Archive for November 15, 2017

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: James Munene

James Munene received his undergraduate degree from Keyatta University. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in archaeology at the University of Michigan, supervised by Dr. Brian Stewart. Read the previous three entries in the series.

I was born and brought up in the eastern slopes of Mt. Kenya, Kenya, where I attended both primary and secondary school. I later joined Kenyatta University for a degree program in History and Kiswahili. This is where I met and fell in love with archaeology. I was surprised to learn that although archaeological research in East Africa has been going on for many decades now, there are just a handful of East Africans who have taken it up as a profession. Thousands of research papers have been published on diverse topics over the years but, it is a pity that so few of them have been published by or in collaboration with East Africans.  These few Kenyan archaeologists are responsible for teaching at several universities simultaneously leaving them little time to carry out research. I chose to enter the field with a goal to bring about change.

After my undergraduate degree, I enrolled for a master’s degree in archaeology at Kenyatta University and used my time as a student to gather experience in archaeological field and laboratory methods by working in different research projects in Kenya and South Africa. I am particularly interested in lithic technology, subsistence patterns, environmental reconstruction and comparative studies of Later Stone Age sites. I have worked with collections from various sites in East Africa and Southern Africa. My master’s thesis was a comparative study of two Later Stone Age sites, one in Magadi Basin and another in Lake Turkana Basin. I am especially interested in comparative studies, lithic technology, environmental reconstruction and subsistence systems. I also have a great passion for heritage management.

My decision to seek training at the University of Michigan was a reflection on my experience as a master’s student in Kenya. I was fortunate to meet a number of archaeology students from different parts of the world over the last few years and learn about their experiences in Graduate School. I was inspired to seek admission in schools with well-established archaeology departments that would give me the kind of training I needed to build a professional career and help promote future generations of African archaeologists. I am grateful that the University of Michigan offered me this chance.

Over the past five years, I have tried to get as much archaeological experience as possible to prepare myself for a career in archaeology. I attended field schools in both Kenya and South Africa, worked with various graduate students doing various projects in Kenya as well as participating in laboratory analysis. I have also worked in heritage management projects and on top of working on my Ph.D. in archaeology, I am enrolled in a Graduate Certificate Program in Museum Studies.

I am constantly thinking about ways of marketing anthropology in general and archaeology in particular as a discipline to East African students to increase scholarship and knowledge about the past. I am always looking for opportunities to inspire and motivate African students and encourage established and upcoming Africanist archaeologists to help in the training of African students. I would like to see more Africans become engaged in anthropological research as professionals.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Adriana Carolina Borda Nino

Initial discussion

While a doctoral student at the University of St. Andrews Adriana Carolina Borda Nino received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2011 to aid research on ”When Does Incest Matter’: Ethnic, Class & Gender Discourses & Experiences About Incest among Female Patients in a Psychiatric Hospital in Bolivia,” supervised by Dr. Tristan Platt. In 2016 Dr. Borda Nino received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Healing Trajectories: Engaging Andean Indigenous Healers’ in the Promotion of Women’s Rights”.

The workshop took place in the city of Sucre, Bolivia. Thirteen traditional healers from the Chuquisaca, Potosi, and Cochabamba regions took part in the workshop. Nine men and four women between jampiris, médicos naturistas, and midwives attended the event. Most of them were over forty years of age, but also some young participants who are learning Andean traditional healing practices in order to become healers themselves participated. Thus, perspectives from experienced healers were matched by the eagerness of young apprentices who will be the future’s healing practitioners and masters. Finally, the event had the logistic support and was enriched by the participation of members of staff of PRODECO, a Bolivian NGO that has worked for more than twenty years of experience in promoting Andean medicine practices from a gender, intercultural, rights, and generational perspective.

Representative of the Qhara Qhara nation sharing his experience

Topics covered during the workshop included: definitions of incestuous sexual violence within rural communities in Bolivia and in relation to current national and international legislation; trajectories of indigenous and peasant women who have survived incestuous sexual violence, from their communities of origin to the National Psychiatric;  the psychiatric hospital as a place of in-between-life-and-death confinement for women, thus fulfilling Quechua and Aymara ideas on soul condemnation for women who have been involved in incestuous practices; the relevance of traditional healers in the definition of trajectories of violence against women within their communities; finally, we had a discussion with participants on different forms of approaching incestuous sexual violence from an Andean medicine point of view in the region.

