Wenner-Gren Coronavirus Guidance

As a Foundation, we have an ethical obligation to ensure that the research we fund is not detrimental to the broader communities affected by our work. In light of the emergence and spread of COVID-19, we are asking our active grantees to suspend research activities involving face-to-face contact at this time.  This should not come as a surprise, as many countries have called for social distancing as a means of slowing the spread of the disease.

Please know that we are committed to working with our grantees on modifications to methodologies, budgets, and timelines to respond to their particular needs.  If you need to leave your field site and return home to ensure your safety, and the safety of your interlocutors, please feel free to do so and contact us afterwards.

Conference and Workshop grant recipients should modify their plans in light of the evolving situation.  No meetings should be held at this time.  We will work with grant recipients who wish to reschedule their event for a later date.

If you have any questions about an active grant or fellowship, please contact the Grant Administrator for your program directly.

If you have a question regarding a pending or future application please contact applications@wennergren.org.  Please note should your pending application be approved and a delay is needed, we will work with you at that time.

 

Meet Our Wadsworth African Fellows: Leyya Hoosen

This month the Foundation would like to introduce Leyya Hoosen, who thanks to the Wadsworth African Fellowship will continue her PhD training in social anthropology at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, under the supervision of Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon. Read the previous entry in this series here.

Islam in Johannesburg, South Africa, is shaped by multiple historical and contemporary migrations. While the Sunni sect of Islam predominates here, dynamic movements of Muslims into the city create fast growing populations of other sects of the religion, particularly Shia and Sufi influences. This brings great diversity to everyday practices of the religion. In addition, the advent of new forms of media and digital technologies reshapes everyday practices by making new connections and modifying gendered identities and spiritual ontologies. My research explores these re-shapings of narratives of Islamic practice in the context of the emergence of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) with a view to unearthing ways in which Islam is re-imagined through future narratives.

To address the changes that come with 4IR, particularly in the context of the Global South and in a climate of severe Islamophobia, we need to think beyond simply the commercial implications of 4IR in order to understand its implications for narratives of lived experience. I explore (re)interpretations of Islam through its changing and adaptive practices, through ways in which Islam is (re)thought in the present and for the future, and how these (re)imaginings prompt a series of adaptations to lived religious practices. I focus on the influence of media and digital technologies on how Muslims engage with each other and with their religion as they reshape it to fit their current context. My study is located in diverse sites of Johannesburg which are underrepresented in the literature on Islam in this city.

By pursuing a PhD, I wish to add to local and global academic discourse regarding different and changing practices of Islam in this digital age. In this time of widespread Islamophobia, I wish to offer narratives that expand our understandings of Islam and how it is practiced and lived. I want to illuminate diverse factors – ranging from theologist and feminist movements to the re-imagination of Islam – which affect the negotiations of identity within Islam. This will enable my role as both a public intellectual in the Islamic community and a critical scholar of the severely under-researched new forms of Islam in South Africa in the wider context of digital transformation.

NYAS Lecture 2/24: Forest for the Trees: Spirit, Psychedelic Science, and the Politics of Ecologizing Thought as a Planetary Ethics

On February 24th The New York Academy of Sciences lecture series returns when Dr. Eduardo Kohn, Associate Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, presents, “Forest for the Trees: Spirit, Psychedelic Science, and the Politics of Ecologizing Thought as a Planetary Ethics”. Dr. O. Hugo Benavides, Department Chair and Professor of Anthropology, Fordham University, will act as discussant.

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.

What kind of guidance can those worlds I call forests provide for living well on Earth in times of planetary ecological trouble? I approach this question as an anthropologist. That is, as someone who is committed to cultivating forms of radical listening as I move among modes of being that can, at times, dissolve me in my quest to understand who I am amid a larger flow of life that vastly exceeds me. Reflecting on my ongoing anthropological, and increasingly collaborative, research in and around indigenous communities of Ecuador’s Upper Amazon, and drawing on and distorting immersive ethnographic technologies in the process, my goal is to use what I thus might learn to help find a path that can orient us (humans) in our attempts to live well in relation to the many kinds of others that make and hold us.

