Engaged Anthropology Grant: Rachel Engmann

The workshop team

In 2014 Rachel Engmann received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on ”Slavers in the Family: The Archaeology of the Slaver in Eighteenth Century Gold Coast”. In 2018 Dr. Engmann had the opportunity to return to her fieldsite when she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Excavating Knowledge”.

The Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant funded a fact-finding workshop and interviews in order to develop educational materials as part of a community outreach project based on the Wenner-Gren sponsored research, ‘Slavers in the Family’ at Christiansborg Castle, conducted under the auspices of the Christiansborg Archaeological Heritage Project (CAHP).  Christiansborg Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is aC17th century former European trading post, Danish and British colonial seat of government and Office of the President of Ghana.  An engaged approach to archaeological heritage directed at primary and secondary students is in keeping with the project’s philosophies since CAHP represents an engaged, participatory-orientated approach to archaeological heritage.

Activities:

  1. Consultations

We first held consultation meetings with the relevant stakeholders in order to inform them about the CAHP research project, plans for educational outreach and extend an invitation to participate in the workshop itself. 

  1. Workshops

We conducted two workshops in May 2018 in a primary school in the Osu district of Accra, and close to Christiansborg Castle.  The attendees comprised teachers and head teachers, mostly from the public school sector but also from a mission school; representatives from the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board; a local Chief and two Queen Mothers.

Dorothy Engmann, Workshop Facilitator

The CAHP Director gave a brief introduction to the archaeological excavation project at the castle.  The CAHP Education Director (facilitator) then explained that the proposed outreach materials had been inspired by the project: the primary materials would serve as an introduction to archaeology; the secondary materials would draw out the connection between archaeology and heritage.  They would be based upon the concept of active learning: the teacher or the community based volunteer would lead the students on a voyage of guided discovery with materials that could be downloaded from the CAHP website.  Any associated tangible materials would be available at minimal cost from students’ homes or the local market.  The focus would be upon real student involvement in the learning process through a variety of activities involving exploration and collaboration, questioning and discussion – skills that would be transferable to other disciplines across the curriculum.  And the results might be expressed in various media: for example creative writing, poetry, art and drama.  The facilitator then gave the participants a ‘taster’ of the proposed materials at primary and secondary levels.  The presentation was very well received and all present were keen to learn and experience more of the proposed materials.

The attendees were then invited to identify the challenges facing the implementation of these materials, and to consider possible solutions to those challenges.

  1. Interviews

The CAHP Project Director and Education Outreach Director also conducted interviews with parents, caregivers and children in the area close to the castle – one of the most impoverished areas in Accra – in order to get a better understanding of the challenges they face regarding the Ghana government education system and to inform the development and implementation of our outreach materials.

 Summary

Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann, Workshop Facilitator

CAHP’s proposed active learning outreach materials will make a positive contribution to the curriculum and to the introduction of a new pedagogy in both primary and secondary schools in Ghana.  The current pedagogy is very much ‘chalk and talk’ because this is how teachers are trained.  There is also an acute lack of textbooks.  There are no other resources (teachers often have to purchase them out of their low salaries).  Together, these factors result in very poor exam results.  Our materials will help to address all these issues.  With these low cost resources, teachers will be motivated to teach more imaginatively and effectively, and students themselves will be motivated to discover and learn more, because they will realize that learning can be fun!  Volunteers in the community can also use these materials to work with and help educate students who do not attend school, or do not attend school regularly for financial reasons.

We will need to provide in-service training for teachers and volunteers in the community around the implementation of active learning, including study skills.  And we will need to provide hard copies of the materials for those teachers and volunteers who do not have access to the CAHP website.

We will need to seek further funding to create and develop the project and its implementation.

NYAS Lecture 10/29: Sick of Race: How Racism Harms Health and Misleads Medicine

Dr. Clarence Gravlee

As October wraps up we’re thrilled to announce another great installment of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series on October 29th at 5:45 PM at its new location, Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065. Clarence C. Gravlee, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida will be presenting, “Sick of Race: How Racism Harms Health and Misleads Medicine”. Ida Susser, professor of anthropology at Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center 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. Early registration is strongly recommended, since seating is limited. For the buffet supper, registration is also required. 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.

Again please note that the NYAS lecture series is no longer being held at the offices of The Wenner-Gren FoundationAll talks in this series take place at Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065.

