Archive for Engaged Anthropology Grant

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Jane Lynch

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While a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Jane Lynch received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2010 to aid research on “Fashioning Value: Materiality, Cloth, and Political Economy in India,” supervised by Dr. Webb Keane.  In 2016 Dr. Lynch received an Engaged Anthropology Grant which allowed her to return to the field and carry out her project, “Beyond Art and Labor: Representing the Everyday Politics of Weaving in India”.

Last summer, I began work on a collaborative project, organized and executed together with textile weavers in a town in Central India.  This project emerged as an outgrowth of my dissertation research, substantial parts of which were based in this town, which is famous for the eponymously named “Chanderi” cloth produced there.  Many of my collaborators were thus old friends and informants.  The focus of our work was to create a temporary “pop-up” exhibition, which aimed to re-envision—and present, as a catalyst for dialogue—the ways in which the practice and process of handloom weaving are represented.

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The 34 photographs included in the exhibition were exemplary of phenomena that weavers and traders showed me during my research to explain the work they do, the ways in which business is conducted in Chanderi, and the possibilites for reimagining both.  These photographs challenge conventional representations of handloom weaving in Chanderi, which emphasize a predictable, unidirectional technical process.  Put differently, they foreground dimensions of the weaving process that at first, appear to be either outside of or deviations from a normal course of production but are in fact integral to the making of cloth.  We organized these images into three groups, focusing on: (1) the homes and domestic lives of weavers; (2) the organization of business and profit; and (3) how weavers create value through the reuse of cast-off yarn and cloth.  Together, these photographs drew attention to aspects of Chanderi weaving that are often hidden from public view and discourse.

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These photographs revealed the work of weaving in Chanderi as part of domestic life.  Everyday activities—such as caring for children, bending down in prayer, and counting to see if enough cash has been saved for school fees—are interwoven with the production of cloth.  Looms are the foundations of homes in which weaving is the family business.  Both the technical skill and business of weaving are learned within families, often while sitting next to a parent (Image 1).  Looms also reveal traces of the people who spend long hours sitting in front of them working.  The stickers of political parties, cricket players, and gods adhered to their wooden frames offer one example of this (Image 2).

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These photographs also documented the organization of business and profit in Chanderi’s weaving industry.  These activities are rooted in social values and expectations.  One articulation of this is the principal and aspiration of shubh labh, which—in the words of one trader from Chanderi—translates into English as “profit with goodness” (Image 3).  These photographs show how account books (i.e., both the ledgers kept by traders and middlemen as well as the small diaries, referred to locally as sargas, kept by weavers) are used to record exchanges of raw materials, finished cloth, and cash (Image 4).  We also documented the aspects of the weaving process (e.g., street-warping and the dressing of the loom) that are unaccounted for in these ledgers, but which nevertheless carry a cost, typically borne by weavers.

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At the end of each warp, weavers in Chanderi are left with and collect scraps of cloth.  They acquire remnants in other ways too.  For example, cloth that has been rejected in processes of “quality control.”  Such cloth—particularly that which has been put to new use—challenges the representation of weaving as a predictable and uni-directional process with a neatly defined beginning and end.  For example, one photograph showed a red salwar suit made from leftover material (Image 5).  From the remnants of her own weaving, this weaver stitched the clothing that she wore on her wedding day.  Another photograph showed a men’s dress shirt tailored out of “corporate scraps” (Image 6).  This cloth had originally been woven as curtains for the retail company, Fabindia, but was rejected during the “quality control” process.  Remnants are also used by weavers to give as gifts, to decorate their homes, and save for future needs.

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In conceiving of and planning for the pop-up exhibition, I invited weavers and others in Chanderi to participate in the project of re-envisioning and representing the practice and process of weaving.  The exhibition was also organized so that it could be viewed freely.  Instead of displaying the photographs in a private, interior space, we used a broadly accessible, public space.  The openness of the exhibition was, in part, an effort to dispel concerns on the part of some weavers that a more formal event would be dominated by the interests and presence of local traders and middlemen.  By using walls in the town’s central market, Sadaar Bazaar, as the site of the pop-up exhibition, we sought to encourage spontaneous experiences of viewing, discussion, and engagement (Image 7).  All visitors were invited to ask questions, share their thoughts, and write down their reactions as part of the formal record of the event (Image 8).