About the Speaker:

Eduardo Kohn is Associate Professor of Anthropology at McGill University. He studies the intimate relationships that the indigenous peoples of Ecuador’s Upper Amazon have with one of Earth’s most complex ecosystems. Focusing on how they understand and communicate with rainforest beings through hunting and gathering, as well as through dreams and psychedelic plant use, has led him to the audacious conclusion that complex living systems manifest “mind” at a variety of scales and in a variety of ways.  From this he develops an empirically robust framework to understand our broader relationship to such mind-like phenomena with the goal of rethinking how to live in the face of unprecedented anthropogenic climate change. His prize-winning book How Forests Think has been translated into nine languages and has inspired the planetary ecological imaginary in a surprisingly diverse number of ways ranging from an eponymous symphony premiering at Lincoln Center to international museum exhibits.

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

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Joseph Jay Sosa

Figure 1 2013 Protest Against Conversion Therapy Being Debated in Congress. Photograph by Author

In 2011 Joseph Jay Sosa received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Sao Paulo Has Never Been Pinker: Dilemmas in Representing LGBT People in the Public Sphere,” supervised by Dr. William Mazzarella. After Dr. Sosa received an Engaged Anthropology Grant in 2017 he was able to return to the field the following year to aid engaged activities on “LGBT Statistical Activists in Brazil: Training New Activists for the LGBT Pride Survey”.

Public debates over state recognition of LGBT rights has been a contentious site for political action in Brazil over the past decade. These ‘sex wars’ have taken place over anti-discrimination legislation, but also through moral panics about sex education and queer artistic censorship. And they have taken place against an increasingly hostile remarks by high profile politicians as well as the highest number of reported anti-trans and anti-gay murders in the world. For activists connected to Brazil’s LGBT social movement, these changes represent a historical reversal of early social movement victories in Brazil’s democratic period.

Figure 2 2018 Workshop activity. Participants are asked to provide examples of the “lack of representativeness of LGBT+ agendas and bodies in politics.” Photograph by author

With support from the Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, I conducted fieldwork from 2011 to 2013 with São Paulo-based LGBT activists who participated in civil society organizations, in social media and protest publics, and in public administrative offices on the municipal, state, and federal level. In hearings, street protests, and in organizational meetings held in union halls, classrooms, and municipal health clinics, activists described what they characterized as increasing anti-sex attitudes in their daily lives and in the media they consumed. Activists had different names to describe a growing erotophobic conservatism that they noted in the political public sphere and sometimes in their daily lives.

Since 2013, Brazil has entered what scholars and observers have characterized as the “long Brazilian Crisis,”[1] fueled by economic instability, corruption scandals, and political controversies and a rapid partisan shift. Mass protests across the ideological spectrum have become part of Brazil’s urban and news media landscapes. The instability led to the highly polarizing removal from office of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president in 2016. In this context, ideological disputes over gender expression and sexuality have given a further cultural shape to this crisis and become a primary battleground in a highly polarized society. Moral panics over LGBT panics over artistic performances and educational policies have led to increasing censorship practices. In October 2018, presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro played upon a moral panic that the government wanted to implement a national public school curriculum teaching homosexuality and pedophilia to children. The successful disinformation campaign was a large factor in Bolsonaro’s electoral success.

With the support of a Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant, I return to São Paulo in 2018 in order to re-engage with activists and community members about how queer life and politics had changed since my original fieldwork. I partnered with a community organization, Vota LGBT, a non-partisan collective of activists, researchers, and media producers who collect and publish information on the political views of the LGBT population. The collective was formed in 2014, and included university student activists with whom I had previously conducted fieldwork. Together, we presented information about the current challenges facing trans and queer communities in Brazil as well as current social movement campaigns to improve the lives of LGBT Brazilians. Vota LGBT also used the opportunity to show community members their data collection techniques and explored ways community members might generate research projects meaningful to them. In our four presentations, open discussion with led to different outcomes. In one meeting, we participated in a brainstorming exercise, where individuals mapped their most pressing needs on local and federal levels (see images 2 and 3). At another workshop, participants developed questions they would like to employ in future community surveys.