Social scientists commonly assert that race is a cultural construct, not a biological reality. This refrain is correct in spirit, but it has proven to be an ineffective response to the persistence of racial-genetic determinism in medicine, science, and everyday life. What’s more, it creates a blind spot: deflecting attention away from the biological consequences of cultural constructs like race. We will explore how hidden assumptions about race, genes, and biology infect contemporary medicine and how integrating methods from the social and biological sciences clarifies the health effects of systemic racism.

About the Speakers:

Clarence C. Gravlee is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida. The central goal of Dr. Gravlee’s research is to identify and address the social and cultural causes of racial inequities in health. His work is grounded in a biocultural approach to health and human development, drawing on methods from the social and biological sciences. His current primary project, funded by the National Science Foundation, focuses on the health effects of racism among African Americans in Tallahassee, FL. Using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach, the project integrates conventional ethnographic methods, formal social network analysis, and epidemiologic methods. Gravlee has co-edited The Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology with Russell Bernard, now in its second edition, and has co-authored numerous articles.

Ida Susser is professor of anthropology at Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center and has conducted ethnographic research in the U.S., Southern Africa and Puerto Rico on urban social movements and the urban commons. She has studied gender, the global AIDS epidemic and environmental movements. Her book AIDS, Sex and Culture: Global Politics and Survival in Southern Africa (Wiley-Blackwell 2009), which was awarded the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize for research in women and health by the Society for Medical Anthropology (2012), draws on medical anthropology, science studies, global studies, as well as research on class, gender and race. It discusses the ways in which women mobilized, from small group meetings to major demonstrations, to prevent and treat AIDS in Southern Africa

A dinner and wine reception will precede the talk. Buffet dinner begins 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.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Ireri Ceja Cardenas

Ireri Ceja Cardenas received her undergraduate degree at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, ITESO, México, and a Master’s in Visual Anthropology and Anthropological Documentary at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, FLACSO Ecuador. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in anthropology at Federal U. of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, supervised by Dr. Adrianna de Resende Barreto Vianna. Read the previous two entries in the series. 

I am a Mexican researcher in my first year of a PhD program in Social Anthropology at the National Museum (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). In spite of huge budget cuts to education, science and culture, the museum’s anthropology program has maintained its ranking as one of the most prestigious in the region. But on September 2, 2018, the year of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the National Museum and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Postgraduate Program in Social Anthropology, the museum (housed in San Cristóbal Palace) was consumed by fire. Nearly all of the installations and the historical, artistic, bibliographical and scientific collections perished, and the Social Anthropology Program and its ongoing research activities, teaching and social commitments have been greatly compromised.

By choosing a doctoral program in Brazil my goal is to help create alliances and collaborations between disparate academic traditions in Mexico, Ecuador and Brazil and unite scholars, who despite shared experiences and common histories, rarely have the opportunity to engage in conversation with one another.

After completing my degree in Communication Sciences at the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO, Guadalajara, Mexico), I earned my master’s degree in Visual Anthropology and Anthropological Documentary at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO, Quito, Ecuador), an institution I later joined as a researcher and collaborator.

For the past seven years I have been conducting research on migration and forced displacement. I have worked on identity and belonging of Haitian populations on the move following the 2010 earthquake throughout the Andean region, and studied their use of subversion strategies to overcome discrimination and exclusion. I have also studied displaced populations of Colombians residing in Ecuador and access to rights through their Mercosur visas. As an anthropologist I have developed the tools to explore heterogeneities and struggles within disparate categories such as refugee, multilateralism, regional and local integration. I have also applied a critical perspective to issues of violence, borders and smuggling of migrants, along with violations of human rights in the context of security policies and the closing of borders.

My research interests continue to focus on migration and displacement as consequences of “the crisis of civilization” and the Anthropocene and how these trends function in opposition to the control of natural resources and territories in Mexico and Latin America. I believe that anthropology allows us to question dichotomies such as nature / culture, universalism / particularism, agency / structure and to construct theoretical and practical alternatives to problems that emerge from capitalism and development.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Chun-Yi Sum

Student volunteers conducting home visits in Sichuan province in China.

While a doctoral student at Boston University Chun-Yi Sum received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2011 to aid research on “The New Vanguard of Civil Society: Morality and Civic Consciousness among College Students in China”, supervised by Dr. Robert P. Weller. In 2017 Dr. Sum was awarded an Engaged Anthropology Grant which gave her the opportunity to return to the field the following year to carry out her project, “Exploring Better Practices of Engaged Volunteerism in China”.