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By bringing the diverse perspectives of weavers to the foreground, this project aimed to help cultivate more equitable and inclusive conversations about the stakes and significance of handloom weaving.  Rather than looking at textiles as they fit with formal representations of their processes of production, the exhibition revealed instances where the purposes and possibilities of cloth were reclaimed, reconceived, and reimagined by weavers.  Calling attention not only to what is hidden by conventional representations of the production process, but also to what is imagined in this process, this approach brings to the center of analysis the uncertainty, possibilities, and fantasies bound up in the process of production.  As an anthropologist, the “dialogic editing” involved in this project unsettled aspects of my original ethnography, even as it came to ground my new analyses—and imaginings—of it.

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Engaged Anthropology Grant: Madhura Lohokare

Siddhivinayak College Workshop III

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

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

Workshops on gender, masculinity and urban space:

S.P.College I

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

Siddhivinayak College Workshop IV

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

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

A short-term neighborhood mapping project in Moti Peth:

Panels on Mapping Small Businesses

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

Panels of Recipes and Street Food Places in the Neighborhood

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

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

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

Exhibition I

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

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

Exhibition II

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

Exhibition III

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

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Eric Hirsch

Papelote describing critiques of the Desco NGO’s 1.5-year sustainability projects at the Lari Workshop

In 2013 while a doctoral student at the University of Chicago Eric Hirsch received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Investing in Indigeneity: Development, Promise, and Public Life in Andean Peru’s Colca Valley,” supervised by Dr. Justin Richland. Upon receiving an Engaged Anthropology Grant in 2017 Dr. Hirsch was able to return to Peru to aid engaged activities on “After Development: Reconsidering Investment’s Promises with Participant Testimony”.

“After Development” was an engagement project I carried out in June and July of 2017, run in collaboration with local partners in the villages of Lari and Yanque in Andean Peru’s Colca Valley. For this project, I asked a small selection of Lari and Yanque residents that had been participants in one of the region’s many small-scale environmental and economic sustainability projects to offer their feedback on those projects in six workshops. Their audience consisted of former contract employees of the Center for the Study and Promotion of Development (or Desco) NGO who had worked on short-term development projects in these two villages. Most of those NGO projects, including one I followed as part of my original Wenner-Gren-supported research, lasted between 1.5 and 2 years and had ended in the region by late 2014. The Engaged Anthropology Grant allowed me to pay people for their labor time attending the workshops and to leave each village workshop group a set of digital voice recorders.

A focus group debates the core elements of their project idea

The six workshops that I organized in collaboration with villager and NGO-staffer partners allowed me to triangulate dissemination of my ethnographic data on the sustainable development investments I followed in those villages with two key activities: (a) critical reflections from people who had received sustainability investments, capacity-building, and supervision for the length of a locally typical 1.5 to 2-year project, about how they felt those projects’ impacts three years later; and (b) the listening and feedback of the development institution staff members that oversaw those investments but were now unaffiliated.

The workshops were broken into three components. First, I described my research. I told my workshop audiences that I had lived in the Colca Valley between 2013 and 2015 to assess the local implications of the rather sudden global idea that indigeneity was a development asset and a key to ecological well-being, after it was long seen within Peru as a liability to be suppressed. I traced the ways that the promise of profitable indigeneity was put to use in NGOs like Desco and other projects that populated the region since the mid-1990s. I also described how my research focus built on older literature on sustainability, participatory development, and NGOs to discern a linkage between the Andes’ small-scale entrepreneurship investments and the region’s new large-scale extractive expansionism rooted in the idea that the Andean region was a space of abundance.