Figure 3 Session leaders discuss potential topics raised by participants. Photograph by author.

Although survey data is regularly collected by researchers regarding LGBT domestic status, violence victimization rates, and even consumer habits, less information has been conducted around their views on pressing social and political questions. Vota LGBT conducts crowd surveys at Queer Pride events in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Vota LGBT  hopes to increase its surveys and expand the reach of LGBT perspectives into Brazil’s news media.

[1] See Grigera, Juan, Jeffery R. Webber, Ludmila Abilio, Ricardo Antunes, Marcelo Badaró Mattos, Sabrina Fernandes, Rodrigo Nunes, Leda Paulani, and Sean Purdy. 2019. “The Long Brazilian Crisis: A Forum.” Historical Materialism 27 (2): 59–121.

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Catalina Villamil

Participants from Makerere and KIU, and Dr. Villamil, on World Anatomy Day.

We’re delighted to present another great addition to the Engaged Anthropology Grant blog series with a post from Catalina Villamil who had the opportunity last year to return to Uganda to share the results of her Dissertation Fieldwork Grant.

In 2015, I received a Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to study the evolution of head and neck anatomy in humans and our ancestors. One of the clearest adaptations in our ancestors is the adoption of bipedalism, and a large part of paleoanthropological research is focused on understanding when, how, and why bipedalism evolved. Oftentimes these questions must be answered from a limited number of fossil remains, and so biological anthropologists want to get as much information as possible from as many parts as possible. My research showed that there is little or no influence of bipedalism on the shape of the head or the underlying relationships between the head and the neck, which suggests many assumptions about locomotion from fossils may be incorrect or premature.

Department of Anatomy at Makerere University, where the lecture and workshop took place.

My project entailed the collection of data on hundreds of human skeletons from Europe and Africa, in order to sample human variation. As part of this work, I visited the Department of Anatomy at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences in Kampala, Uganda, where the Galloway Osteological Collection of recent East African human skeletons is housed. This collection is vitally important in biological anthropology, as collections of African skeletal material, and in particular recent material, are rare. Further, although Africa is home to a great deal of human variation, it is not well represented in biological anthropology or anatomical research. The academic community at Makerere was welcoming and deeply interested in promoting the use of this collection, but without access to the resources that make much of osteological research possible. As a result, I wanted to go back and share my results with them, as well as other resources that could be used by faculty and students to expand research using the collection. In 2019, I received the Engaged Anthropology Grant, which enabled me to visit Uganda again and share my results with the academic community there, and to provide a workshop on anatomical and osteological research methods.

I visited Kampala on the week of October 14, 2019 to coincide with World Anatomy Day, which is held worldwide on October 15. While there, I gave a public lecture on my research findings utilizing the Galloway Collection. Students and faculty from Makerere University, as well as from Kampala International University (KIU), attended the lecture, as did representatives of the Anatomical Society of Uganda. The next day, I also provided a methods workshop, Collecting and analyzing human osteological data, to the faculty and students at Makerere and KIU. In the workshop, I discussed osteological methods for aging and sexing, data collection standards and tools, and methods for analyzing morphological data. In addition, I provided the attendees manuals and other resources, as well as short tutorials on freely available software programs and comparative datasets that they can use to carry out data collection and analysis. With Wenner-Gren funding, I was able to bring specialized calipers that can be used for data collection on skeletal materials, to assist with the workshop discussion of standard measurements and tools. These tools were donated to the department at the end of the workshop. Dr. William Buwembo, chair of the department, and Dr. Ian Munabi hope Makerere students will use these tools and information to increase research use of the osteological collections and to improve representation of African variation in published research. As part of this workshop I also met with several graduate students who are doing research both at Makerere and KIU, and we discussed their methods and research questions, leading to some productive discussions on work that has already been done by biological anthropologists and how it relates to the work being done at these two universities.

