Engaged Anthropology Grant: Chelsie Yount-Andre

During the children’s theater workshop in Dakar, youth playing Senegal-based family members explain to their “French cousins” how to eat together around the communal platter.

Chelsie Yount-Andre received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2013 to aid research on “Giving, Taking, and Sharing: Reproducing Economic Moralities and Social Hierarchies in Transnational Senegal,” supervised by Dr. Caroline Bledsoe. Dr. Yount-Andre was then able to build upon her research when she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant in 2018 to aid engaged activities on “Sharing Food, Money, and Morals: Celebrating Children’s Kinwork in Transnational Senegal.”

My Wenner-Gren funded dissertation research investigated how increasing global inequalities reshape the ways families negotiate what I call, “economic moralities,” that is, normative expectations of material obligation and entitlement. I analyzed household discussions that mediate practices of food sharing and gift giving, to shed light on the ways children in Senegalese families in Paris learn to manage the diverse moral expectations they encounter in French society and their transnational families. Focusing on economic moralities that emerged in everyday interaction, my research revealed children’s key role in the reproduction of socioeconomic relations with relatives abroad, shaping the transnational flow of resources.

A scene in which a girl playing a “French cousin” visiting Dakar on vacation (right) gets reprimanded by her “cousin” in Dakar for refusing to distribute money and gifts.

As part of my continued efforts to incorporate the voices of children into discussions about migration, I first organized a children’s theater workshop in Dakar and then presented a film of the youth’s performance at a community meal in Paris. These two events were funded by a Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant and the Chaire UNESCO World Food Systems. The projects’ aims were twofold: 1) to promote mutual understanding among kin in Senegal and France by shedding light on the moral and material pressures transnational relatives face, and 2) to publicly highlight the value of immigrants’ eating and economic practices in France.

A boy plays a “French cousin” by wearing glasses and a button-down shirt and sitting immersed in his phone, at a distance from the rest of the family.

The children’s theater workshop, organized in collaboration with the Kàddu Yaraax theater troupe, was held April 26-27, 2019 at the Centre Culturel Blaise Senghor in Dakar. Twelve children (aged 8-16) spent the weekend acting out scenes that depicted the confusion and frustration that Senegalese children growing up in Paris experience when they visit their families in Dakar, where they encounter new expectations regarding how they “ought” to give and share. Transcriptions of three stories that Senegalese children in Paris had recounted during my dissertation research provided the starting point for the workshop. Youth in Dakar embodied the positions of children growing up in France in stories of perplexing interactions surrounding material exchanges, such as a boy’s trip to Dakar when his father invited his Senegal-based cousins to choose whatever they wanted from his son’s suitcase while the boy was away at the beach.

Flyer for the community meal held at the 4C Association’s “Quartier Libre,” cultural center in Paris, as part of the Magic Barbes neighborhood festival.

The youth collaborated to co-construct a short performance, combining the three stories and adding details of their own, based on anecdotes they shared of their own interactions with cousins who visited from Europe. Working through these scenes, the youth in Dakar struggled to understand what children growing up in France may and may not know about life in Senegal. For example, as they enacted a scene in which a girl from Paris did not understand that a griot singing her praises expected her to give money, the youth in Senegal were shocked to realize that the girl had never encountered griots in France. Through these discussions, youth came to realize that many actions they had previously associated with selfishness and greed could simply be the result of youth from France’s ignorance of everyday practices in Senegal.

Chelsie Yount-André presenting her research on economic moralities in transnational Senegalese families at the 4C cultural association.

The performance culminated with a mealtime scene in which the children explained how giving and sharing take place in Senegal, using the metaphor of eating around a communal dish. The workshop ended with in a performance for the children’s families and community in Dakar. Through children’s voices, the event presented messages also important to Senegalese adults, countering stereotypes of selfish migrants who raise spoiled children. The entire workshop was filmed and edited into a 15-minute video that presents the tensions with which transnational families struggle and the cultural values that organize food sharing and material support in Senegal.

I then brought the film back to Paris to present at a community meal on September 28, 2019 at the “Quartier Libre,” cultural center in the African neighborhood, Goutte d’or. This event was part of the association’s contribution to the Magic Barbes Festival, a celebration of the diverse immigrant cultures in the neighborhood. Working with the 4C association, we organized a full-day celebration of Senegalese and African culture in France, beginning with a cooking workshop where participants learned to make Senegal’s national dish, ceebujenn. This was followed by a performance of kora music and the day ended with a presentation and discussion of my research and the film of the theater workshop in Dakar.

Event participants in Paris eating ceebujenn together around a communal dish.

Before showing the video of the children’s performance in Dakar, we first presented the original transcriptions of the three scenes that had provided the basis for the workshop. These scenes were graciously read aloud by Mengué Lett and Dr. Souleymane Gassama, members of the Senegalese community in Paris who played integral roles in my research. We then projected the film from the workshop in Dakar to an audience which included the Paris-based family members of workshop participants, members of the families who participated in my dissertation research, and members of the public who were present for the Magic Barbes Festival. The screening was followed by discussion and debate, facilitated by Christine Tichit, a sociologist at the French National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) whose work focuses on youth, food, and migration in France.