Project ideas from three small villager focus groups

The second component of our engagement workshop consisted of partner interviews and focus groups in which former participants voiced their critiques of the projects they were part of between 2013 and 2014. Their testimonies, recorded in digital files, in my field notes, and in marker on papelotes (see image), revealed important aspects of the impacts of NGO intervention. The NGO’s main investments took the form of seed capital for entrepreneurs. We found that 50% of participants were still building the enterprise the NGO helped them set up in 2013-2014 three years later. In my discussions with Fabiola Dapino, one of the former Desco staff members who took part in the Lari workshop, she was ecstatic that the number of continuing entrepreneurs was so high—atypically high, in her analysis. However, we also found that a limited infusion of seed capital was not on its own enough support for new entrepreneurs. Those who had not continued a venture for which they had received project support reported that “we didn’t have enough money.”

Project ideas from three small villager focus groups

This second component of the workshop revealed the unsurprising correlation between pre-project income and the persistence of project-supported entrepreneurial ventures. But it also elucidated that the highly visible presence of NGO projects in the region during the earlier part of this decade created the false hope that infusions of investment for economically viable indigenous-branded tourism, retail, and agricultural ventures would inevitably lead to market success. This was a critique that former NGO employees at the workshop acknowledged without pushing back. Indeed, based on that critical testimony, Ms. Dapino has begun work on a memo to her NGO-based colleagues with recommendations seeking to improve project design.

More broadly, in our discussions nearly all workshop participants reported feeling abandoned by short-term NGO projects. Not only did participants describe them as too brief to exert fundamental economic or environmental change. They also lamented the exit of Desco’s projects as the organization faced its own scarce funding.

Project ideas from three small villager focus groups

Third, villager groups spent the last days of the workshop constructing their ideal version of a future local project that would in their estimation improve village life. While the former project participants were liberal with their eviscerating critiques of the 1.5- to 2-year projects, their own projects proposed improvements but were far from structurally transformative.

Former Desco NGO employee Fabiola Dapino offers her perspective

They proposed familiar NGO-style projects, intervening with more generous budgets, increased attention from a sponsoring investor organization, and an emphasis on having villagers themselves initiate project design instead of offering “input” at the end of the “participatory” planning process. Unchanged was their emphasis on the development of a tourism industry and of charismatic crops for export such as quinoa; uninspected was a faith in entrepreneurship and markets. This apparent lack of transformative ideas was a surprise especially given the burgeoning scholarly conversations about the rise of adaptation tactics, community-level transitions, and post-development alternatives in places where conventional growth is meeting its environmental limits.

However, a second surprising finding from the villagers’ ideal project design session perhaps explains the first: the workshop was so familiar as an interactional genre whose hierarchies and prescribed participant structures perpetuated a specific template of incremental technocratic change. I had hoped to use the workshop format to subvert, or at least openly question, the hierarchies between urban-based technocratic NGO employees and rural villagers. What resulted, instead, was a critical but still hierarchical listening session.

Yanque workshop participants, with certificates

Ultimately, workshop participants were significantly more critical of the fact that NGO projects were so short and involved only minimal formal follow-up, and were now leaving the region entirely, than they were of the flaws and blind spots of specific projects. As I continue my engagement with Lari, Yanque, and other Colca Valley communities, my new research questions and future collaborations will build on that last finding from the Wenner-Gren workshop as an inquiry into how villagers are working through challenges to their economic and ecological well-being in the wake of a wave of development projects.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Asmeret Mehari

Mzee Matimba giving a speech during opening ceremony for the poster exhibition

While a doctoral student at the University of Florida Asmeret Mehari received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2009 to aid research on “Decolonizing the Pedagogy of Archaeology in East Africa,” supervised by Dr. Peter R. Schmidt. In 2016 Dr. Mehari received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Toward Neighborhood Dialogue: Archaeology, Paleoanthropology, Oldupai Museum, and Community Development in Oldupai (Olduvai) Gorge, Tanzania”.

