Concerning the Possession and Unethical Use of the Remains of the Children of MOVE and the Africa Family: A Collective Statement from the Association of Black Anthropologists (ABA), the Society of Black Archaeologists (SBA), and the Black in Bioanthropology Collective (BiBA)

On May 13, 1985, after almost a decade of relentless harassment and confrontation, the City of Philadelphia dropped two bombs on the roof of 6221 Osage Avenue, the compound of the MOVE organization – a revolutionary group of Black people opposed to capitalist growth and committed to environmental justice and interspecies harmony. The bomb caused a fire that ripped through the compound, incinerating 11 of the 13 MOVE members inside, including five children aged seven to 13 (Tree Africa (14), Netta Africa(12), Delisha Africa (12), Little Phil Africa (12), and Tomasa Africa (9)), and razed the neighborhood, destroying at least 61 homes.

This past week, a number of outlets revealed the disturbing history of what became of the remains of one (and perhaps two) of the child victims of the bombing. What emerged was the disturbing complicity of anthropologists and anthropological institutions. Two forensic anthropologists, Alan Mann (at the time, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania), and Janet Monge (at the time Mann’s PhD student) had been hired by Philadelphia officials to identify the remains. While Mann and Monge were unable to make a positive identification, the assumption is that the remains belonged to Tree and Delisha Africa, aged 14 and 12, respectively. After the investigation, apparently either Mann or Monge kept the remains in their personal possession, moving them between the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and Princeton University. As late as last week, the remains were the focal point of the Princeton online Coursera course titled, “Real Bones: Adventures in Forensic Anthropology,” taught by Monge. Some 5000 students were enrolled. Princeton claimed not to know the location of the remains; UPenn later admitted that they were in Mann’s possession and that he would release them.

The parents of Tree and Delisha were not notified of the existence of the remains, nor were the remains returned. The Africa family believed that their children were buried, and were not aware that their children’s bones were being used as specimens for the forensic anthropology course. Mike Africa, Jr., speaking on behalf of the family, lamented: “Nobody said you can do that, holding up their bones for the camera. That’s not how we process our dead. This is beyond words. The anthropology professor is holding the bones of a14-year-old girl whose mother is still alive and grieving.”

The Association of Black Anthropologists, the Society of Black Archaeologists, and the Black in Bioanthropology Collective are painfully aware of the barbaric history of anthropology, especially when it comes to populations of peoples of African descent. We know that our discipline has been mobilized to rationalize eugenics and white supremacy and to justify slavery and colonialism. We also know that ethnographic museums, like Penn’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (which houses the collection of the notorious racist Samuel Morton) , have supported the academic rationale for the institutionalization of racism in anthropology textbooks, courses, and curricula.

It is because of this history of racism in anthropology, and because of the missions of ABA, SBA, and BiBA to counter it, that we as organizations condemn in the strongest possible language the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Coursera, along with Professors Alan Mann and Janet Monge, for their horrific treatment of the remains of Tree and Delisha Africa, and for the unfathomable heartlessness and disrespect shown towards the Africa family. We are outraged by the stunning ethical indifference shown by all parties involved to both Tree and Delisha and to the Africa family, but also by the fact that these entities effectively monetized the remains of Black children murdered in a state terrorist attack – a fact made all the more painful given the heightened public awareness of brutal murders of Black children and youth by the police over the past few years.

Moreover, this revelation represents a painful reminder of anthropology’s history with the Black dead – of which the Penn Museum, as the physical manifestation of Morton’s legacy, provides a potent symbol. Even as UPenn earlier this year has tried to grapple with the legacy of Morton, we are faced with yet another affront to Black life and dignity.

Black anthropologists should not be alone in expressing this outrage and bearing this heavy ethical burden. All anthropologists should be enraged. All anthropologists need to condemn this barbaric and savage act by its own practitioners. And white anthropologists, in particular, should not only hold themselves accountable to the ways that they continue to uphold normalized forms of antiBlackness and harm through their research and theorizing, but should also actively work to undo the centuries of violence and trauma done to nonwhite communities.