What makes effective social interventions? How should civic actors channel their passion into making sustainable contributions? In my dissertation research about student volunteerism and extracurricular activities in Chinese universities, I asked whether and how student organizations might invigorate China’s civil society, and how participatory experience might transform young people’s moral worldviews. In the summer of 2018, Wenner-Gren’s Engaged Anthropology Grant funded my month-long revisit back to my dissertation field site. I organized workshops and lectures about culturally-informed interventions, and discussed with participants ways to develop “pretty good practices” of engaged volunteerism. I appreciate this opportunity to give back to civic groups that have generously shared their time and cultural knowledge with me when I was still a doctoral student. These activities also helped to promote the application of anthropological methods and humanistic sensibility among civic actors in China.

Students elicited information from school children and their parents to determine whether they were eligible for scholarships.

The primary audiences of my engagement project are student volunteers and staff members of two civic organizations that serve school children in impoverished rural communities in China. First, I joined a student group in a summer field trip to visit scholarship recipients whom they sponsored. Student volunteers wanted to determine whether to renew these scholarships in the upcoming academic year: how had the scholarships improved their recipients’ academic performances? Had the recipients’ families experienced significant changes in financial circumstances that might qualify them for or disqualify them from further sponsorship? Volunteers asked scholarship recipients a list of questions about household income and academic grades. They filled out a questionnaire after each home visit.

Chun-Yi Sum (left) and three social workers organized two days of activities for children in Guangdong province in China.

Besides teaching student volunteers interviewing techniques to facilitate their tasks, I helped them collect additional information that could be used for program evaluation and for updating the questionnaire. In debriefing meetings that I organized after each day’s home visits, I asked students to reflect upon their observations and impressions about the families they interviewed. I encouraged students to talk also to teachers and neighbors to understand more holistically their service site. More importantly, I challenged student volunteers to critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their interventions, and to formulate a protocol about how to document their field experiences for sharing with volunteers in the future.

Student volunteers and their mentees designed a poster together.

The second group I worked with aimed similarly at helping marginalized children to perform better at school, but with a different approach. This group recruited university students to mentor rural children using letter writing as a medium. My second engaged activity was to accompany letter-writing students on a field trip to meet with their pen pals for the first time. We planned two days of activities for twelve pairs of student volunteers and children to learn more about each other. In the evenings, I met with staff members of the group to brainstorm about new ideas to motivate rural children to study. We also talked about ways to improve participants’ volunteering experiences. A week after the field trip, I gave a presentation at the organization’s headquarter to facilitate a conversation about program development and future projects.

Chun-Yi Sum discussed the application of anthropology in social initiatives.

In addition, the Engaged Anthropology Grant supported three public lectures in Guangzhou City before and after the two summer field trips. In these presentations, I introduced my working book manuscript about extracurricular activities in Chinese universities, as well as other publication plans based on my field research in the region since 2010. I also talked about the importance of incorporating cultural awareness and research-based evaluative protocol in responsible volunteering practices. These lectures attracted a total audience of about sixty, many of whom were volunteers, social workers, and past and present participants in student organizations in which I conducted my dissertation research in 2011 and 2012. I am glad to have the opportunity to connect with new and old friends in the field, and to explore with Chinese civic actors the synergy between anthropology and social initiatives.

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Upcoming November Conference

15th Congress of the Latin American Association for Biological Anthropology

November 1 – 4 2018

Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

Since 1990, the Latin American Association for Biological Anthropology (ALAB) meets every two years in different cities across Latin America. This will be its 15th meeting (Congress), and the first to take place in Puerto Rico or any jurisdiction under the United States of America. As expressed in its by-laws, ALAB will organize meetings to contribute to the development of Latin American researchers and professors for the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge in the field of Biological Anthropology. Meetings serve has hubs for networking among Latin American researchers, their students, and world-renown investigators undertaking anthropological research on issues related to Latin America. Collaborations for research and dissemination initiatives are developed. The 15th meeting is expected to join approximately 300 participants from across Latin America, including the Caribbean, plus invited speakers from the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Bania Sinai Garcia Sanchez

Bania Sinai Garcia Sanchez received her undergraduate degree at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico and an MA in Amerindian Studies and Bilingual Education at the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, Mexico. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in anthropology at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, supervised by Dr. Mark Sicoli. Read the previous entry in the series. 