Group discussion

The event included the participation of the eighty-year-old healer Mama Gloria, a highly regarded practitioner of Quechua medicine from Ecuador (much respected amongst Latin American traditional healers), who has a women’s rights approach to healing practices in relation to violence against women. It was suggested by all traditional healers that it is very relevant to include diverse approaches to the particular contexts where they apply their knowledge, considering local circumstances, amongst them: forms of community organization, role of traditional healers within the communities, closeness to cities, relation to judicial and allopathic medical authorities, etc. In this sense, the advice given by Mama Gloria on how to heal the effects that sexual violence might have on women and how to protect them both through healing practices and through working with judicial authorities, was very well received by the jampiris, médicos naturistas, and midwives, who took note of Mama Gloria’s advice as well as that given by their co-participants. They expressed their intention to apply what they learned at their communities. Finally, and as a result of the initiative of one of the four and oldest female healers, time was devoted to discussing the ethical protocols that should be followed by any traditional medicine practitioner when approaching a case of intrafamiliar sexual violence against women and in general any case of sexual violence against women.

Andean medicine exhibition

During this event, the research results were disseminated and discussed (day I). In 2013 the Law No. 459 of December 19 2013, on Ancestral Traditional Bolivian Medicine, was passed. This law elevated the status of traditional medicine to that of Western medicine within Bolivia’s health system. Along with this recognition, the law seeks to regulate the practice and articulation of Bolivian ancestral traditional medicine within the national health system, as well as healers’ organizations, and the rights and responsibilities of service users. Traditional medicine practitioners, as stated by the workshop participants, are allowed and some are paid a salary to work at local hospitals. This is a process that is slowly developing. For instance, within the region of Chuquisaca only approximately ten healers receive a salary for working at local hospitals. The state, though, grants a higher number of healers a sum of money to get the ingredients to prepare medicaments to sell. However, the work of traditional healers at psychiatric hospitals is still forbidden, as is their intervention in cases of sexual violence attended within local hospitals. All the diagnosis gathered during the research were confirmed by the workshop participants, as well as the trajectories followed by women who are expelled from their communities after surviving events of sexual violence.

Farewell and final words by participants

The applicability of the research results and the conclusions of the exchange that was possible during the workshop’s first day amongst the participants, were discussed during the second day. In 2013 a new law on violence against women was issued in the country. It states that all health authorities are responsible for protecting and securing the well-being of women who have experienced any form of violence. This poses a great challenge to traditional medicine practitioners, for they are not only entitled (as they are part of the health system, though not yet in equal conditions) but also made responsible to intervene in these cases. The workshop participants expressed their concern that judicial authorities should intervene first before they can approach a case, for they would be afraid of breaking the law by becoming involved. There is no guidance on how exactly it is expected that traditional medicine practitioners should intervene according to this law. Also, it was expressed by the participants that there is still a long way to go before the participation of traditional medicine practitioners within mental health settings is permitted. Still, they stated that there is a boundary between the cases in which only psychiatrists should intervene, i.e. what they called traumado or a traumatized person, and those that can be healed by them, i.e. susto, agarrado por tierra, and other ailments that occur as a consequence of events of sexual violence on survivors. In this way, traditional medicine practitioners recognized the importance of both Western and Andean traditional medicine in promoting the well-being of women who have experienced sexual violence.

At the end of the workshop a session was held with participation of traditional medicine practitioners as well as representatives of several non-governmental organisations in charge of promoting women’s rights to discuss the research results (governmental authorities were invited but did not attend the session). As during the first part of the workshop, all the findings presented were ratified by the participants. New facts unknown by them, especially on the treatment of women within the psychiatric setting, were received with surprise but were deemed plausible, given the lack of involvement of both NGO’s and healers in this type of setting. This session served to introduce Andean healers with representatives of these organisations, and it is hoped that future work might be done to develop a dialogue between these two sectors in order to promote collaboration for the protection of the rights of women who have experienced incestuous sexual [and other forms of] violence.

A final addition to the event was a small fair organised by PRODECO to promote the work of the Andean medicine practitioners at the workshop venue, which was opened for the general public. During this fair several diagnosis, healing sessions, and medicine sales took place.

NYAS @ WGF 11/13: Are Racism, Violence, and Inequality Part of “Human Nature”? Why Understanding Human Evolution Matters

Dr. Agustin Fuentes

Join us at the Wenner-Gren Foundation on November 13th at 5:45 PM for another great installment of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series. Agustin Fuentes, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame will be presenting, “Are Racism, Violence, and Inequality Part of ‘Human Nature’? Why Understanding Human Evolution Matters”. Susan Anton, Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, New York University will act as discussant.