I envisioned this engaged anthropology project in collaboration with Dr. Kokeli Ryano from the University of Dodoma to focus on encouraging neighborhood dialogue among researchers, museum professionals, and local communities in Tanzania. We conducted the project in Dar es Salaam and Oldupai Gorge to fulfill three objectives: 1) collaborating with local professionals, 2) engaging the Maasai community of Oldupai Gorge in northern Tanzania, and 3) communicating research results to the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) Department of Archaeology and Heritage, and to the Antiquities Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. We fulfilled all objectives; however, this project mostly took place in Oldupai Gorge, home to the Maasai and a place of pilgrimage for numerous international tourists and researchers interested in human origins and development. Thus I share here our experience from Oldupai Gorge.

In 2010-2012, using historical and ethnographic inquiries, one of the four themes I examined in my dissertation fieldwork was: the role of African scholars in decolonizing and transforming archaeological practices and its pedagogies in Tanzania and Uganda, particularly in improving relationships with local people who reside in areas of interest for archaeological research and field school projects.  The research result suggests the need to continuously problematizing and localizing archaeology, critiquing and transforming national heritage institutions, redesigning archaeology curricula, and holding dialogues with local communities[1].

We used Oldupai as a case study since it has been an area of archaeo-paleoanthropological interest for almost a century; thus, the most researched and visited archaeo-paleoanthropological site in Tanzania. Of course, its status as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), and its 50-year old on-site museum – the Oldupai Museum, all validate our choice. Despite such reputations, the relationship between the Maasai community and researchers (archaeologists and paleoanthropologists) as well as the Maasai residents and the Oldupai Museum remained uninvestigated. Furthermore, Oldupai Gorge has neither access to formal education nor medical facilities. Maasai residents have two additional challenges: malaria and, during dry season, shortage of water.

Kokeli Ryano presenting archaeological and paleoanthropological perspectives to community members

In 2011-2012, we witnessed these challenges. Using their native language, Maa, we interviewed members of the Maasai community to understand their perceptions, reactions, and expectations of archaeo-paleoanthropological practices and practitioners. The main understanding of the community is that researchers obtain something precious, take it to their countries far away, sell it, and gain wealth. The research outcome shows continuity of colonial legacies that exclude the Maasai from sharing scientific knowledge and from fully involving them in research projects and the museum. Despite these alienations, Maasai community supports archaeo-paleoanthropological research projects and the museum. The community has strong desire to know the apparent mystery of archaeo-paleoanthropological practices and related disciplines as well as their roles in local socio-economic and educational empowerment. Maasai residents particularly emphasize the role of researchers (including us) in assisting them in obtaining access to education and finding solutions to lack of medical services, malarial problems, and water shortage. They also demand equal rights to scientific knowledge, employment opportunities and payment, full participation in archaeo-paleoanthropological activities, access to higher education in these disciplines, and direct involvement in the Oldupai Museum. As the host community, they expect global archaeo-paleoanthropological research communities, academic institutions, funding organizations, and the government of Tanzania to incorporate their rights and their needs.

In 2011-2012, we promised to partially fulfill the community’s request by presenting and publishing. We presented at three international conferences and published the research findings in an edited volume[2]. We also promised to come back and share our findings at Oldupai Gorge. Thus, we designed this engaged anthropology project and returned to Oldupai in August 2017 mostly to fulfill that promise.

We stayed with the Maasai community in Oldupai for fourteen days and in Arusha for three days to accomplish the second objective. This objective had several sub-objectives (share printed photos with the community, meet museum staff, produce informational posters, bring water for and have dialogue with the community). Mama Leken, our host, advised us to go to the river since most people spend their days at the gorge searching for water. At the Oldupai River we met people we knew and some we never met before. They were digging holes to get unsafe and unreliable water from the basin of the gorge, giving water for their sheep and goats, or washing their clothes. There we introduced the purpose of our visit and the objectives of our project. We managed to distribute most the photos taken in 2011-2012 at the gorge, at the museum, during the market day, and by visiting some families at their homes. Sharing photos helped us to reconnect with the community quickly, to recall the time we shared, and to not feel strangers.