We support and are republishing the demands of Mike Africa, Jr., a MOVE family member who was 6 years old at the time when the Philadelphia police dropped the bomb on MOVE, currently circulated in the following online petition:


  • The immediate return of the remains of Delisha Africa and Tree Africa to The MOVE Family.
  • An immediate apology by the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, the Penn Museum, and Coursera to The MOVE Family and the Black community of Philadelphia for this racist and abhorrent behavior.
  • Financial reparations to The MOVE Family for the continued harm and trauma caused by Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the Penn Museum, and Coursera, for the profits made by the use of our relatives as teaching tools and research objects.
  • The immediate removal of all online content in which these remains are used, including the online course Real Bones taught by Janet Monge.
  • The termination of Janet Monge from her role as curator at the Penn Museum and faculty in the department of anthropology.
  • The creation of a transparent, public investigation led by a MOVE-approved investigator and funded by the Universities, into how these remains ended up in the Museum’s possession over the past 35 years.

We ask those who are able, to attend the MOVE Children Deserve to Rest in Peace Rally
on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 5:30 P.M. EST at Penn Museum to demand the repatriation of the remains of Delisha Africa and Tree Africa and reparations for MOVE family members for these atrocities. We encourage everyone to review the MOVE Press Conference 4/26, the documentaries “40 Years a Prisoner” and “Bombing of Osage,” and the official website of the MOVE Organization at

We realize that Penn and Princeton are not the only universities trafficking in the human remains of nonwhite peoples. And while both the Penn Museum and Princeton Anthropology have issued statements of contrition, we believe that they must do more. The Association of Black Anthropologists, Society of Black Archaeologists, and the Black in Bioanthropology Collective therefore demand, first, that the Penn Museum self-report this egregious IRB violation. Second, we demand that the American Anthropological Association (AAA) work in haste to help facilitate the repatriation of the remains of the Africa family children, as well as other remains held in the many anthropology museums and departments throughout the country. These include, but are not limited to, the numerous remains of peoples of African descent. Towards this end we also call for a national audit of all human remains in museum and university collections. We believe it is imperative that this information become public record, allowing descended communities to reclaim sovereignty of the remains of their ancestors.

As we come upon the 36th anniversary of the state sanctioned bombing on May 13th, we ask that you keep the families and friends of MOVE in your thoughts, prayers, and actions. Continue to push MOVE’s call for the freedom of Mumia Abu Jamal and all political prisoners!

And let us bury our dead.

In solidarity,

The Association of Black Anthropologists (ABA)

The Society of Black Archaeologists (SBA)

The Black in Bioanthropology Collective (BiBA)

Save the Date! May 6th: WCAA- World Council of Anthropological Associations 9th Webinar Debate/Roundtable

On Thursday, May 6th, 12:30pm UTC, be sure to check out the WCAA-World Council of Anthropological Associations 9th webinar debate/roundtable.

8:30 pm in Taipei; 3:30 pm in Nairobi; 1:30 pm in Lisbon; 9:30 am in Florianópolis; 8:30 am in New York; 8:30 in Québec; 5:30 am in Vancouver.


North-South relations in Anthropology

Convenor: Clara Saraiva, WCAA

Web Mediator: Michel Bouchard, WCAA


Kerim Friedman, National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan

Mwenda Ntarangwi, Commission for University Education, Kenya

Francine Saillant, Laval University, Canada

Carmen Rial. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina,  Brazil

Danilyn Rutherford- Wenner-Gren Foundation, USA

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 659 6735 5582
Passcode: 452690

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Gina Knapp

Wenner-Gren is proud to present the following blog post and trailer from Gina Knapp who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filming Voices of Kula.

Voices of Kula Trailer from gina knapp on Vimeo.

