Laurence Ralph Appointed Editor of Current Anthropology

The Wenner-Gren Foundation and the University of Chicago Press are delighted to announce the selection of Laurence Ralph to serve as Current Anthropology’s next editor.  As of January 1, 2019, he will succeed Mark Aldenderfer, the journal’s current editor, who has led the journal with wisdom and vision for the past ten years.

Currently a Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies at Harvard University, Ralph earned his doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgia Institute of Technology where he majored in History, Technology, and Society. Ralph has a diverse set of research interests, which include urban anthropology, medical anthropology; the study of gangs, disability, masculinity, race, and popular culture.

Ralph brings to Current Anthropology a wealth of editorial experience. He has served on the editorial boards of American Anthropologist and Transitions and as a reviewer for many of the major journals and presses in anthropology and related fields.  He is known for his achievements as Associate Editor of Transforming Anthropology, the flagship journal of the Association of Black Anthropologists.  In this role, Ralph acted as a liaison between authors and reviewers and participated in the curation of content for Transforming Anthropology. He was instrumental in putting the journal on firm footing, raising over $300,000 to fund a managing editor and field office and to found an editorial internship program that involves doctoral students in projects designed to enhance the journal’s public presence.

Ralph’s first book, Renegade Dreams: Living Through Injury in Gangland Chicago, earned him a long list of accolades, including the C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) and honorable mentions from Society for Cultural Anthropology’s Gregory Bateson Prize, the American Ethnological Society’s Sharon Stephens First Book Prize, and the Society for Humanistic Anthropology’s Victor Turner Book Prize Competition.  Ralph’s latest book, Torture Trees: Police Violence from Chicago to the War on Terror, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Madhura Lohokare

Siddhivinayak College Workshop III

In 2010 while a doctoral student at the University of Syracuse Madhura Lohokare received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Articulating Public Space to the Public Sphere: A Study of Neighborhood Associations in Pune, India,” supervised by Dr. Cecilia Van Hollen. In 2016 Dr. Lohokare had the opportunity to share the results of her fieldwork when she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Seeking Just Spaces: Conversations on City, Masculinity and Gender”.

My doctoral research was based in a working class, low caste neighborhood in the Western Indian city of Pune in India. In my doctoral research, I located young men’s gendered identity at the crossroads of their location in the inner city area of Moti Peth and a long history of spatial and social marginalization based upon caste and class in Pune. After submitting my dissertation in April 2016, I was awarded the Wenner Gren Engaged Anthropologist Grant in order to conduct public engagement activities in Pune.  The public engagement that I undertook within the EAG were constituted primarily by two activities: bi-lingual workshops on gender, masculinity and urban space in city colleges and a short-term neighborhood mapping project in Moti Peth

Workshops on gender, masculinity and urban space:

S.P.College I

These workshops were designed to focus on how urban spaces are shaped by and in turn shape gender, caste and class dynamics in the city spaces and on the question of inclusive cities and access to public spaces. The aim was to conduct these workshops primarily in those colleges in the city which do not figure on the itineraries of such workshops. Located in the older part of the city and attended largely by non-English speaking, working class, lower caste students, these colleges seldom get exposure to stimulating workshops beyond their fixed college curriculum, on account of the fact that most of such workshops and their materials tend to be designed for an English speaking audience.

Siddhivinayak College Workshop IV

During December 2016, 2017 and January 2018, I conducted four workshops, titled, “Mardon Waali Baat” (roughly translated as “The Man Thing”) in four undergraduate colleges which focused on the broader themes of masculinity, gender and public space. These workshops were mostly conducted in Marathi, the native language of the state of Maharashtra, given the fact that most of the students who attended these workshops were native Marathi-speakers. These workshops were two to three hours long each, focusing on gender, qualities attributed to masculinity in the specific context of Maharashtra, popular culture and the implications of gendered nature of public spaces. The participants comprised of not only students from Pune city, but importantly, also those from neighboring small towns and villages, who come to Pune for higher education. This is also the student population which hardly gets an opportunity to attend such workshops, which provide a non-judgmental space for young adults to discuss issues of gender. Interestingly, I conducted a series of two workshops on the topic of masculinity and urban space in an all-girls college. While I had originally planned only one workshop here, I conducted two workshops in this college, on account of the enthusiasm of the girl students to talk about gender, masculinity and how it impacts their everyday life in the city.