Community members fetching water at Mturi Camp

The second sub-objective was to reconnect with the Oldupai Museum staff and to attract active participants and collaborators from the museum to achieve the third sub-objective: producing informational posters for the community. The museum staff were extremely busy preparing for the opening ceremony for the new museum. Instead, we are grateful for Mr. Emmanuel Saning’o Telele (Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) staff, Mr. Orgoo Mauyai Oloisolo (Oldupai Museum Conservator), and Mr. Emanuel Gabriel Tonge (the Olbalbal Ward counselor) for organizing and attending a meeting at the NCAA headquarters. In the meeting, we discussed the content of our project and the role of NCAA in achieving it. The NCAA and the Oldupai Museum gave us a blessing to proceed the project and provided access to water storage and a truck for transporting 20,000 liter water for the community.

The community also organized several meetings: two meetings with sub-village leaders, one meeting with community members and leaders, one meeting with local representatives who participated in the production of posters, and another meeting with community members, leaders and museum staff. In the two meetings with sub-village leaders, we introduced the project and discussed the content of the book chapter in Maa language. We were thankful for their time and excitement, and the leaders were grateful to know the research result and the project’s objectives. They had a different opinion on the budget we had for water funded by Wenner-Gren. They wanted something sustainable, building a room for kindergarten or clinic. We discussed this concern at the NCAA headquarters meeting; however, we were informed that the community needs to have a permit from NCAA. The sub-village leaders organized a community meeting. They introduced us and our project, and asked community members to vote for bringing water or building a room for kindergarten. The community was also aware of the challenge of obtaining construction permit on time so we opted for water and buying eight tarps for covering the currently open-air community kindergarten.

In the same meeting, the community elected Mama Leken and Mzee Zebedayo as local representatives to collaborate with us in the poster production. After several individual and group meetings with Mzee Zebedayo and Mama Leken, we read and discussed the published chapter with them in Maa. This gave the local representatives an opportunity to understand and review the research result and to know the role of Wenner-Gren, the NCAA and the Oldupai Museum in this engaged anthropology project. We also discussed what we intended to include in the posters and the budget for producing posters, for community get-together, for bringing water, and for buying tarps for the kindergarten. The community members appreciated the whole idea of sharing research results as well as having budget transparency. Considering the local transportation problem, the local representatives advised us we buy the food for the get-together as we go to Arusha to print the posters.

In Arusha we prepared and designed informational posters in three languages; English, Swahili, and Maa in collaboration with two local volunteers, Sandey and Leken Olle Moita, the Children of Mama and Baba Leken. They live in Arusha, and they wanted to participate. They especially helped us in editing the Swahili and Maa versions. Sandey also played key role in buying the food needed for the get-together and in presenting the poster to the community at Oldupai Gorge. The posters provided the community basic information about archaeology and paleoanthropology in order to properly understand disciplinary perspectives and to share the research result from 2011-2012.

The last sub-objective was to have dialogue with the Maasai community and the museum staff through poster exhibition and get-together. The community decided to open the poster exhibition at Mturi camp. It was opened by having a one-day festivity with the community and museum staff, which involved cooking and eating food together. In the meeting, we distributed the eight tarps bought for the kindergarten and two copies of the above mentioned edited volume donated by the Publisher, Routledge: one copy for the Oldupai Museum and another copy for the community. The four-day poster exhibition facilitated discussions with the community and Museum staff to obtain an up-to-date information and to serve as a foundation for future community engagement and development projects. As token of appreciation, the NCAA brought 20,000 liters of clean water and Wenner-Gren funded for 35,000 liters. In 10 days, local leaders distributed 55000 liters of water for about 80 families who reside in the area. At the end of the project, we left the posters in English and Swahili at the Oldupai Museum, and the poster in Maa with the community. We left Oldupai Gorge on August 29.