Voices of Kula

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Voices of Kula is a feature-length ethnographic film that tells a story of empowerment, of local responses to cultural and economic changes and of the strive to revitalize cultural heritage. A group of elders from Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea and a cooperating anthropologist set out on an intriguing journey around an island network in the South Pacific to strengthen kula, a traditional system of exchanging shell-valuables around a ‘ring’ of approximately 40 islands. Fearing the destructive impacts of cash-economy on kula practice, the team takes action to fight misconduct and the corruption of the system. I joined the group on their fascinating quest for economic and cultural autonomy.

Voices of Kula (86min) was produced from footage taken during two research expeditions around the ‘kula ring’ in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, in 2016 and 2018. The two expeditions were part of the research project “The value of precious objects”, that was funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council Canada (SSHRC) and hosted by the University of Regina, Canada. I took part in this project as external researcher, visual anthropologist and filmmaker with the main task to document the research process. The project was prepared, organized and coordinated by Dr. Susanne Kuehling, University of Regina, who has been working as an anthropologist in the region for more than twenty years. Neither the research nor the film could have been accomplished without the strong relationships Dr. Kuehling had previously built with numerous communities in Milne Bay, primarily on the islands of Dobu, Fergusson and Normanby.

The idea for the project was proposed to Dr. Kuehling already in 2012 by kula elders. They expressed their concern about a decrease in kula practice and asked for her support in organizing a trip around the ring of islands to conduct a survey of the state of kula, and to discuss the situation with the communities in the network. A few years later Dr. Kuehling had organized the funds and in January 2016 the project started in the town of Alotau on the mainland of Papua New Guinea.

Since the project was very well prepared and supported by the local kula players, I had an easy start in a research site that I had never visited before. I was familiar with filming and researching in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, but the island region was new to me. So was traveling for two months across a not always “pacific” ocean. This project opened up new horizons on professional and personal levels while at the same time posing many challenges.

We left Alotau on a very basic, chartered vessel in January 2016 for the first expedition. ‘We’ refers to a team of 16 kula players from different islands, a boat-crew of three, Dr. Kuehling and myself. We spent the following 60 days traveling on the boat from island to island, documenting as many shell-valuables as possible and holding meetings in the kula communities. In these meetings, the research team and the communities identified a number of core-problems that affect kula exchange today, among them the selling of shell-valuables, the cheating on partners, the increasing costs of hosting a kula partner and bribery in general. Most of the problems are triggered through the impact of cash economy. In one of the meetings, a player suggested that a set of binding kula-rules should be developed and written down to stop such practices. A draft was sketched, discussed and completed along the journey. To the team’s delight, even the paramount chief Pulayasi from Kiriwina (Trobriand Islands) expressed his support for the project. By the end of the first trip the team had documented more than 1.200 ‘active’ kula shells and gathered all ideas for a written ‘kula law’.

Two years later we started our second research expedition, now with a smaller group and in the other direction of the exchange circle. We revisited the island communities, equipped with laminated photos of the previously documented objects for educational workshops in local schools and large photo-posters for the village elders to have an overview of the circulating kula shell-valuables. We also brought along the written proposal of the kula rules. Kula players around the ring discussed and adjusted the document until it was finally confirmed by the island communities. A 20min clip from the last journey’s footage that I had brought along was watched with great enthusiasm by all. People around the ring reacted immensely positive and emotional to the research project and the film. In total, I collected 110 hours of footage.

Filming the two journeys was not an easy task. Light (the south pacific sun plus ocean) and sound conditions (boat engine, wind, waves) forced me often to compromise on the quality of the recordings. I was a one-person film team with occasional assistance from highly motivated and skilled, but untrained team members. Neddy Daniel was a great help and became a wonderful camera man by the end of the first trip. We used a Sony PXW-XZ150, a GoPro Camera, a Lumix and an iPhone 11plus. For sound recordings, I used two ZOOM 100 sound recorders and a SONY clip microphone.