Between December 2016 and December 2017 I also conducted three workshops, with the Department of Sociology and the Women’s Studies Centre at Pune University on the broad themes of ethnographic research methodologies and researching caste, space and gender. All the three workshops were two days long. My objective in working with students and research scholars from Pune University was specifically to discuss ethical issues of working on caste and gender with a group of research scholars who are located in a state university, a space which does not have the privilege of availability of study materials in Marathi.

A short-term neighborhood mapping project in Moti Peth:

Panels on Mapping Small Businesses

An important insight of my dissertation research was the profound sense of internalized inferiority that I encountered in Moti Peth, the neighborhood where I conducted my dissertation research. This internalized inferiority was a product of a long history of caste and class-based marginalization in Pune’s urban trajectory. A short-term project in which neighborhood inhabitants map how their area contributes to the economic workings of the city would be, I thought, a modest beginning to a larger process of reclaiming the history through which they have built and through which they continue to give character to this part of the city. This mapping project, I had hoped would help to reveal this intricate web through which the area of Moti Peth is connected to the city of Pune in inexticable ways.

Panels of Recipes and Street Food Places in the Neighborhood

I initiated this project in Moti Peth, in the first week of December 2017. After initial rounds of discussion and introducing the young people in the neighborhood to the idea of this mapping project, a total of six women (between ages 18 and 30) and four men (between ages 22 and 26) volunteered to be a part of this exercise. The aim was to introduce them to the concept of the “barefoot researcher” and enable them to critically look at their neighborhood, along with equipping them with basic documenting skills, which would encourage them to produce knowledge about their own area. Each participant received a small stipend for participating in this exercise.

The participants worked in pairs on specific topics related to their neighborhood and aspects of their culture. These included:

  1. Mapping small businesses in the area
  2. Highlighting the language (slang) used by people in the neighborhood
  3. Documenting caste-specific recipes in this neighborhood
  4. Documenting the ten best street food joints in the area
Exhibition I

These topics were arrived at through our discussions, in which we all agreed that it was important to rewrite the narrative of this neighborhood, which hitherto has only been portrayed as “backward,” “filthy” and as populated by people who themselves are morally corrupt or not worthy of respect. These topics are reflective of an attempt to claim legitimacy by this group of working class, low caste researchers for their location in the city, be it in terms of food, language or economic activities.

In December 2017, I conducted three workshops which aimed to familiarise the participants with aspects of documentation and research including photo-documentation (via mobile phones), participant observation, writing field notes, interviewing and visualizing data. One of the workshops was conducted by Chris M. Kurian, a public health professional, who also specializes in design and communication and Chaitanya Modak, a graphic designer, with experience in public art.

Exhibition II

The outcome of these multiple small projects was imagined in the form of an exhibition, through which we planned to showcase the narratives that the “barefoot researchers” had produced, in the form of photo-stories, interviews, maps and audio clips. Chaitanya Modak joined the team as a consultant, and helped us visualize this data and present it in an accessible and attractive format to the audience for this exhibition.

Exhibition III

The exhibition was held on April 21st and 22nd 2018, in Sudarshan Kaladaalan, an exhibition space located in a predominantly upper caste neighborhood in the city. The choice of the place was deliberate since the researchers from Moti Peth specifically wished their narratives to be exhibited in these upper caste dominated neighborhoods. The exhibition was well received by the audiences and also got good press coverage in the local Marathi and English dailies. The experience of producing and exhibiting narratives of their own lives and aspects of their culture, in their own language, was a very important step for the young people from Moti Peth, to begin the process of reclaiming their place in the city’s identity. I hope that this exhibition also gets an opportunity to travel to other parts of the city (there were several proposals to enable that in the future). At the same time, the exhibition also benefitted from some critical feedback, which would help its evolution, in case the participants now decide to take this ahead and travel with it. This feedback was largely in terms of the politics of representation, the absence of a sense of history in the exhibition material and the need to demonstrate the process through which this exhibition was produced.

