018. The two expeditions were part of the research project “The value of precious objects”, that was funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council Canada (SSHRC) and hosted by the University of Regina, Canada. I took part in this project as external researcher, visual anthropologist and filmmaker with the main task to document the research process. The project was prepared, organized and coordinated by Dr. Susanne Kuehling, University of Regina, who has been working as an anthropologist in the region for more than twenty years. Neither the research nor the film could have been accomplished without the strong relationships Dr. Kuehling had previously built with numerous communities in Milne Bay, primarily on the islands of Dobu, Fergusson and Normanby.

The idea for the project was proposed to Dr. Kuehling already in 2012 by kula elders. They expressed their concern about a decrease in kula practice and asked for her support in organizing a trip around the ring of islands to conduct a survey of the state of kula, and to discuss the situation with the communities in the network. A few years later Dr. Kuehling had organized the funds and in January 2016 the project started in the town of Alotau on the mainland of Papua New Guinea.

Since the project was very well prepared and supported by the local kula players, I had an easy start in a research site that I had never visited before. I was familiar with filming and researching in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, but the island region was new to me. So was traveling for two months across a not always “pacific” ocean. This project opened up new horizons on professional and personal levels while at the same time posing many challenges.

We left Alotau on a very basic, chartered vessel in January 2016 for the first expedition. ‘We’ refers to a team of 16 kula players from different islands, a boat-crew of three, Dr. Kuehling and myself. We spent the following 60 days traveling on the boat from island to island, documenting as many shell-valuables as possible and holding meetings in the kula communities. In these meetings, the research team and the communities identified a number of core-problems that affect kula exchange today, among them the selling of shell-valuables, the cheating on partners, the increasing costs of hosting a kula partner and bribery in general. Most of the problems are triggered through the impact of cash economy. In one of the meetings, a player suggested that a set of binding kula-rules should be developed and written down to stop such practices. A draft was sketched, discussed and completed along the journey. To the team’s delight, even the paramount chief Pulayasi from Kiriwina (Trobriand Islands) expressed his support for the project. By the end of the first trip the team had documented more than 1.200 ‘active’ kula shells and gathered all ideas for a written ‘kula law’.

Two years later we started our second research expedition, now with a smaller group and in the other direction of the exchange circle. We revisited the island communities, equipped with laminated photos of the previously documented objects for educational workshops in local schools and large photo-posters for the village elders to have an overview of the circulating kula shell-valuables. We also brought along the written proposal of the kula rules. Kula players around the ring discussed and adjusted the document until it was finally confirmed by the island communities. A 20min clip from the last journey’s footage that I had brought along was watched with great enthusiasm by all. People around the ring reacted immensely positive and emotional to the research project and the film. In total, I collected 110 hours of footage.

Filming the two journeys was not an easy task. Light (the south pacific sun plus ocean) and sound conditions (boat engine, wind, waves) forced me often to compromise on the quality of the recordings. I was a one-person film team with occasional assistance from highly motivated and skilled, but untrained team members. Neddy Daniel was a great help and became a wonderful camera man by the end of the first trip. We used a Sony PXW-XZ150, a GoPro Camera, a Lumix and an iPhone 11plus. For sound recordings, I used two ZOOM 100 sound recorders and a SONY clip microphone.

I tried to keep as much in the background as possible when filming and refrained from interfering in meetings or conversations to get a better shot. I did not set up scenes. Before filming, we always asked – and recorded – if everyone agreed. In fact, people loved being filmed and I rather had difficulties to not-film people than to film them. Nevertheless, filming conditions at the meetings on the islands were very difficult. The numerous speakers were usually sitting widely separated from each other on the beach or a common meeting place and I sometimes had problems to adjust my camera position in time – not to mention the sound issues. The many languages spoken on the islands we visited posed another challenge. I was lucky and am grateful especially to Trevor and Synod Timoti for their ongoing translations and explanations. The cooperation with and between the team members, their motivation and support and the hospitality of the island communities we visited were overwhelming.

Voices of Kula largely follows the chronology of the research expeditions but inserts from different locations have been made to strengthen coherence in the narrative. This refers especially to meetings from different islands that have been intercut. As the name Voices of Kula suggests, I dismissed the idea of a voice-over to frame the narrative. Instead, my interlocutors reveal the story through interviews, dialogues, informal conversations and their actions. On very limited occasions I have used diagrams to illustrate a few statements. I am aware that this interrupts the inside-perspective of the film but I considered it important to summarize some points for a non-Melanesian audience. I edited the film in FinalCut Pro 10.9. Except for the title song, all music was provided by local island string bands. The title song Co era so is from the New Caledonian artist OK!Ryos. The rights have been granted by Mangrove Productions, New Caledonia.

