Archive for April 20, 2015

Interview: Michael Galaty

 

Alepotrypa Cave

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

the infamous "spooning" remains, Ksagounaki

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

 

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

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

Meet Our 2014 Wadsworth Fellows: Tegenu Gossa

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

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

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

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

Institutional Development Grant Awarded to Baltic Universities

Dr. Aivita Putnina

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Anthropology classes.

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

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

Dr. Ieva Raubisko working.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

» Read more..

Engaged Anthropology Grant: M. Kamari Clarke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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