I tried to keep as much in the background as possible when filming and refrained from interfering in meetings or conversations to get a better shot. I did not set up scenes. Before filming, we always asked – and recorded – if everyone agreed. In fact, people loved being filmed and I rather had difficulties to not-film people than to film them. Nevertheless, filming conditions at the meetings on the islands were very difficult. The numerous speakers were usually sitting widely separated from each other on the beach or a common meeting place and I sometimes had problems to adjust my camera position in time – not to mention the sound issues. The many languages spoken on the islands we visited posed another challenge. I was lucky and am grateful especially to Trevor and Synod Timoti for their ongoing translations and explanations. The cooperation with and between the team members, their motivation and support and the hospitality of the island communities we visited were overwhelming.

Voices of Kula largely follows the chronology of the research expeditions but inserts from different locations have been made to strengthen coherence in the narrative. This refers especially to meetings from different islands that have been intercut. As the name Voices of Kula suggests, I dismissed the idea of a voice-over to frame the narrative. Instead, my interlocutors reveal the story through interviews, dialogues, informal conversations and their actions. On very limited occasions I have used diagrams to illustrate a few statements. I am aware that this interrupts the inside-perspective of the film but I considered it important to summarize some points for a non-Melanesian audience. I edited the film in FinalCut Pro 10.9. Except for the title song, all music was provided by local island string bands. The title song Co era so is from the New Caledonian artist OK!Ryos. The rights have been granted by Mangrove Productions, New Caledonia.

I am now looking at submitting the film to film-festivals, for example RAI, GIEFF (German International Ethnographic Film Festival) and FIFO (Festival du Film Océanien, Tahiti). I am still researching options for distribution. Once the film has been released and screened publicly, it will be hosted online on the website of the University of Regina, Canada. Dr. Susanne Kuehling (Head of the Department of Anthropology) will arrange the upload. This online-version is important for granting free access to the film to a broad audience, specifically people in the Milne Bay region. It can be watched on mobile phones or laptops but not downloaded.

NYAS Lecture 4/26: Anthropological Perspectives on Race, Nation and for Whom Is American Great?

On Monday, April 26th, the New York Academy of Sciences hosted, “”Anthropological Perspectives on Race, Nation and for Whom Is American Great?” Watch it now!

The resurgence of racial antipathy and policy surfaces at historical periods in the U.S. when there is a perceived threat to white male elite power structures, and to poor and working class “whiteness.” The contemporary rise of essentialist racial, homophobic and misogynist thinking and actors that want to “make America great again” are not new; witness Reconstruction after the civil war, exclusionist immigration policies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the rise of Jim Crow laws throughout the country in the early twentieth century; including the suppression of voting rights. What is new circa 2021 is that white racist ( white supremacist groups) have moved from the margins to the mainstream: witness the right wing media universe, Donald Trump, and his multitude of enablers. The deep-seated paradox of race and identity at the birth of this nation over 300 years ago is still being played out today. The basic questions then as now, are those of power, control and influence. Who is an American, and who gets to decide? Who decides how that is implemented is the story of structural racism within all our institutions in the U.S.? What does the present xenophobia and overt racism say about the state of marginalized populations of color in the United States? About government sanctioned racialized immigration and migration policies and practices? Do current anthropological theories of race, space, and intersectionality help tell those stories? Can anthropologists document and illuminate the historical story of the embeddedness of structural racism for a wider U.S. audience, and make the intersection of race, power, and hegemony more transparent? This presentation will challenge anthropologists through their research and practice to frame the “Disruption” that must challenge the growing national re-energizing of racial hatred and dehumanization of the “other.” Our survival as a democratic nation depends on it.


Dr. Yolanda T. Moses currently serves as Professor of Anthropology and former Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Excellence at the University of California, Riverside. Dr. Moses’ research focuses on the broad question of the origins of social inequality in complex societies using comparative ethnographic and survey methods.  She has explored gender and class disparities in the Caribbean, East Africa and in the United States.  More recently, her research has focused on issues of diversity and change in universities and colleges in the United States, India, Europe, South Africa, Israel, and Australia.

Moses served as President of the American Anthropological Association (1995-97), Chair of the Board of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (2000), Past President of City University of New York/ The City College (1993-1999), and President of the American Association for Higher Education (2000-2003). She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation from 1996 to 2008.