I am now looking at submitting the film to film-festivals, for example RAI, GIEFF (German International Ethnographic Film Festival) and FIFO (Festival du Film Océanien, Tahiti). I am still researching options for distribution. Once the film has been released and screened publicly, it will be hosted online on the website of the University of Regina, Canada. Dr. Susanne Kuehling (Head of the Department of Anthropology) will arrange the upload. This online-version is important for granting free access to the film to a broad audience, specifically people in the Milne Bay region. It can be watched on mobile phones or laptops but not downloaded.

NYAS Lecture 4/26: Anthropological Perspectives on Race, Nation and for Whom Is American Great?

On Monday, April 26th, the New York Academy of Sciences hosted, “”Anthropological Perspectives on Race, Nation and for Whom Is American Great?” Watch it now!

The resurgence of racial antipathy and policy surfaces at historical periods in the U.S. when there is a perceived threat to white male elite power structures, and to poor and working class “whiteness.” The contemporary rise of essentialist racial, homophobic and misogynist thinking and actors that want to “make America great again” are not new; witness Reconstruction after the civil war, exclusionist immigration policies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the rise of Jim Crow laws throughout the country in the early twentieth century; including the suppression of voting rights. What is new circa 2021 is that white racist ( white supremacist groups) have moved from the margins to the mainstream: witness the right wing media universe, Donald Trump, and his multitude of enablers. The deep-seated paradox of race and identity at the birth of this nation over 300 years ago is still being played out today. The basic questions then as now, are those of power, control and influence. Who is an American, and who gets to decide? Who decides how that is implemented is the story of structural racism within all our institutions in the U.S.? What does the present xenophobia and overt racism say about the state of marginalized populations of color in the United States? About government sanctioned racialized immigration and migration policies and practices? Do current anthropological theories of race, space, and intersectionality help tell those stories? Can anthropologists document and illuminate the historical story of the embeddedness of structural racism for a wider U.S. audience, and make the intersection of race, power, and hegemony more transparent? This presentation will challenge anthropologists through their research and practice to frame the “Disruption” that must challenge the growing national re-energizing of racial hatred and dehumanization of the “other.” Our survival as a democratic nation depends on it.


Dr. Yolanda T. Moses currently serves as Professor of Anthropology and former Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Excellence at the University of California, Riverside. Dr. Moses’ research focuses on the broad question of the origins of social inequality in complex societies using comparative ethnographic and survey methods.  She has explored gender and class disparities in the Caribbean, East Africa and in the United States.  More recently, her research has focused on issues of diversity and change in universities and colleges in the United States, India, Europe, South Africa, Israel, and Australia.

Moses served as President of the American Anthropological Association (1995-97), Chair of the Board of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (2000), Past President of City University of New York/ The City College (1993-1999), and President of the American Association for Higher Education (2000-2003). She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation from 1996 to 2008.

She has been involved on the steering groups of several U.S. National higher education projects with the National Council for Research on Women, Campus Women Lead and The Women of Color Research Collective. In addition, she was Chair of the National Advisory Board of a multi-year national public education project sponsored by the American Anthropological Association and funded by NSF and the Ford Foundation on Race and Human Variation. See: www.understandingrace.org. The goal of the project was to change the way the nation understood and talked about the meaning and consequences of “race.” She was Co-PI on a Ford Foundation grant that sponsored phase two of that work.

She was the PI on an NSF ADVANCE Grant, (2011 to 2015) to advance the role of women faculty in the STEM Fields; an NEH Grant (2011-12) to create a national educational network for educators to develop a bio-cultural approach to the teaching of race in high school and in undergraduate social science and biology classes.

At the University of California, she was a co-founder and on the Steering Committee of the UC wide research project, UCCNRS (University of California Center for New Racial Studies). The mission of the Center is to support innovation in UC-based race/racism research and teaching and to encourage interdisciplinary and collaborative work focused on advancing social/racial justice in an era of changing racial dynamics and persistent racial/ethnic conflict and inequality.

She is the co-author also with Carol Mukhopadhyay and Rosemary Henze, Professors at CSU San Jose of the book: How Real is Race: A Sourcebook on Race, Culture and Biology. (2007) Rowman and Littlefield; (2014) Altamira Press. She is also co-Author along with Alan Goodman and Joseph Jones, of the book, Race: Are We So Different? published by Wiley-Blackwell (2020).

She is currently a faculty member in the Salzburg Global Seminar‘s ISP Global Citizenship Program in Salzburg, Austria, and a faculty member in their on-going Mellon Fellows Program on Global Citizenship.

In 2009, she was named an AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Fellow. She received the American Anthropology Association Franz Boas Award in 2016 for Distinguished Service to the Field of Anthropology. And Lifetime achievement awards from The Association of Black Anthropologists, and the Society for the Anthropology of North America in 2016. Moses served as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Cultural Competence at the National Centre for Cultural Competence, at the University of Sydney, Sydney Australia in 2017.