This project allowed Maasai community to engage in research feedback. It provided museum staff, antiquities staff, and university faculty a venue to express their opinions about our research approaches and results. Some practitioners heavily criticized the research result. They thought we fabricated what we wrote in our book chapter or that our informants are outright liars. What we learned from this journey is the challenges that can be encountered doing an engaged anthropology project. We will discuss these challenges in our upcoming book chapter. We are grateful for all numerous kinds of support we received from different stakeholders.



[1] 2015 Teaching and Practicing Archaeology in East African Universities. Dissertation thesis, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

[2] 2016    Mehari, A. G. and Kokeli Ryano. Maasai People and Oldupai (Olduvai) Gorge: Looking for sustainable people-centered approaches and practices. In Community Archaeology and Heritage in Africa: Decolonizing Practice. Peter R. Schmidt and Innocent Pikirayi (eds.), pp. 21-45. London, Routledge.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Cassandra “Beth” Scaffidi

Interviews from "Understanding Archaeological Context from Looted Sites: A North American Perspective on Site Looting in Peru."

In 2013 while a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University Beth Scaffidi received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Networks of Violence: Bioarchaeology of Structural Violence and Imperial Articulation in Middle Horizon Arequipa, Peru,” supervised by Dr. Tiffiny Tung. In 2016 Dr. Scaffidi received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Pathways to Preservation: Understanding Archaeological Looting in Arequipa, Peru Through a Cloud-based Collaborative Database and Public Outreach Film”.

During my dissertation excavation in the Majes Valley, in the Department of Arequipa in Southern Peru, our team encountered evidence of severe tomb robbing at our site—we spent considerable time excavating soil probes, shovels, and cleaning looter refuse, even at the bottom of 2-meter deep excavation trenches. The looting at my site is typical for preservation throughout the valley; practically none of the previously documented archaeological sites in the valley are intact. The extensive looting prompted this project, which sought to discussions with stakeholder communities about the role of artifact provenience in the construction of scientific knowledge.

Many of the conversations about looting among archaeologists and cultural heritage professionals have debated themes like economic motivations for looting, site conservation, and international law enforcement efforts. In contrast, this project explored specific ways that the disruption of archaeological contexts in Peru has impacted the capacity of archaeologists, bioarchaeologists, and archaeological chemists to interpret data from looted sites. The project aimed to engage stakeholder communities throughout Peru in two ways: first, developing a crowd-sourced database for documenting the extent of site damage, and second, by distributing a short film explaining how looting impacts archaeological knowledge.

Wenner-Gren funding supported travel with a professional film crew to Lima and Arequipa, Peru to interview North American researchers. So far, we have recorded over six hours of interview footage and four hours of B-roll. First, we travelled to the World Mummy Congress in Lima, in August of 2016, and interviewed mummy scholars. We learned that many of the mummies in museum collections throughout Peru are from looted sites. With recent advancements in isotopic and molecular analysis methods, our ability to extract useful data from looted human or animal tissues has improved, but in many cases looting leads to contamination that precludes successful laboratory analysis.

We then traveled to Arequipa to meet with researchers excavating a looted settlement in the nearby Siguas Valley. Those interviews illuminated the complex ways that archaeological knowledge is constructed; in this case, through two periods of scientific excavation (in the 1940’s, and then again in 2014-2017), punctuated by looting episodes. This continued pillaging undermined interpretation of architectural features, in both excavations. We also met with a Majes Valley TV station director and arranged for local distribution of the final piece. During my time at my field site, Peruvian members of my team helped me to distribute hard drives full of artifact photographs to two local high schools for use in their curriculum.

Back in the US, we turned to the Curator of Archaeology at the Denver Museum of Art for a museum perspective on looting. She discussed the impact of fakes and looted objects on or understanding of material culture. More interviews are planned during the coming year in the US. We plan on distributing the final 20-minute version, subtitled in Spanish, to Peruvian media organizations and cultural heritage non-profits early next summer.