She has been involved on the steering groups of several U.S. National higher education projects with the National Council for Research on Women, Campus Women Lead and The Women of Color Research Collective. In addition, she was Chair of the National Advisory Board of a multi-year national public education project sponsored by the American Anthropological Association and funded by NSF and the Ford Foundation on Race and Human Variation. See: The goal of the project was to change the way the nation understood and talked about the meaning and consequences of “race.” She was Co-PI on a Ford Foundation grant that sponsored phase two of that work.

She was the PI on an NSF ADVANCE Grant, (2011 to 2015) to advance the role of women faculty in the STEM Fields; an NEH Grant (2011-12) to create a national educational network for educators to develop a bio-cultural approach to the teaching of race in high school and in undergraduate social science and biology classes.

At the University of California, she was a co-founder and on the Steering Committee of the UC wide research project, UCCNRS (University of California Center for New Racial Studies). The mission of the Center is to support innovation in UC-based race/racism research and teaching and to encourage interdisciplinary and collaborative work focused on advancing social/racial justice in an era of changing racial dynamics and persistent racial/ethnic conflict and inequality.

She is the co-author also with Carol Mukhopadhyay and Rosemary Henze, Professors at CSU San Jose of the book: How Real is Race: A Sourcebook on Race, Culture and Biology. (2007) Rowman and Littlefield; (2014) Altamira Press. She is also co-Author along with Alan Goodman and Joseph Jones, of the book, Race: Are We So Different? published by Wiley-Blackwell (2020).

She is currently a faculty member in the Salzburg Global Seminar‘s ISP Global Citizenship Program in Salzburg, Austria, and a faculty member in their on-going Mellon Fellows Program on Global Citizenship.

In 2009, she was named an AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Fellow. She received the American Anthropology Association Franz Boas Award in 2016 for Distinguished Service to the Field of Anthropology. And Lifetime achievement awards from The Association of Black Anthropologists, and the Society for the Anthropology of North America in 2016. Moses served as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Cultural Competence at the National Centre for Cultural Competence, at the University of Sydney, Sydney Australia in 2017.

Webinar 4/15: Can Anthropology Be Radically Humanist? Part 1: Toward a Radically Humanist Anthropology


On Thursday, April 15th, 12:00 – 1:30 PM (EDT) you won’t want to miss part one of the new webinar series, “Can Anthropology Be Radically Humanist?” To register for this event click here.

Part 1: Toward a Radically Humanist Anthropology

Since the earliest days of the discipline, anthropological knowledge production has been deeply rooted in a set of foundational distinctions that have been integral to the creation of regimes of domination, eradication, and extraction that continue to pose existential challenges to the entire globe. Eurocentric perspectives based on anti-Blackness and white supremacist, colonialist assumptions have long insisted upon the separation of “nature” and “culture” and “self” and “other.” These dichotomies have structured research, teaching, and the training of generations of anthropologists with far-reaching and often detrimental impacts on marginalized communities around the world. This panel serves to open a series of conversations dedicated to exploring the possibilities of an anthropology grounded in a commitment to “radical humanism.”   In a radically humanist anthropology, equality, connection, and becoming serve as guiding principles that (1) disrupt predominant conceptualizations of a stable, knowable, liberal subject in “the field,” (2) recognize the many ways that humans and non-humans are entangled, and (3) center justice, equity, and the reduction of harm as key aims of the anthropological project.


Kelly Gillespie, PhD, Senior Lecturer, University of the Western Cape

Sheela Athreya, PhD, Associate Professor, Texas A&M University

Shadreck Chirikure, PhD, British Academy Global Professor, University of Oxford

Ora Marek-Martinez (Diné, Nimiipuu, Hopi), PhD, Assistant Professor and Executive Director of the Native American Cultural Center, Northern Arizona University

Facilitator:  Wayne Modest (Research Center for Material Culture)

Hosted by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

Organized by the Association of Black Anthropologists, Anthropology Southern Africa, and the Center for Experimental Ethnography

While Wenner-Gren is proud to be providing a platform for this event, the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Foundation.