Grounds of Mulago Hospital at Makerere University, where the Departmetn of Anatomy is located.

In addition to the lecture and workshop, I met with faculty members and others with the hope of strengthening collaborations between Makerere and my own university and creating an ongoing academic relationship. Like many universities in the US, the Makerere College of Health Sciences faces growing class sizes but limited resources, especially for research. We hope that we will be able to identify funding opportunities that will benefit both institutions and that will fund the next generation of anatomy- and osteology-oriented researchers at Makerere. At the end of my weeklong visit, I also met with collections staff in charge of skeletal and paleontological materials at the Uganda National Museum. Museum curators would like to expand knowledge and use of the collections at the National Museum, as well as to facilitate student training and the creation of educational materials for the Ugandan public. We hope to develop an ongoing collaboration as well.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: David Bond

David Bond addresses Environmental Forum on St. Croix (May 31 – June 1, 2019). Hosted by the St. Croix Foundation, the forum brought together local environmental leaders, non-profits, and government officials to confront the environmental legacy of oil refining on the island and envision a more sustainable St. Croix. Photo by Nicole Canegata.

In 2010 David Bond received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on, “Hydrocarbon Frontiers: Experts and the Social Life of Facts at a Caribbean Refinery,” supervised by Dr. Ann Laura Stoler. In 2019 Dr. Bond returned to St. Croix when he received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on, “St. Croix After HOVENSA”. 

Saint Croix stands at a climate crucible. For the past 50 years, the HOVENSA refinery on Saint Croix – for a time, the largest in the world – generated enough wages and tax revenue to support the US territory in the Caribbean. Such fiscal wealth came at tremendous environmental cost, and in 2011 the EPA uncovered a litany of egregious lapses that culminated in a record-breaking $700 million dollar fine against the refinery. A few months later, the refinery shutdown abruptly, forcing massive cuts to the territorial government budget and sending the islands economy into steep decline.

David Bond and Environmental Forum attendees. Photo by Nicole Canegata.

Five years later, with Saint Croix still in a tailspin, an unprecedented Category 5 hurricane hit the US Virgin Islands. Two weeks later, a second Category 5 hurricane slammed into Saint Croix damaging 90% of the buildings on the island and wiping out all the public infrastructure. Weighed down by the destruction of fossil fuels in environmental and climate form, Saint Croix now stands at a crossroads: many residents want to break away from fossil fuels and rebuild their island in a radically sustainable way yet state officials seem intent on doubling down on fossil fuels as the only way to generate the funds needed to rebuild and buttress the island against the coming storms. A climate crucible, one with immense stakes for those on the island and of wider significance for the rest of the world struggling with how to face up to the challenge of climate change.

Former HOVENSA refinery (at one time, the largest refinery in the world). After an egregious history of pollution was uncovered in 2011, the refinery shutdown to avoid paying a record breaking $700 million fine. Today, the site is being reopened as the Lime Tree Bay Refinery and Energy Hub (over the protests of the local community as now fines have been paid and the immense environmental contamination is being swept under the rug by federal agencies. Photo by Nicole Canegata

I was asked if I might visit the island in June 2019 to join a community conversation about how to best navigate these issues. Support from Wenner Gren helped make that visit possible, and allowed me to share findings of previous research with community leaders and chart out new lines of collaborative research with the community. An essay I wrote about the history of fossil fuels on the island became a minor actor in the unfolding drama (“Oil in the Caribbean,” Bond 2017). My research for this essay uncovered some of the refineries egregious environmental lapses and the backstory on the $700 million EPA settlement that was sidestepped and then brushed aside after the refinery closed. Although my essay hardly made a splash in the scholarly fields it addressed, about a year after it was published I started getting emails from Saint Croix. Folks on St. Croix told me it provided a new language for their lives, that it explained the history they lived and felt but didn’t know how to explain and confront. I don’t know of any higher praise for work in the social sciences. This past June, I visited the island to participate in an Environmental Forum convening on the island to discuss climate resilience and sustainability on the Saint Croix. Local environmental leaders asked me to give a keynote address that would share the arc of my essay with local leaders and key stakeholders, and then participate in a multi-day discussion of where the island might go next. It was truly an honor to spend a few days brainstorming with such a group of spirited leaders. Support from an Engaged Anthropology Grant from Wenner Gren also enabled me to conduct additional research in conversation with community concerns to publicize this climate crucible to wider audiences and advance more equitable and sustainable change on the island.