Upcoming June Conference

9th  Meeting of Archaeological Theory in South America (IX Reunión de Teoría Arqueológia de América del Sur, TAAS)

June 4-8, 2018

Ibarra, Ecuador

The South America Theoretical Archaeology meeting or TAAS (Teoría Arqueológica de América del Sur) is based on the collective reflection of Latin American archaeologists about the situation and projection of archaeological theory and practice in the Southern Hemisphere.  This 9th version will focus on issues of gender, sexuality, race and local ancestral communities, specifically to address and look into challenging the patriarchal, homophobic and racist undertones that have historically permeated archaeological research in Latin America.

The 9th TAAS will bring together around 500 participants from throughout the Americas to discuss how to better critically engage race, sexuality and indigenous issues that are central to the continent’s archaeological heritage.  To this effect, particular emphasis has been placed on inviting local Afro-American (continentally-speaking) and ancestral community members, as well as, highlighting feminist and queer archaeological theoretical insights and contributions.  Finally, the meeting will also emphasize recruiting undergraduate and graduate archaeology and anthropology students throughout the continent to engage in these discussions on race and sexuality in Latin American archaeology, to hopefully contribute into changing the current hegemonic discourses of the discipline in the region.

TAAS has historically looked to challenge the dominant theoretical paradigms of the discipline and provide nuanced perspectives to understand our intricate relationship with the past.  With the support of international institutions such as the World Archaeological Congress (WAC), TAAS was born in Argentina in 1996. The first meeting was held in 1998 and, since then, versions have been organized in Argentina (twice), Brazil (twice), Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, and Bolivia.  This 9th TAAS will, for the first time, take place in Ecuador in the city of Ibarra

Symposium #157: “Disability Worlds”

This past March Wenner-Gren headed west to Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch in Tucson, AZ for the 157th Symposium, “Disability Worlds”, organized by Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp of New York University. The meeting’s edited papers will appear in a forthcoming supplement to Current Anthropology, 100% free and open access

Kneeling: Rayna Rapp, Michele Friedner, Susan Reynolds Whyte, Cassandra Hartblay, Tom Boellstorff, Ayo Wahlberg, Laurie Obbink. Standing: Devva Kasnitz, Beatriz Miranda-Galarza, Faye Ginsburg, Herbert Muyinda, Arseli Dokumaci, Laurence Ralph, Tyler Zoanni, Richard Grinker, Patrick Devlieger, Danilyn Rutherford, Renu Addlakha, Pam Block, Lori Stavropoulos (CART Writer), Tanya Marie Anderson (Revoicer)

 

ORGANIZERS‘ STATEMENT

“Disability Worlds”

Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp (New York University)

Anthropology is well known for its capacious and ever-expanding framework and its embrace of diversity. Yet, as we argued in our 2013 Annual Review chapter “Disability Worlds”, this universal circumstance – how the realities of embodied, cognitive, and emotional impairments are understood in different socio-cultural contexts as part of the human condition — has too often been neglected in our field.  Ethnographic studies of embodiment, personhood, kinship, gender/sexuality/reproduction, cognitive diversity, violence and its disabling aftermath, as well as citizenship and biopolitics remain incomplete and undertheorized without the consideration of disability. This framework provides a powerful lens to refocus and potentially transform thinking about new and enduring concerns shaping contemporary anthropology. At its most basic, the recognition of disability as a social fact helps us to understand the cultural specificities of personhood and to reconsider the unstable boundaries of the category of the human.

