Archive for August 28, 2013

Meet our New Wadsworth International Fellows: Xinyuan Wang

In this next installment of our series on 2013′s new cohort of Wadsworth International Fellows, we meet Xinyuan Wang of Hong Kong, a digital anthropologist who studies at University College London!

My research interest in Digital Anthropology developed during my master’s degree at UCL. UCL’s Digital Anthropology program is the world’s first program focusing on the use of digital media from an anthropological perspective. My master dissertation, which received a Distinction, analyzed particularly the usage and social impact of social media among Taiwanese in London.

My doctoral research pertains to a deeper examination of the use and social impact of digital media among Chinese rural migrants. Hitherto, anthropological research has only in very few instances taken on a specific inquiry of the welfare of Chinese rural migrants from a media usage perspective. Today, China has 130 million rural migrants. Under a system of rigid household registration, even today, rural migrants do not have the same rights or access to the same services (healthcare, education, housing, etc.) compared with their urban counterparts. One of the major problems rural migrants face is that they have been uprooted from their social networks back in their home villages, which has further deprived them from essential support. This study thus aims to lead to a comprehensive understanding of social consequences of social media among Chinese rural migrants.

My PhD supervisor Professor Daniel Miller is a leading anthropologist in the field of Material Culture and Digital Anthropology. My PhD research is integrated in his European Research Council project under the title Social Networking Sites and Social Science. This project is based on a comparative ethnographic study in seven different countries (www.gsmis.org). I am now doing my 15 months fieldwork at a small factory town in southeast China. Meanwhile, since 2012, I have undertaken the translation of the book Digital Anthropology (Heather & Miller 2012) into Chinese, which will be published by Chinese People’s publishing house, the most prestigious publishing house in China, later this year (2013).

Congratulations again to 2013′s other fellows introduced in this series so far, Daniel Perera Bahamón, Elisabeth Kago Nébié and Ana Majkic! All the best luck to you on your studies and continuing career in anthropology!

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Maria Cruz-Torres and “The Shrimp Ladies”

Another Engaged Anthropology Grant report is in, this time from Dr. Maria Cruz-Torres of Arizona State University! Cruz-Torres was originally awarded funding in 2008 to aid research on her project ‘The Shrimp Ladies: A Political Ecology of Gender, Fisheries and Grassroots Movements in Northwestern Mexico.’ Last year, she received the EAG to return to Sinaloa to make her research results available to the general public, and to ensure that women’s voices are central in this process.

Cruz-Torres (center) with Yaneri and Rosario in Mazatlán, May 2013.

Throughout the duration of my fieldwork in Southern Sinaloa, from 2004-2013, women shrimp traders always asked me about what will I do with the information they have given me. Was I going to write a book? Will it be published in English or Spanish? Will it be published in Mexico or in the USA? Will they be able to read and understand it? An Engaged Anthropology Grant allowed me to solve this dilemma by facilitating a closer interaction and collaboration with the women shrimp traders in order to come up with ideas on how to better reciprocate their help and support to my long-term ethnographic research. After several meetings and consultations, both individually, and in groups, with the women, we agreed that the publication in Mexico of a non-academic book in Spanish, will fulfill their wishes and rights to read about their contributions to my research.  They also wanted the book to highlight their legacies as working women, and their contribution to their households and to the local economy.

Luisa, from the community of Palmillas, reviewing her testimony, May 2013.

On December of 2012 I met with many of the women shrimp traders in Southern Sinaloa to discuss the details of the book. I visited all of the eight communities (Mazatlán, Villa Unión, Walamo, Escuinapa, Palmillas, Isla del Bosque, Cristo Rey, and Agua Verde) in which I had conducted fieldwork to contact the women who participated in the research and to seek their individual opinions and suggestions. I had brought an outline that I developed based on their previous input. Most women voiced their concerns, and many felt that the proposed book still seemed very academic, which would be difficult for them to read. There was a consensus among the women that the book should be about who they are and the challenges they face as shrimp traders, and narrated from their individual perspectives. We agreed that the book should be a compilation of women testimonies told with their own voices.  A photograph of each woman will be included in the testimony. The life histories I collected during my fieldwork in Southern Sinaloa in 2008, also funded by a Wenner-Gren Postdoctoral Grant, form the basis of these testimonies.

Rosario and Griselda choosing their photographs, May 2013.