More about the St. Croix Foundation Environmental Forum can be found here.

NYAS Lecture 1/27: On the Infectious Affinities of Viruses, Plants, and Dying Human Bodies: Species’ Shifting Boundaries and Uncertain Futures

The New York Academy of Sciences brings us another great installment of its lecture series on January 27th when Dr. Charles L. Briggs, Alan Dundes Distinguished Professor, Department of Anthropology
University of California, Berkeley, presents, “On the Infectious Affinities of Viruses, Plants, and Dying Human Bodies: Species’ Shifting Boundaries and Uncertain Futures.” Dr. Jennifer Telesca, Assistant Professor of Environmental Justice, Pratt Institute, will act as discussant. 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.

This presentation charts the emergence of precarious futures by conjuring a space between medical anthropology, multispecies ethnography, linguistic anthropology, and zoonosis (exchanges of pathogens between humans and nonhumans). Its analytic task is akin to tossing a deck of cards into the air and trying to grasp how different beings would read their novel configuration. Here the entities unpredictably thrown together include humans, plants, bats, chickens, and viruses, and the forces that induce unforeseeable rearrangements include state efforts to turn environmental destruction into social justice, alternative indigenous socialisms that grant plants agency in imagining futures, and climate change. By tracing how assemblages of rabies viruses and human nerve cells occasion more-than-human speech acts and plants sensorily move between healers’ and patients’ bodies, it pushes against boundaries that would isolate species, ontologies, and subdisciplines.

About the Speaker:

Charles L. Briggs is the Alan Dundes Distinguished Professor in the Department of Anthropology, the Co-Director of the Medical Anthropology Program, Co-Director of the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, and Chair of the Folklore Graduate Program at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include The Wood Carvers of Córdova, New Mexico; Learning How to Ask; Voices of Modernity (with Richard Bauman); Competence in Performance; Stories in the Time of Cholera (with Clara Mantini-Briggs); Making Health Public (with Daniel Hallin); and Tell Me Why My Children Died (with Clara Mantini-Briggs). He has received the James Mooney Award, the Chicago Folklore Prize, Edward Sapir Book Prize, the J. I. Staley Prize, the Américo Paredes Prize, the New Millennium Book Award, the Cultural Horizons Prize, the Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology, and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Lichtenberg-Kolleg, and the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences.

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. 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Julie Velasquez Runk

National Wounaan Chief Diogracio Puchicama Peña at the Jua Numi Hawia Numi Wounaan Podpa NΛm Pömaam (XII Regular National Congress of Wounaan People), March 21, 2019.
Cacique Nacional Wounaan Diogracio Puchicama Peña al Jua Numi Hawia Numi Wounaan Podpa NΛm Pömaam (XII Congreso Nacional Ordinario del Pueblo Wounaan), 21 de marzo de 2019.

In 2015 Dr. Julie Velasquez Runk received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on “Entangled Landscapes of Loss: Emotion, Identity, and Territoriality Post Rosewood Logging in Panama”. In 2018 Dr. Velasquez Runk returned to Panama when she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Harnessing Technological Innovations to Further Community Engagement for Collaborative Archiving, Use, and Publication of Research”.

