Archive for June 27, 2017

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth African Fellows: Kylie Marais

Kylie Marais received her MA degree in Social  Anthropology from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Funded through a Wadsworth African Fellowship she will continue her PhD training in anthropology at the University of Cape Town, supervised by Dr. Dr. Fiona Ross.

I was born in Somerset West, a small town situated outside of Cape Town, where I also attended primary school and my first two years of high school. Thereafter, I spent three years studying at the Cape Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology, before being accepted into the inaugural class of the African Leadership Academy, where I completed my AS and A-levels. In 2011, I began my studies at the University of Cape Town and became the first member of my extended family to obtain a university degree. My education thus forms a crucial part of my identity; not only has it satisfied my love for learning, but it has also provided new opportunities for my single mother and family, none of whom could afford to attend university under the apartheid regime.

For my PhD, I intend to carve my place in the academe as a woman of color and feminist anthropologist, conducting research that will positively impact the lives of other marginalized women in Southern Africa. More broadly, within anthropology, I am most interested in relationships and meaning, gender and sexuality, development, family/kinship, motherhood, and childhood. As a member of the Anthropology of the First 1000 Days of Life project – an initiative that seeks to produce local knowledge on the critical window of the first thousand days of life – I have already developed my interests for early childhood development (ECD) and maternal and child health (MCH).

Over the last six years, the Anthropology department at the University of Cape Town has become my second home, where I have grown to know and love the space and the staff. After having completed my Bachelor of Social Science degree, triple majoring in Anthropology, Sociology, and Public Policy and Administration, my Honor’s degree in Social Anthropology, as well as my Master’s degree in Practical Anthropology, I knew that I also wanted to complete my PhD at UCT as well.  In addition, as UCT and other universities in South Africa begin to decolonize their curricula and campuses, I feel excited to participate in and contribute new and relevant knowledge towards this transformation.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: James Verinis

Lefteris diligently working his tomato fields and orange groves in 2016

James Verinis is an Adjunct Professor at Roger Williams University. In 2009 he received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “New Immigrant Farmers and the Globalization of the Greek Countryside,” supervised by Dr. Thomas M. Wilson. In 2015 Dr. Verinis received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Rural Greek Rebound in/of Crisis”.

While I researched a number of rural/agrarian problems between 2008 and 2010 in the Greek prefecture of Laconia, the roles Southeastern European immigrants play in maintaining traditional rural Greek ways of life were the most remarkable aspects of my dissertation fieldwork findings. Faced with global forces that threaten their survival (stigma and depopulation as well as cheap Argentine lemons or high quality olive oil from California, for example), unprecedented relationships have developed between Greeks and some non-Greek residents as they become kin through marriage and baptism, engage in reciprocal relations, and share community life. This has remained the case in more recent years, despite reports that immigrants are exiting Greece as a result of the financial crisis.

In my Engaged Anthropology Grant proposal I suggested that European Union, state, and local political policy can facilitate immigrant incorporation into rural development schemes. Structural integration of farming knowledge and technology across this new diversity of stakeholders is wholly absent. The Young Farmer Program, an EU-wide program to assist new farmers, is not equipped to administer aid to non-nationals despite official rhetoric. Programs in the United States such as New Farmer Development highlight opportunities within a global migratory paradigm to support values inherent to traditional agricultural landscapes, rural entrepreneurship, and diversified farming systems as well as protect biodiversity and ameliorate social conflict between groups. I proposed a pilot program to take advantage of similar opportunities that was endogenous in spirit but based on American interests in such policy initiatives.

Greeks, Roma, and Middle Eastern residents conspire to subsist in central Athens

My proposal ignored the realities of Greek experience. Rural Greek communities have been increasingly ambivalent about the state since the early 1990’s. A general distrust of core EU countries to the north has pervaded Greek life since the onset of austerity measures in 2010. The financial crisis has also undermined prospects for any rural development initiatives. In my failure to discover interest in legislative measures, I discovered solidarity networks amongst disparate groups that offset the absence of and were preferable to such public policy. All Greek farmers, non-Greek farmers, and political representatives I spoke with in 2016- even a highly respected rural sociologist, now secretary general of the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food- deflected, seemed bewildered by, or just plain ignored my queries about the potential for political intervention. The newly appointed Laconian municipal agronomist suggested he had nothing to do with the Young Farmer Program. Article 13A, added to Law 4251/2014 by the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food in 2016, now provides for the legal registration of irregular ‘third country nationals’ yet such basic measures are so relatively late in coming and without practical application or benefit to Greeks or non-Greeks that rural residents continue to rely on informal networks.