My name is Bania Sinaí García Sánchez and I come from a Zapotec indigenous community located in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. I completed my undergraduate degree in Linguistics and Hispanic Literature at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. During my undergraduate years I wrote a research thesis entitled, “Towards an interpretation of the figure of the Zapotec mother in a portrait of my mother by Andrés Henestrosa”. I received my master’s degree in Amerindian Studies and Bilingual Education from the Autonomous University of Querétaro and  wrote my Master’s thesis entitled, “Wedding Advice among the Zapotec Women of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec: A Discourse Genre.”

I have made it a priority to learn to speak my heritage language, to keep it, protect it, and preserve it. I have studied Zapotec as a second language for two years at the Language School of the Autonomous University of Oaxaca. I have also conducted fieldwork in my community and  have collected legends and myths from oral traditions, interviewed women on ritual practice, made video recordings and taken photographs of the traditions of the people in the community, our festivals, and our rites. I have also investigated the discourse, pragmatics, semantics, and the use of verbs in advice given by women, and other speech genres. I  hosted a literary workshop of Zapotec indigenous literature in the Faculty of Languages in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec of the Autonomous University of Oaxaca, where I taught two semesters of Zapotec oral traditions.

I applied  to the Ph.D. program in Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Virginia because I believe studying there will provide me with the necessary skills to analyze, document, and share my indigenous language of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which will strengthen the vitality of my culture. The University of Virginia is unique for its linguistic anthropology faculty who specialize in language and cognition and documenting language as culture, and for its faculty across the subfields who are dedicated to participatory and community-based research methods. I believe it is the ideal environment for me to pursue my goals of understanding the Zapotec language as lived experience in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Guest Blog: Benjamin Collins

Figure 1. Grassridge Rockshelter, as viewed from the northern entrance to the site, with Dr. Collins on the right.

In 2015 Dr. Benjamin Collins was awarded a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on “Late MIS 3 Behavioral Diversity: The View from Grassridge Rockshelter, Eastern Cape, South Africa”. Recently Dr. Collins reached out to Wenner-Gren to share an update from the field.

2018 Fieldwork Update from Grassridge Rockshelter, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Dr. Benjamin Collins and Dr. Christopher Ames are leading Wenner-Gren Foundation-funded research at Grassridge Rockshelter that explores the dynamic between hunter-gather behavioral diversity, social network formation, and regional-scale climatic variability during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene in southern Africa. This research forms the core component of the Grassridge Archaeological and Paleoenvironmental Project (GAPP), which focuses on the understudied interior grasslands region of South Africa. Collins and Ames are currently focusing research on Grassridge Rockshelter, a multicomponent site with human occupations dating to the Late Pleistocene (~40,000 years ago and earlier), the early Holocene (~11,600 years ago), and the mid-Holocene (~7,000 years ago). Their ongoing research is collaborative and multidisciplinary – bringing together a variety of perspectives to reconstruct past human technologies and behaviors, and to develop high-resolution paleoenvironmental and geochronological records.

Figure 2. Dr. Ames collecting sediment samples at Grassridge Rockshelter.

Past technologies and behaviors are explored through stone tool analysis, analysis of symbolic artifacts, such as beads and pendants, and the analysis of the animal remains. Dr. Jayne Wilkins and Ms Ayanda Mdludlu are leading the stone tool analysis, with preliminary results suggesting a diverse range of stone tool manufacturing strategies during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene occupations at Grassridge. These strategies exhibit more differences than similarities in comparison with other contemporaneous sites in southern Africa, and are indicative of greater diversity in technological behaviors during these periods than previously thought.

Shell beads are ubiquitous within the Holocene occupations at Grassridge. Ongoing analysis of these symbolic artifacts, conducted by Dr. Collins and Dr. April Nowell, demonstrates an abundance of ostrich eggshell beads in all stages of manufacture, as well as marine shell beads that indicate a relationship to the coast, which was at least 200 km away from the site. These results reinforce the presence of extensive social networks during the Holocene in southern Africa, and suggest that Grassridge was an important social nexus between coastal, interior, and montane landscapes.

Figure 3. Dr. Jayne Wilkins (left) and Ms Ayanda Mdludlu (right) analysing stone tools recovered from Grassridge Rockshelter at the Stone Age Laboratory in the University of Cape Town.