From our filming efforts, I learned about some of the challenges and benefits of integrating digital media into research. Anthropologists getting started with film in the field can benefit from some of our mistakes. Be aware that, even with a one-person crew using a light-weight kit, luggage can be bulky and expensive. The streets of South American cities and crowded combis pose challenges in transporting bulky film gear to a site. Also, multiple takes are often required—2-3 hours is a minimal requirement to set up, interview, and break down—for only a minute or two of usable footage. The more footage a team acquires, the longer the editing process will take, from backing up and pre-processing data, to laying out complex timelines and compressing files for final distribution. Finally, ethics codes of our professional organizations and IRB processes limit who can be interviewed. Nonetheless, film and digital media are excellent tools for conveying complex information quickly to audiences of various ages, as well as those who cannot access or consume print media.

Wenner-Gren funding also permitted me to field test the crowd-sourced looting database with the ArcMap Collector app for IOS and Android devices. The field tests of the database showed immense promise: anyone with a cell phone or Ipad and an institutional license to ESRI products (commonly used in archaeological fieldwork) can download the database, collect looted site GPS coordinates, collect attribute data on the nature and extent of looting at the site, and upload that data to a constantly-updating cloud-based group map. The need for an expensive license, however, is restrictive, and I am continuing to test free and open-source apps that would allow the public and Peruvian colleagues to contribute to the database. Furthermore, in the coming year, I will be looking for input from archaeologists throughout the country to better understand what additional observation fields should be included in the database. I am eager to invite archaeologists working in Peru to begin collecting these data soon.

The efforts of US researchers and professionals to educate the public and prevent archaeological site looting face significant challenges in the current political climate. While the US Department of State and the Peruvian government recently renewed their 1997 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to restrict importation and repatriate archaeological and historical objects into the US, the plan to withdraw from UNESCO jeopardizes future international cooperation and potentially, the legality of current MOU’s. Because the burden of documenting the extent of looting may soon shift entirely to researchers and stakeholder communities, empowering these communities to understand and document site damage is more important than ever. These pilot projects are just the beginning of comprehensive outreach and research endeavors. The database and film will be the centerpieces of future training workshops in Peru, and they can serve as models for similar cultural preservation efforts in other countries. Researchers interested in participating in the Peruvian Archaeological Site Tampering (PAST) database, or in receiving the final film for outreach or teaching purposes can contact the author at bethkscaffidi@gmail.com.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Devaka Premawardhana

Devaka returning to the district of his fieldwork, this time with Baraka

In 2010 while a doctoral student at Harvard University Devaka Premawardhana received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Sacrificial Exchanges: Pentecostal Conversions and Urban Migrations in Northern Mozambique,” supervised by Dr. Michael D. Jackson. In 2015 Dr. Premawardhana received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Displacement: A Seminar Series on Makhuwa Mobility”.

“Papá Baraka!”

I didn’t respond and kept on my walk.

“Oi! Papá Baraka!”

This time I turned around and saw the daughter of a good friend waving. I walked back toward her, apologizing for not knowing it was me she was calling. We exchanged greetings, asked after each other’s family, and then separated with promises for a later, longer visit.

I’m not the same person anymore, I thought to myself as I went back on my way. And I would need to get used to that.

In my year of fieldwork among a Makhuwa-speaking people of Mozambique, I was Devaka. Formally, at least. Those who knew me well called me Namanriya, the Makhuwa word for chameleon. “Vakhani vakhani ntoko namanriya,” say the Makhuwa (“slowly, slowly, like the chameleon”), an expression of admiration for the chameleon’s unique ability—not so much to change color as to walk slowly, deliberately, and at that pace to take in the margins with its laterally positioned eyes.

Baraka getting a taste of the joyous welcome his parents received

That year, I got around the district on a 50cc Lifo. It was my first time riding a motorbike, and I was riding on sandy, unpaved roads. So I never went fast. Hence, the nickname Namanriya: the chameleon who rides slowly, slowly—enough to receive greetings from those on the roadside and to reciprocate with a wave or a beep.