This informal ‘resistance’ is hardly a neat opposition, but it is ubiquitous to the point where I identify it as a sodality. Contemporary solidarity movements or kínisi allilegií in Greece provide a vast array of people with such essentials as health care, legal aid, and food. The ‘no middleman movement’ or ‘potato movement’ (‘kínima tis patátes’), which facilitates the direct sales of agricultural produce is one such movement or network. Such novel networks that produce and distribute food and save and exchange seeds have formed as resistant responses to neoliberal campaigns that intensify and commodify agriculture, making small-scale  food  production increasingly impossible.  In looking into new solidarity phenomena and visiting with my most evocative interlocutors in Laconia in 2016, I began to draw a connection between rural solidarity movements in global Greek countrysides and these other novel networks.

Albanian farmer Lefteris now conspires with neighboring Greeks to frighten Roma away from his fields in the village of Asteri, allowing Roma to think, as the police also suggest, that he is a ‘dangerous Albanian’. While this linguistic tool is a byproduct of an exploitive relationship in which Lefteris would historically suffer, non-Greeks such as Lefteris now wield some of these tools in a co-conspiracy with Greeks for their mutual benefit. Vis-à-vis these alliances they can pursue small-scale agriculture and maintain traditional rural Greek ways of life in light of global capitalist agri-business trends.

Mitsos, another Albanian I often worked with between 2008 and 2010, also plays significant roles in these informal rural Greek sodalities. One morning in the summer of 2016 an old Greek man named Pandelis described to Mitsos, whom he has known for nearly a quarter century, problems he had been having passing a kidney stone. Mitsos instructed him, in some detail, how to make a tea from the stomach of a chicken so as to facilitate relief. As Albanians have long had less access to western biomedicine, Greeks now rely on Albanians for alternative therapies in now desperate financial times. Beyond the obvious depth of their relationship, the exchange of this traditional rural remedy is indicative of a larger set of responsibilities that rural Greek residents of various ethno-nationalities now have to each other. They increasingly share kéfi- ‘good humor’ or ‘good life’, outside of social hierarchies, official  politics, and capitalist markets (Papataxiarchis 1994)). Is kéfi a way for scholars to comprehend new globalized rural relationships and solidarity movements in response to conventional political failings? I have been forced to reconsider the problem.

Current Anthropology is looking for a new Editor

Current Anthropology coverThe Wenner-Gren Foundation in partnership with the University of Chicago Press is seeking applications for the position of Editor of Current Anthropology. The new Editor will begin to receive submissions on September 1, 2018 and take full responsibility for the journal on January 1, 2019. The Editor’s term is six years from January 1, 2019, with a possibility of renewal for an addition partial or complete term.

The Foundation and Press are open to the possibility of alternative editorship arrangements such as co-Editors and/or the use of an active editorial board to handle manuscripts. The applicant should clearly outline her/his ideas for the editorship in their letter of intent and if a co-editorship is proposed the application should come jointly from both potential editors.

Applications are welcome from professional academic anthropologists anywhere in the world and specializing in any of the four anthropological sub-disciplines. Applications should include a complete curriculum vitae, names and contact details of three academic references and a letter of interest. The letter of interest should discuss the applicant’s vision for Current Anthropology, her/his qualifications and experience relevant to the position of Editor of anthropology’s highest profile broad-based journal, and proposed editorial arrangements for managing the journal.

Further information can be found here.

Applications, or suggestions for possible candidates, should be sent via e-mail to the Chair of the CA Editor Search Committee (CAeditor_search@wennergren.org), or by regular mail addressed to the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, 470 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10016, USA. Applications must be received by December 31, 2017.