Initial results from the study of the animal remains, led by Dr. Jerome Reynard, Thomas Beard, and Amy Smith, demonstrate a greater diversity of bovids than expected during the Holocene, and suggest changes in hunting strategies and local environments between the early and mid-Holocene occupations. This research also contributes to the development of a high-resolution paleoenvironmental record, with the data from the animal remains being combined with information from stable isotope analyses of recovered animal teeth, pollen and phytoliths extracted from the sediments, and an examination of the site formation processes. Stable isotope research by Dr. Judith Sealy tracks the proportions of C3 and C4 grasses through the early and mid-Holocene and will provide key information on past environmental conditions at Grassridge. Pollen and phytoliths are being studied by Dr. Carlos Cordova and the data indicate substantial differences in the local environments during the different occupations, as well as providing insight on human use of plants within the shelter, especially as firewood. The microbotanical research also contributes to the study of site formation processes, which Dr. Ames combines with stratigraphic and sedimentological analyses to reconstruct the sequence of site formation processes. The data indicate a variable presence of water and flooding in the shelter at the end of the Late Pleistocene, as well as intensive human activity and hearth construction during the mid-Holocene.

Figure 4. Ms Amy Smith (left), Mr. Thomas Beard (centre), and Dr. Jerome Reynard (right) studying animal bones recovered from Grassridge Rockshelter at the University of Witwatersrand.

GAPP is refining the chronological resolution of the occupational sequence at Grassridge through radiocarbon analysis, Uranium-Thorium analysis, and Optically Stimulated Luminescence. In collaboration with Dr. Emma Loftus, a suite of radiocarbon age estimates have been analysed from Grassridge, which have been fundamental in identifying the early and mid-Holocene occupations. Dr. Robyn Pickering is further contributing to the developing the chronological resolution of the sequence by applying Uranium-Thorium dating techniques to estimate the age of a flowstone that separates the Pleistocene and Holocene deposits, information that will also provide unique insights into the local environment and site formation processes during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Dr. Luke Gliganic is leading the Optically Stimulated Luminescence analysis, which will clarify the Late Pleistocene occupational sequence at Grassridge, as these occupations are beyond the limit of radiocarbon dating.

Initial results and ongoing analyses provide valuable insight into the archaeology and paleoenvironments preserved in the rich archive from Grassridge Rockshelter, and are furnishing a detailed, multi-faceted understanding of life in the interior grasslands of southern Africa over the past 40,000 years. These data point to a record of changing local environments and human lifeways over time that, as more analyses are completed, will inform our understanding of human-environment dynamics during periods of rapid and profound climate change. As this new information is compared to, and contextualized within, the broader southern African record, it will shed light on social network formation and human adaptation to climate variability at local, regional, and subcontinental scales from the end of the Late Pleistocene through the mid-Holocene.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Kirby Farah

Ceremonial hearth

While a doctoral student at the University of California, Riverside, California, Kirby Farah received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Creating and Maintaining an Elite Identity: A Study of Elite Domestic Practices at Postclassic Xaltocan,” supervised by Dr. Wendy Ashmore. Two years later Dr. Farah had the opportunity to return to the field when she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to carry out her project, “Middle Postclassic Ritual Spaces and Implements: A Museum Exhibit at Xaltocan, Mexico”.

My Wenner Gren funded dissertation research, conducted between July 2014 and June 2015, focused on the everyday lives and identity practices of the Postclassic (A.D. 900-1521) leaders of Xaltocan, Mexico. From the outset, this project was informed by community engagement. I collaborated with local Xaltocan residents to outline a set of research objectives that prioritized transparency and rapid dissemination of research results. We also worked together to design research questions that would glean locally-relevant knowledge about Xaltocan’s prehispanic past. This might include knowledge that (1) contributes to cultivating local pride, (2) is of general interest to the local community, or (3) adds perspective to issues facing Xaltocan (and other Basin of Mexico communities) today. Too often we as archaeologists dive into our projects with our own research questions in mind, rarely taking into consideration whether or not the topics we focus on are important to local communities. Collaborating early on creates avenues for integrating topics that emphasize our interests as researchers as well as the interests of the communities most impacted by our work.