Please note: the lecture begins at 6:30 PM, and while the event is free to attend pre-registration is required for entry into the building.

Event Registration:  If you will be registering for an event for the first time, the New York Academy of Sciences will ask you first to set up a user account with them. Registration is free and does not require divulging personal or financial information.

You can also register by phone, 212-298-8640 or 212-298-8600.  Early Registration is strongly recommended since seating is limited. 

Many popular accounts of human evolution do a great job of conveying interpretations and perspectives which are entertaining, but often wrong. Such accounts offer incomplete, and at times toxic, portrayals of human biology and evolution that can be used to promulgate and perpetuate racist, misogynistic, and ill-informed views of “human nature.” We are left with perceptions and policies of what is “natural” in contemporary society that damage our capacity to challenge inequity, discrimination, and bias.

Human evolution is ongoing and human populations continue to grow in size and complexity. Getting a handle on “the human” in the Anthropocene is no easy matter and getting the science of human evolution right is important. It turns out that meaning, imagination, and hope are as central to the human story as are bones, genes, and ecologies. Neither selfish aggression nor peaceful altruism dominates human behavior as a whole. We are a species distinguished by our extraordinary capacity for creative cooperation, our simultaneously extreme biological diversity and homogeneity, and our ability to imagine possibilities and to make them material reality.

In the 21st century significant shifts in our understanding of evolutionary biology and theory and of genetics, plus radical expansions in the archeological and fossil records, have led to increasing collaboration across multiple fields of inquiry. Collaboration and expansion of knowledge are altering our capacities to investigate and to understand our history and our future(s). This lecture offers a glimpse, via specific examples, of our past and present to illustrate why, and how, the science of human evolution—far from being dead or outdated–is relevant today

Buffet Dinner at 5:45 pm ($20 contribution for dinner guests / free for students).
Lecture begins at 6:30 pm and are free and open to the public.

Pre-registration is required for entry into the building.

 

Workshop Grantees Launch “An Anthropocene Primer”

In 2016 Drs. Fiona McDonald and Jason Kelly received a Conference and Workshop Grant to aid their workshop on “Anthropology of the Anthropocene: Structures, Theories, Practices”. A direct outgrowth of the workshop is An Anthropocene Primeran innovative open access, open peer review publication that guides learners through the complex concepts and debates related to the Anthropocene, including climate change, pollution, and environmental justice.

This born-digital publication is a critical and timely resource for learners across multiple fields from academia, to industry, to philanthropy to learn about issues and topics relating to the Anthropocene, a framework for understanding environmental change that highlights human impact on earth systems.

An Anthropocene Primer was created to provide learners in museums, schools, non-profits, and formal research institutions with an entry point into some of the big concepts and debates that dominate discussions about the Anthropocene. The primer is not intended to be comprehensive (this is, after all, An Anthropocene Primer, not The Anthropocene Primer), nor is it intended to be didactic. The primer is a framework to guide individual and collaborative learning from the beginner to advanced levels.

Version 1.0 of An Anthropocene Primer is available for open peer review from October 23, 2017 through February 1, 2018. Open peer review allows users to contribute to and engage with fellow readers and the authors as the editors develop it for a final print and open access ebook version. A video tutorial on how to participate in open peer review is available at  www.anthropoceneprimer.org/index.php/videotutorials/.

Edited by Jason M. Kelly and Fiona P. McDonald, An Anthropocene Primer emerged from the “Anthropology of the Anthropocene” workshop hosted by the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute in May 2017. The participants from this workshop make up list of authors: Jason M. Kelly (IUPUI, USA), Fiona P. McDonald (IUPUI, USA), Alejandro Camargo (University of Montreal, Canada), Amelia Moore (University of Rhode Island, USA), Mark Kesling (The daVinci Pursuit, USA), Ananya Ghoshal (Forum on Contemporary Theory, India), George Marcus (University of California, Irvine, USA), Paul Stoller (West Chester University, USA), Dominic Boyer (Rice University, USA), Serenella Iovino (University of Turin, Italy), Rebecca Ballestra (Artist, Monaco/Italy), Eduardo S. Brondizio (IU, Bloomington), Jim Enote (A:shiwiw A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, Zuni, USA), Ignatius Gutsa (University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe), Cymene Howe (Rice University, USA), Sue Jackson (Griffith University, Australia), Phil Scarpino (IUPUI, USA). This workshop was funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the IU New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities grant program.