As they sat and ate ceebujenn around a communal dish, event participants in Paris were able to embody the perspective of those in Senegal, gaining insights into the ways that food sharing and material support take place in West Africa. Celebrating the value of these practices, this project worked to destigmatize immigrants’ economic choices and eating habits, which my research participants often complained were treated as irrational or uncivilized in France. By publicly celebrating West African eating practices and the economic links they symbolize and create, this project demonstrated to immigrant families in Paris the community interest and respect for their practices in France.

Wenner-Gren at AAA 2019: Schedule of Events

Vancouver Conference Centre
Photo: Derek K. Miller

Greetings from Wenner-Gren! If you are planning to attend the 2019 AAA Meetings in Vancouver, we’d love to see you at the following events:

Thursday, November 21st

How to Write a Grant Proposal for the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the NSF Workshop 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM, All are welcome! Location: Vancouver CC EAST, Room 13

SAPIENS — Story Time: How to Write for the Public 10:30 AM – 12:30PM (same time as Workshop above) Pre-registration required through AAA Website. Location: Vancouver CC, EAST, Room 17

Friday, November 22nd

A Tribute to the Life and Work of Sydel Silverman
Hosted by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Anthropology Program at CUNY Graduate Center, 8 -10PM, Location: Vancouver Convention Centre, Room 220

Exhibit Hall Hours – Vancouver CC

Thursday, November 21, 9-5pm
Friday November 22, 9-5pm
Saturday, November 23, 9-4pm

Meet the Editors of Current Anthropology at U. Chicago Press Booth 208
Laurence Ralph and Lisa McKamy, Thursday and Friday from 10am-noon

Meet the Editors of SAPIENS at Wenner-Gren Booth 112
Daniel Salas, Thursday 12:30-2:30pm
Chip Colwell and Amanda Mascarelli, Saturday 12:30 – 2:30pm

Meet the Wenner-Gren Staff at Booth 112, during Exhibit Hall Hours, except Saturday, 12:30-2:30pm (There’s no reception this year, but we’d still love to see you!)

We hope to see you soon!

Symposium #160 Cultures of Fermentation

From October 11 – 17, 2019 Wenner-Gren returned to Palácio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal for the 160th Symposium, “Cultures of Fermentation”, organized by Mark Aldenderfer (University of California, Merced), Christina Warinner (Harvard University and Max Planck Institute for Human History), Jessica Hendy (York University), and Matthäus Rest (Max Planck Institute for Human History). Be on the lookout for a future issue of Current Anthropology for this meeting’s papers, available to all 100% Open-Access.

Seated: Megan Tracy, Salla Sariola, Katie Amato, Jamie Lorimer, Heather Paxson.
Standing: Eben Kirksey, Shinya Shoda, Eva Rosenstock, Matthäus Rest, Dolly Kikon, Mark Aldenderfer, Roberta Raffaetà, Rob Dunn, Danilyn Rutherford, Björn Reichhardt, Christina Warinner, Oliver Craig, Daniel Münster, Jessica Hendy. Not pictured, Amy Zhang.

ORGANIZERS’ STATEMENT

“Cultures of Fermentation”

Mark Aldenderfer (University of California, Merced)

Christina Warinner (Harvard University; MPI for the Science of Human History)

Jessica Hendy (University of York)

Matthäus Rest (MPI for the Science of Human History)

Fermentation is a practice in which complex communities of humans, animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria meet and thrive. It provides us with a unique vantage point to engage and connect with recent debates in anthropology, biology, and beyond. Today, many of these multi-species communities that have been fermenting together, often in an unbroken chain for hundreds of human generations (and millions of microbial generations), are under severe threat of loss. Many factors have contributed to this fermentation crisis, most importantly the increasing industrialization and standardization of farming and food processing. The global decline of small-scale agriculture results in the replacement of a multiplicity of local strains with a much less diverse set of industrially bred organisms. But while there is a broad and diverse movement to save heirloom seeds and heritage livestock breeds, the impending loss of the microbial strains integral to small-scale fermentation is only starting to gain attention in academia and civil society. Popular interest in fermentation is growing dramatically, particularly in the context of microbreweries and artisanal cheese. Homemade fermented foods are increasingly considered healthy and hip, and they simultaneously serve to ground the fermenter in history and enable an expression of individuality. Fermentation is at the core of food traditions around the world, and the study of fermentation crosscuts the social and natural sciences. This symposium will foster interdisciplinary conversations integral to understanding human-microbial cultures. By bridging the fields of archaeology, cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, microbiology, and ecology, this symposium will cultivate an anthropology of fermentation.