We sat, once again, around a table in a spare white room in Panama City, the air conditioning providing a respite from the intensely hot and humid rainy season. I was meeting with the indigenous Wounaan authorities of the traditional organization Wounaan Podpa NΛm Pömaam (Wounaan National Congress) and the newly elected authorities of their non-governmental organization the Foundation for the Development of Wounaan People. This time, the internet was down, forcing us to gather around a laptop to gaze at screenshots rather than the websites we could no longer access. After reviewing the work, we brainstormed about how to move forward with a smaller team, a Comite Técnico (Technical Committee), to develop, review, edit, and publish ethnographic multimedia content.

To me this vignette is something of a typical moment in community-based collaborative research. I have been doing collaborative work, a short-hand term that is readily intelligible and easy to translate, with local communities and non-governmental organizations for just over three decades. Such community-based collaborations are a decolonial and multi-vocal method, one in which communities guide the research from planning to write-up. The above vignette is indicative of collaborative research as a recursive process, characterized by flexibility, trust, and communication. And it also reminds that it is very time intensive and costly: this was from our fifth meeting during my fourth trip to Panama in a year, which was two more than I had originally planned. As Wounaan authorities have gotten increasingly active in development, land rights, and other critical efforts, scheduling has gotten increasingly complex.

For a Wenner-Gren Foundation Engaged Anthropology Grant I proposed to work with Wounaan to use technological advances to further collaborative archiving, use, and publication of research. In Panama, over 7,000 Wounaan live in 17 rural villages and urban areas where they elect village and national authorities in the Congress system. Using the results from a Post-Ph.D. Grant on the cultural, political, and ethical entanglements around rosewood logging, Wounaan authorities and I would work on a protocol for collaborative publication. The same globalization that facilitated intensive rosewood exploitation also has brought governmental and non-governmental activities, and with it growing Wounaan concern about the use and control of their cultural material. Recently, Wounaan have asked that I present research results in more multi-media ways, rather than simply written texts. Smart phones, and less so internet, are much more widely available than in the past, offering Wounaan new opportunities to access multi-media research. However, publishing via multi-media requires more detailed attention to collaborative development of materials, particularly because of the use of personally identifiable information, such as audio and video.

Over the course of the year, Wounaan authorities and I discussed how to create normas, norms, for collaborative publication development. We began in late July, in the main rosewood research village, where a two national authorities and I held a community workshop to discuss how to use research images and texts. The end result of that meeting was to keep the communication going, especially between village authorities and national ones, as how to best use research results (including images). For a second meeting in October, I prepared a report on rosewood ecology, ethnobotany, and its commodity chain. I met in Panama City with national Wounaan authorities and also language and cultural experts who had previously worked on a language documentation project. There, we reviewed the rosewood report and I used it as a jumping off point to discuss and show, via a digital projector, several nascent multi-media projects: the rosewood multi-modal (website and book) project, a short video to be distributed by cell-phone on how to access the 60-years of stories from the language documentation work, and a digital archive of Wounaan photographs and material culture being initiated by Liz Lapovsky Kennedy and me in the Mukurtu platform.  We discussed the many decisions that require the co-development—not just co-review—of the materials.

National authorities and I met again in March, just before their national meeting. We determined that the best way to develop such works was via a Technical Committee, which we could discuss with the plenary of the forthcoming congress.

Wounaan came together March 20 – 23 at the Jua Numi Hawia Numi Wounaan Podpa NΛm Pömaam (XII Regular National Congress of Wounaan People). There, authorities and villagers publicly discuss their issues and make decisions, codified in resolutions, on how to advance their interests. Authorities from each village and any villager who could make it, and invited officials and guests met over three days, presided over by the national authorities. I updated the plenary about ongoing work (which included an ethno-ornithology project with national authorities and a village) and asked whether the development of publications from such projects could be done with a Technical Committee. The plenary agreed. At my urging, they also resolved to make a formal resolution requesting all the photos and videos I had taken, which I, in turn, could submit to the human subjects committees that had approved the research.