On May of 2013 I met with the shrimp traders again to discuss their individual testimonies and photographs. During this time the women had the opportunity to review their testimonies in order to add new or delete old information. They edited what information they wanted people to learn about them. Given the violence that has been taking place in Southern Sinaloa during the last three years, some women were reluctant to reveal too much personal information and this was deleted from their testimonies. Others updated their demographic information such as age, education, and marital status; major family events, new challenges at work, and new economic opportunities. Some women became very emotional while reading their testimonies, remembering, both happy, and sad events in their lives.  Women also had the opportunity to choose their photographs to accompany their testimonies. In many cases it was necessary to shoot new portraits because women did not like the one I chose or because they needed to be updated. We also discussed and created a new title for the book.

Matilde, her daughter, and a neighbor at her home in the town of Agua Verde.

The testimonies shed light on the many struggles women overcame so they could pursue their livelihoods and these also offered a rare glimpse at their individual lived experiences. They addressed four  important questions: Who are the women shrimp traders of Southern Sinaloa?  What is like to be a woman shrimp trader? What were the complex processes by which women became shrimp traders? How do women reconcile their various roles as workers, mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters? But the most common themes that emerge from these testimonies are: women’s struggles to overcome poverty; issues of health, sickness and death; Other themes such as motherhood, social and economic change, resistance and empowerment, violence, children’s education, and their hopes for the future, also stood out.

The book, now entitled, Voces en el Tiempo: La Vida y el Trabajo de Las Camaroneras del Sur de Sinaloa (Voices inTimes: The Life and Work of Women Shrimp Traders in Southern Sinaloa) compiles forty of these poignant testimonies, and it will be published by the University of Sinaloa Press. Once published, the book will be freely distributed among the women who collaborated in the study and their families, libraries, colleagues, and anthropology students in Sinaloa.

Thanks for the report, Maria!

Meet Our New Wadsworth International Fellows: Ana Majkic

In the next installment of our series on 2013′s new cohort of Wadsworth International Fellows, we meet Ana Majkic, a Serbian archaeologist who studied at the University of Belgrade and will now be embarking on doctoral studies at the University of Bordeaux 1.

During my studies of archaeology at the University of Belgrade, Serbia, I have focused on Paleolithic archaeology and developed a special interest on hominins’ cognitive abilities. I was, in particular, fascinated by the debate on the emergence of symbolically mediated behavior (SMB) and modern cultures. My PhD research project is aimed to expand my previous work on the origins of SMB, by examining the earliest possible manifestations of symbolic behaviors in the Balkans, as evidenced in the archaeological record. I will accomplish this by analyzing different categories of material culture -  pigment, engraved and perforated objects, personal ornaments – from a number of the Middle and Early Upper Paleolithic sites in Serbia and adjacent regions. A variety of analytical techniques, including optical microscopy, SEM, TEM, XRF, XRD, Raman, Pixe-Pige, will be applied to the study of this material. The equipment to conduct these analyses is available at the CNRS laboratory PACEA, affiliated with the University of Bordeaux 1, and on the campus of this University. Scholars working in this laboratory have the expertise to guide my training and research, and critically evaluate results stemming from my analyses. Dr. Francesco d`Errico’s extensive theoretical and analytical background on the emergence of symbolic behavior will guarantee a high quality education and facilitate the publication of the obtained results in international peer reviewed journals. This will allow inclusion of the relevant data from the Balkans into the wider debate concerning hominins cognition and origins of modern culture. The aim of my PhD research is to understand the time and mode of the emergence of symbolic behavior in the Balkans, and contribute, by building on such results, to the understanding of the events and processes that have led humans to develop such an innovative behavior in this region of Europe.

Congratulations again to 2013′s other fellows introduced in this series so far, Daniel Perera Bahamón and Elisabeth Kago Nébié! All the best luck to you on your studies and continuing career in anthropology!

Important Program Changes for Wenner-Gren

Wenner-Gren would like to take this opportunity to let you know about important changes to a few of our funding programs.

  • The Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship. We are moving from biannual deadlines for this fellowship program to a single annual deadline. The next deadline for Hunt Fellowships will be May 1, 2014. For successful applicants, funding will be available starting in January 2015, and the start date of the Fellowship can be any time during that year.
  • The Osmundsen Initiative. We are discontinuing the Osmundsen Initiative supplement for both the Dissertation Fieldwork and the Post-Ph.D. Research Grant programs. This will allow us to provide further support for other programs, including the Engaged Anthropology Grant, which is proving to be very popular with our grantees. Click here for more information about this new program.

As always, please feel free to contact us at inquiries@wennergren.org if you have any questions about these changes or anything else related to our grant programs or the Wenner-Gren Foundation. We look forward to receiving your applications and continuing our support of cutting edge research and inquiry in anthropology.