The symposium will be organized around five strains of inquiry:

Cultures within cultures: Recent revelations on the importance of microbes for human biology, health, and culture on the one hand, and the rise of antimicrobial resistance on the other, necessitate a reassessment of the modernist attempt to pasteurize the world. Focusing on fermentation allows new ways of thinking through questions of agency, the body, and ultimately what it means to be ‘human.’ What will be the outlines of an anthropology of microbes that replaces visions of bacterial sterility with one of cohabitation? What would a political theory look like that considers the role of microbial life forms not only in the context of human suffering but also in human thriving?

Fundamental fermenters: Fermentation is an ancient and fundamental biological process. Long predating ourselves, it traces its origins to the early earth. Today, we use fermentation to transform our foods, fuel our microbiome, and compost our waste. There are however, many overlooked partners in this process. Insects such as wasps disperse wild yeasts and prime our agricultural products for fermentation. Dairy livestock seed their milk with lactic acid bacteria that outcompete pathogens and assist in raw milk yogurt and cheese production. Even human breast milk is not sterile – it is inoculated with native bacteria that assist the growing infant’s digestion. Who are the major partners in both human and non-human fermentation systems, and how do they interact? What are the routes that microbial species travel through in biological and cultural systems?

The prehistory of fermented foods: Arguably, fermentation has been the most important technology for preserving food throughout human history. Recent advances in biomolecular archaeology have expanded our ability to detect ancient culinary practices and have already generated surprising findings on the antiquity of dairy in Asia, the origins of wine production in Europe, and the early use of pottery for fish fermentation. How does a food transition from being simply edible to a product of a sophisticated, multi-species manufacturing process? How did the evolution of fermentation technologies intersect with processes of animal and plant domestication?

Microbes as the secret ingredient of cuisine: Underappreciated and often overlooked, fermented foods lie at the very heart of global cuisine. From wine and beer to bread, coffee, and chocolate, fermentation drives our appetites and dazzles our senses. On the one hand, industrial food production involves microbial regulation across the supply chain, but on the other, local traditions of fermented foods are vast, and homespun “wild ferments” have seen a rise in popularity, from kitchen-table sourdough starters to bathtub kombucha. How do microbes contribute to food identities? What are the culinary implications of food sterilization? What are the consequences of commercial microbial control? How well characterized is the diversity of food microbes and should there be scientific efforts to document, sequence, and preserve them?

Politics of fermentation: With the rise of industrialized agriculture, we face a dramatic decrease in the diversity of livestock breeds and microbial fermenters. The global decrease in small-scale fermentation endangers the survival of many of the microbial strains that have been fermenting with us for thousands of years, and with them the social and biological legacy of millennia of human culture. How should we respond to the disappearance of these microbes? How can local communities of microbes be protected?

NYAS Lecture 12/2: Ethnoprimatology: Toward the Sustainable Coexistence of Human and Nonhuman Primates in the 21st Century

Mark your calendar for December 2nd as the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series continues with Dr. Erin P. Riley, Professor, Department of Anthropology, San Diego State University, Treasurer on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Primatologists, who will be presenting, “Ethnoprimatology: Toward the Sustainable Coexistence of Human and Nonhuman Primates in the 21st Century.” Dr. Larissa Swedell, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Queens College & CUNY Graduate Center Honorary Research Associate, University of Cape Town, will act as discussent. The event will be held at 5:45 PM at the Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065.

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. Early registration is strongly recommended, since seating is limited. For the buffet supper, registration is also required.

In the U.S, primatology – the study of our closest living relatives – secured a home within the subfield of biological anthropology as a way to provide insight into human origins and the evolution of human behavior. In recent years, a new research approach – ethnoprimatology – has given primatology an expanded purpose in anthropology. Ethnoprimatology examines the multifaceted ways the histories, ecologies, lives, and livelihoods of humans and primates intersect. Most remaining populations of primates live in environments that have been influenced in some way by humans (e.g., protected forests bisected by major roads, forest-farm edges, and urban centers). Ethnoprimatology considers these environments where humans and other primates interface its primary concern, recognizing the value of studying how humans and other primates behave together, co-shaping each other’s ecology, sociality, and evolutionary trajectories. In this talk, I will explore the field of ethnoprimatology with some examples from my field research on the human-macaque interface in Indonesia to demonstrate the promise the ethnoprimatological approach shows in fostering an integrative anthropology, more pluralistic approaches to scientific inquiry, and the sustainable coexistence of humans and otheprimates in the 21st century and beyond.

About the Speaker:

Erin P. Riley is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at San Diego State University, and is currently serving as Treasurer on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Primatologists. Drawing from primatology, conservation ecology, and sociocultural and environmental anthropology, her research focuses on primate behavioral and ecological flexibility in the face of anthropogenic change and the conservation implications of the ecological and cultural interconnections between human and nonhuman primates. With notable publications in American Anthropologist, Evolutionary Anthropology, American Journal of Primatology, and Oryx, her work spearheaded the field of “ethnoprimatology.”

All talks in this series take place at Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065. A dinner and wine reception will precede the talk: Buffet dinner at 5:45 PM. ($20 contribution for dinner guests/free for students).  Lectures begin at 6:30 PM and are free and open to the public, but registration is required