This symposium addresses the transformative value of critical anthropological studies of disability for many of our discipline’s key questions.  Historically, anthropological studies of disability were relatively rare until the late twentieth century, often intellectually segregated into the realm of medical and applied anthropology.  Yet, the international spread and uneven impact of the disability rights movement in the 21st century, as well as cross-cultural work in anthropology show that what counts as a disability in different cultural settings is not obvious. The need for research and theorization cannot be underestimated, given that approximately 80% of the world’s one billion people with disabilities reside in what is glossed as “the global south.”   Anthropologists have interrogated the limits of a Western individualizing model when studying disability across the world. This work examines the presence or absence of disability in familial, community, religious and political life as constructed by larger notions of the social, relatedness, personhood, as well as diverse epistemologies regarding “normalcy.”  Our conference builds on this work, and is premised on the recognition that disability is not a category of difference unto itself; rather, it is profoundly relational and radically contingent, dependent on specific social and material conditions that too often exclude full social participation in society. Beyond such exclusions, a focus on disability also reveals creative cultural production. Unexpected sites of innovation, inclusion and the reframing of “the normal” are producing new kinds of “disability worlds.”

This is a propitious moment to gather a group of international scholars to consider how a disability perspective can expand and transform the discipline as anthropologists increasingly focus on the social, political, experiential, narrative and phenomenological dimensions of living with particular impairments in different cultural settings across the life span. Our symposium builds on the work of anthropologists who incorporate a critical disability studies perspective, working in diverse settings to consider if and how the promissory note of expanding inclusion (as well as barriers to it) shape the “world-making” of people living with disabilities and their allies. We hope to collectively grasp how the experience of disability — whether named or unnamed – is reshaping understandings of personhood and boundaries of the human, while always accounting for broader social contexts that enable and constrain disability worlds. Concretely, this entails anthropological attention to this essential form of difference whether one studies kinship, sexuality, activism and political movements, technologies, religion, alternative communication/language practices, or the sensorium in light of atypical forms of cognitive and sensory processing and many other topics.

At the conference, we seek to understand how disability can provide a critical anthropological perspective on “everyday life with a difference,” often experienced in the shadow of a selectively globalizing neoliberal economy.  Disability is implicated in circumstances of increasing precarity, exacerbated by the erosion and privatization of resources in late capitalism as well as the environmental impact of the anthropocene. Additionally, the survival of fragile infants and those with chronic disease, along with the expansion of people living into “extreme old age” all challenge the scarcity of social labor for caregiving for those with disabilities (and other dependents) across the life cycle. At the same time, social movements for disability rights, spreading unevenly across the globe since the late twentieth century, have made powerful claims for the growing recognition and inclusion of disability.  This is in tension with the drive toward perfectibility that fuels culturally seductive neo-eugenic medical interventions, now routinized in everyday biopolitics such as genetic testing for selective abortion of fetuses with potential disabilities; this technology is rapidly diffusing from rich to middle and low-income countries. Such interventions raise utopian hopes of individual perfectibility and control that challenge the reality of disability and the crucial role of kinship, community, religion and other longstanding cultural resources for support and inclusion. These are essential to the interdependence on which disability integration ultimately depends.  Moreover, other instances of rapidly transforming technologies – including media, prosthetics, social networks, infrastructure, and assistive communication devices along with attendant therapies – have produced life-changing opportunities for people with disabilities and their supporters, across domains ranging from disability rights activism, to public culture, to intimate realms of kin and friendship where personhood and disability worlds take shape. All require political will as well as a recognition that disability futures are fragile and uncertain at best. Nonetheless, we ask conference participants to consider how our work, individually and collectively, might contribute to building an ethics of possibility in the construction of disability worlds.

Toward that end, the symposium is organized around the following topics.

  • Decolonizing Disability in Anthropology
  • Sexuality/ Gender/Kinship
  • Biopolitics and its discontents
  • Inclusion/exclusion and habitable worlds
  • Technology, Creativity, media
  • Precarity, Violence, mobility.

We anticipate that each topic will also incorporate issues of kinship, activism, political transformation and discrimination, collaborative methods/theory, reflexivity, and life course perspectives.