A short three months later, in June, we held our most recent meeting that I address in the opening vignette. There, even sans internet, we again discussed the multiple multimedia projects. Those had grown to include initial website portions of the rosewood entanglements work: a media and geographical analysis on the Panama’s logging boom presented as a timeline (developed with student Ella Vardeman) and a multi-media and map-laden website on the social and political history of Emberá and Wounaan land rights struggles. We decided to hold the first Technical Committee meeting over the next year, when Liz Lapovsky Kennedy was available so that we could delve into the digital archive. And I committed to fund the Technical Committee for at least the first year, covering the travel and per diem costs of 6-8 participants.

The support of a Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant was fundamental for improving rosewood research publication and strengthening Wounaan sovereignty by taking advantage of technological innovations to further consent and collaboration in the oft-overlooked publication stages.

Nos sentamos, una vez más, alrededor de una mesa en una habitación blanca en la ciudad de Panamá, el aire acondicionado proporciona un respiro de la temporada de lluvias intensamente cálida y húmeda. Me estaba reuniendo con las autoridades indígenas wounaan de la organización tradicional, el Wounaan Podpa NΛm Pömaam (Congreso Nacional del Pueblo Wounaan), y las autoridades recientemente elegidas de su organización no gubernamental, la Fundación para el Desarrollo del Pueblo Wounaan. Esta vez, el internet se había caido, lo que nos obligó a reunirnos alrededor de una computadora portátil para mirar capturas de pantalla en lugar de los sitios web que ya no podíamos acceder. Después de revisar el trabajo, hicimos una lluvia de ideas sobre cómo avanzar con un equipo más pequeño, un Comité Técnico (Technical Committee), para desarrollar, revisar, editar y publicar contenido multimedia etnográfico.

Para mí, esta viñeta es un momento típico en la investigación colaborativa basada en la comunidad. He estado haciendo trabajo colaborativo, un término breve que es fácilmente inteligible y fácil de traducir, con comunidades locales y organizaciones no gubernamentales durante poco más de tres décadas. Tales colaboraciones basadas en la comunidad son un método descolonial y multi-vocal, uno en el que las comunidades guían la investigación desde la planificación hasta la redacción. La viñeta anterior es indicativa de la investigación colaborativa como un proceso recursivo, caracterizado por flexibilidad, confianza y comunicación. Y también recuerda que es muy costoso y requiere mucho tiempo: esto fue de nuestra quinta reunión durante mi cuarto viaje a Panamá en un año, que fue dos más de lo que había planeado originalmente. A medida que las autoridades wounaan se han vuelto cada vez más activas en el desarrollo, los derechos a la tierra y otros esfuerzos críticos, la programación se ha vuelto cada vez más compleja.

Para una subvención de antropología comprometida de la Fundación Wenner-Gren, propuse trabajar con los wounaan para utilizar los avances tecnológicos para un mayor archivo, uso y publicación colaborativos de la investigación. En Panamá, más de 7,000 wounaan viven en 17 comunidades rurales y áreas urbanas donde eligen autoridades locales y nacionales en el sistema del congreso. Usando los resultados de una subvención post-doctoral sobre las conexiones culturales, políticos y éticos en torno a la tala del palo rosa cocobolo, las autoridades wounaan y yo trabajaríamos en un protocolo para la publicación colaborativa. La misma globalización que facilitó la explotación intensiva del cocobolo también ha traído actividades gubernamentales y no gubernamentales, y con ello la creciente preocupación de los wounaan por el uso y control de su material cultural. Recientemente, los wounaan ha pedido que presente los resultados de la investigación en formas más multimedia, en lugar de simplemente textos escritos. Los teléfonos inteligentes, y menos internet, están mucho más disponibles que en el pasado, ofreciendo a los wounaan nuevas oportunidades para acceder a la investigación multimedia. Sin embargo, la publicación a través de multimedia requiere una atención más detallada al desarrollo colaborativo de materiales, particularmente debido al uso de información de identificación personal, como audio y video.