Xaltocan Museum

Among other things, my conversations with community members revealed a particular interest in the lives and practices of Xaltocan’s Postclassic rulers, an understudied topic at Xaltocan. There was also a strong interest in understanding the cultural practices that distinguished Xaltocan from other Postclassic Basin of Mexico polities. In order to address these topics and to learn more about the nature of leadership and community identity at Postclassic Xaltocan, I conducted excavations at Cerrito Central, a large mound located near the modern town center. These excavations recovered the remains of successive monumental buildings that likely served as the residences of Xaltocan’s Postclassic leaders. Data collected from in and around these buildings, which dated to roughly the Early (AD 900-1240), Middle (AD 1240-1350), and Late Postclassic (1350-1521), provided a better understanding of the ways in which leadership strategies shifted over time and in response to changing local and regional dynamics.

Joel and Isidro mix soil, water, and cactus sap to create cement to build the replicas.

Excavations at Cerrito Central recovered important data concerning the everyday practices of Xaltocan’s leaders throughout the Postclassic. However many of the most interesting findings were associated with the Middle Postclassic, the periods during which Xaltocan reached peak political prominence in the region. In particular, the recovery of two ritual spaces—one private and one public—revealed the various practices and implements used by Xaltocan’s leaders to interact with the gods.

The private ritual space was a small room that contained the remains of five successive altars. The altars and the wall foundations surrounding the room were lined along the surface with ceramic fragments. The public area was an open patio just north of the altar room. The patio contained the remains of a ceremonial hearth—which also incorporated ceramic fragments—and a large ritual deposit. Thus, in both spaces ceramic fragments were used to mark or outline ritual space. Both spaces were also associated with burning practices. The private rituals involved the use of censers and braziers to contain smoking copal resin, whereas the public ritual involved an open fire that burned in the ceremonial hearth. Combined, these findings provide evidence for a complex ritual program at Xaltocan that involved ritual symbols that have not been observed elsewhere in the Basin of Mexico.

Image of the museum exhibit with all three vitrines and information plaques.

I concluded that the ritual features and implements recovered in these Middle Postclassic contexts spoke to the research questions we designed. The ritual practices of Xaltocan’s leaders reflect their political and religious role in the community. Furthermore, the use of ceramic fragments to outline ritual spaces reflects a culturally distinctive practice that may have been unique to Xaltocan. In order to make these findings more accessible to the local community, I returned to Xaltocan in 2017 to install a permanent museum exhibit that would showcase our recent findings and provide detailed information about their significance. This exhibit was funded by a Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology grant. The exhibit was designed to showcase the Middle Postclassic ritual implements of Xaltocan’s rulers and to teach visitors about the nature of ritual practice during the Postclassic. As a permanent installation, the exhibit will serve as a learning tool for generations to come.

Vitrine containing the objects recovered from the ritual deposit.

The exhibit includes artifacts recovered from Middle Postclassic ritual contexts as well as replicas of some of the ritual features. These artifacts and features are contained in three large vitrines. The first vitrine contains a replica of one of the altars recovered in the private room, the second contains a replica of the ceremonial hearth, and the third contains the reconstructed artifacts recovered from a ritual deposit. A plaque with detailed descriptions of the features and objects accompanies each vitrine. A map of the excavation area is also included, which allows visitors to understand the spatial relationships of the objects on display. The exhibit also includes a large informational panel that outlines the nature ritual practice at Xaltocan and in the Basin of Mexico, with special focus on the New Fire ceremony. The second and third vitrines contain the remnants of a public ritual that may have been an early version of the New Fire ceremony, which would become one of the most important state-sponsored rituals of the Aztecs.

Kirby Farah speaks to opening ceremony attendees about the exhibit.

The exhibit was completed in August 2017 and we held an opening ceremony to mark the event. Attendees included government officials and members of local cultural and educational institutions, but most attendees were children and families from Xaltocan. I kicked off the event with an introduction to the exhibit and the directors of the local museum and cultural center also spoke. I was also happy to welcome most members of the original excavation team, who spoke about their experiences and answered questions. As a follow-up to the success of the opening ceremony and the exhibit, a symposium is being planned form summer 2019. The symposium will be future-focused, and address the relationship between local patrimony and archaeological research at Xaltocan.