A lo largo del año, las autoridades wounaan y yo conversamos cómo crear normas para el desarrollo de publicaciones colaborativas. Comenzamos a fines de julio, en la comunidad principal de investigación del cocobolo, donde dos autoridades nacionales y yo realizamos un taller comunitario para conversar cómo usar imágenes y textos de investigación. El resultado final de esa reunión fue mantener la comunicación, especialmente entre las autoridades de la comunidad y las nacionales, como la mejor manera de utilizar los resultados de la investigación (incluidas las imágenes). Para una segunda reunión en octubre, preparé un informe sobre la ecología y la etnobotánica del cocobolo y su cadena de valor. Me reuní en la ciudad de Panamá con las autoridades nacionales wounaan y también con expertos en idiomas y cultura que habían trabajado previamente en un proyecto de documentación lingüística. Allí, revisamos el informe de cocobolo y lo utilicé como punto de partida para conversar y mostrar, a través de un proyector digital, varios proyectos multimedia emergentes: el proyecto multimodal (sitio web y libro) de cocobolo, un video corto para ser distribuido por teléfono celular sobre cómo acceder los 60 años de cuentos del trabajo de documentación del idioma, y un archivo digital de fotografías y cultura material wounaan iniciada por Liz Lapovsky Kennedy y yo en la plataforma Mukurtu. Conversamos sobre las muchas decisiones que requieren el desarrollo conjunto, no solo la revisión conjunta, de los materiales. Las autoridades nacionales y yo nos reunimos nuevamente en marzo, justo antes de la reunión nacional. Determinamos que la mejor manera de desarrollar tales trabajos era a través de un Comité Técnico, que podríamos conversar con el plenario del próximo congreso nacional.

Wounaan se reunieron marzo 20 – 23 al Jua Numi Hawia Numi Wounaan Podpa NΛm Pömaam (XII Congreso Nacional Ordinario del Pueblo Wounaan). Allí, las autoridades y las comunidades hablan públicamente sobre sus problemas y toman decisiones, codificadas en resoluciones, sobre cómo promover sus intereses. Las autoridades de cada comunidad y cualquier woun que pudieran participar, e oficiales e huéspedes invitados se reunieron durante tres días, presididos por las autoridades nacionales. Actualicé la sesión plenaria sobre el trabajo en curso (que incluía un proyecto de etnoornitología con las autoridades nacionales y una comunidad) y pregunté si el desarrollo de publicaciones de tales proyectos podría hacerse con un Comité Técnico. El plenario estuvo de acuerdo. A instancias mías, también resolvieron tomar una resolución formal para solicitar todas las fotos y videos que había tomado, que, a su vez, podía presentar a los comités de sujetos humanos que habían aprobado la investigación.

Unos tres meses después, en junio, celebramos nuestra reunión más reciente que abordo en la viñeta de apertura. Allí, incluso sin internet, nuevamente conversamos sobre los múltiples proyectos multimedia. Esos habían crecido para incluir porciones iniciales en borrador del sitio web del trabajo sobre las conexiones con el cocobolo: un análisis de prensa y geografía sobre el auge de la tala de Panamá presentado como una línea de tiempo (desarrollada con la estudiante Ella Vardeman) y un sitio web multimedia y cargado de mapas sobre la historia social y político de las luchas wounaan y emberá por los derechos a la tierra. Decidimos celebrar la primera reunión del Comité Técnico durante el próximo año, cuando Liz Lapovsky Kennedy estuviera disponible para poder profundizar en el archivo digital. Y me comprometí a financiar el Comité Técnico durante al menos el primer año, cubriendo los gastos de viaje y viáticos de 6-8 participantes.

El apoyo de una Subvención de Antropología Comprometida de la Fundación Wenner-Gren fue fundamental para mejorar la publicación de la investigación del cocobolo y fortalecer la soberanía wounaan al aprovechar las innovaciones tecnológicas para obtener un mayor consentimiento y colaboración en las etapas de publicación a menudo ignoradas.

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!