NYAS Lecture 9/24: The Inner Lives of Passively Suicidal Americans: Why Racism Isn’t Just Bad for Black People

Dr. Carolyn Rouse

The Wenner-Gren Foundation is excited to announce the return of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series which will be kicking off on September 24th at 5:45 PM at its new location, Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065. Carolyn Rouse, Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University will be presenting, “The Inner Lives of Passively Suicidal Americans: Why Racism Isn’t Just Bad for Black People”. Julie Livingston, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at 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. You may also register by phone, 212-298-8640 or 212-298-8600. Early registration is strongly recommended since seating is limited. For the buffet supper, registration is also required. 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.

Again please also note that the NYAS lecture series is no longer being held at the offices of The Wenner-Gren FoundationAll talks in this series take place at Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065.

Inequalities are increasing locally and globally on a vast scale. At the same time that these disparities, which are experienced by racialized groups, certain nationalities, by women, poor people, immigrants and the elderly, are explained by media and politicians as the natural and unavoidable order of things.  How are we to understand these relationships between untold wealth and growing immiseration?  How do we understand the way the stories about inequality are told? Who has access to information about the production of inequality? Who is able to contest its production?

Often inequality and equality are researched and discussed in isolation. Yet, anthropological research in archeology, linguistics, human biology, and socio-cultural anthropology has the capacity to both document the grim actualities of the current conjuncture and to show how inequality is linked to systems of production, distribution and domination. Both in the past and present the issues of the equality and inequality are inextricably linked and connected to the way the way disparities are explained, legitimated, and turned into the taken-for-granted.

This lecture series takes a global perspective on the entanglements of wealth, poverty, and inequality as well as the popularization of narratives of inevitable disparity and the silencing of struggles for social justice and equality. Speakers will explore these entanglement including the human experience and materiality of equality, their mediation through different channels of communication, their ideological justifications through concepts of race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, hereditary, class and status, and the punitive power to enforce these ideas through incarceration, surveillance, criminalization. We ask how knowledge about power and inequality empowers resistance and struggle.

About the Speakers:

Carolyn Rouse is a professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University whose work explores how evidence is used to make particular claims about race and social inequality. She is the author of Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam (Univ.of California Press 2004) Uncertain Suffering: Racial Healthcare Disparities and Sickle Cell Disease  (Univ. of California Press 2009) and Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment (NYU Press 2016). In 2016 she created the Ethnographic Data Visualization Lab (VizE Lab): a medium for examining complex ethnographic data.  One current project brings together 60 years of biological data with 60 years of social scientific data to study epigenetic effects on physical development. In addition, Rouse is a filmmaker who has produced, directed, and/or edited a number of documentaries including Chicks in White Satin (1994), Purification to Prozac: Treating Mental Illness in Bali (1998), and Listening as a Radical Act: World Anthropologies and the Decentering of Western Thought (2015).

 

Julie Livingston is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at New York University, where she is also affiliated with the Anthropology Department. She is interested in the human body as a moral condition and mode of consciousness, in care as a social practice, and in taxonomy and relationships that upend or complicate it. Her work is at the intersection of history, anthropology, and public health. A MacArthur fellow, Julie Livingston is the author of Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic(Duke University Press, 2012), Debility and the Moral Imagination in Botswana (Indiana University Press 2005), and numerous articles and essays on topics including aging, disability, disgust, suicide, and medical photography. She is currently working on two new projects. The first deals with the problem of growth and consumption as seen from southern Africa. The second is an ethnographic project on co-morbidity and aging in New York.

A dinner and wine reception will precede the talk. Buffet dinner begins 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.

Wenner-Gren Launches New Online Applications!

The Wenner-Gren Foundation has a new online system to accept applications for all of its research grants, conference/workshop grants, and fellowships.  We will now accept all materials (e.g., application forms, CVs, project bibliographies) exclusively online; applicants no longer need to mail us printed duplicates.

To get started, please review the Grant Program descriptions on our website and verify that you meet all program and application season pre-requisites.  Then follow the instructions on the Access the Online Application page to initiate a submission.

To access the online application, you must first establish an account with SurveyMonkey Apply by submitting an email address that will serve as your primary means of contact. Once you have established an account and verified that you are eligible for the current season and program, you can begin filling out the Grant Application Form.  You can save and edit application responses multiple times, up until the application deadline.  Be careful not to submit your application before you are ready to; once you have, you will longer be able to edit content.  (Please note: It’s a good idea to begin your application several weeks in advance of the program deadline.  Make every effort to avoid putting off your submission until the last moment, when the website may be less responsive due to applicant traffic).

For more information, visit the Programs section of the Wenner-Gren Foundation website.