I was also slow in another respect. During that year of fieldwork, four years into our marriage, my wife and I were still without children. Our friends pitied us. Though we had access to more financial resources than all the village households put together, we were the poor ones. Prayers went up in the mosque and the church, and offerings were laid for ancestors—all for us to receive the blessing of fertility we had clearly been denied.

Two years later, back in the US, we received that blessing, and named him as such—Baraka. Less than a year after that, we returned to Mozambique, to bring Baraka to our friends, to present them the fruit of their ritual labor.

In so doing, my identity changed, and with it my name. No longer Devaka, and only rarely now Namanriya, I had become Papá Baraka. In this part of the world, the measure of a person, certainly the measure of one’s worth, is the quantity and quality of one’s relationships. And just as relationships change—due to births and deaths, comings and goings—so too does oneself change.

Devaka discussing research findings with Makhuwa intellectuals and collaborators

This principle of relationality is, in part, why it was so important to return to my field site with my newborn child, but also with a Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology grant and its mandate to share the results of my initial field research with the communities that made it possible.

Over a five-week period in the summer of 2016, I was able to do just that, meeting with leading scholars in the nation’s preeminent university, with research collaborators in the district where I worked, and with interlocutors in the village where I lived.

At each site, the response was immediately of appreciation and respect. Because knowledge, like identity, is grounded in relationships, people were less impressed with my ability to display an understanding of “the Makhuwa” than with my willingness to return and resume the conversations begun many years earlier.

From each of the groups, I learned something new about my research, or something in need of correcting. With each of the groups, I began thinking about how to approach my second planned project. And to each of the groups, I reflected insights I learned into Makhuwa ways of knowing and being.

Specifically, I shared my analysis of Makhuwa mobility—a propensity for movements both physical and imaginative, a predilection for making fresh starts in new places, an ease and comfort with novelty and change. One aim of the Engaged Anthropology grant is to disseminate research results in a way that offers some benefit to those among whom research was conducted. It’s my hope that, by hearing an outsider articulate the tacit, practical knowledge with which the Makhuwa by and large live, those with whom I met will be even more equipped to cope with the significant constraints on physical movement they face in the context of neoliberal land confiscations and NGO-led development efforts.

This tacit, practical knowledge—the subject of my forthcoming book—is best described as a Makhuwa disposition toward mobility and change. It’s what makes those I lived with eager to partake in resettlement schemes—whether of the developmental state or of religious institutions—but reluctant to remain settled in them. For the Makhuwa, changing is a means of enduring, becoming is a mode of being, and converting is a way of life.

By returning to my field site as the parent of a child, I learned that what’s special about the Makhuwa is not only their capacity for regular transformations, but also their readiness to mark transformations in others, even in people like me prone to seeing themselves as consistent over time, as settled rather than shifting.

No longer Namanriya, my new name was Papá Baraka. My name had changed. I had changed. Maybe, after all, it was not just my slowness that warranted the nickname of chameleon. Maybe it was my capacity—a capacity I didn’t think I had until the Makhuwa made me see it—to change and to adapt, and thereby truly to live.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Colin Halverson

While a doctoral student at the University of Chicago Colin Halverson received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2014 to aid research on “Asymmetrical Meaning in Patient–Provider Interaction,” supervised by Dr. Michael Silverstein. In 2017 Dr. Halverson received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Clinical Pragmatics: Revisiting Communication Concerns in Medical Genetics”.

In my dissertation, I posed the question: How does one communicate complex information to people without the background to understand it? In order to find an answer, I conducted about 20 months of fieldwork (including 12 consecutive months in the year 2014) at an academic medical center in the American Midwest. Specifically, I worked with experts ‘translating’ information about patients’ genetic diseases to other specialists and to the lay patients themselves. I conducted interviews and participant observation in the clinic and its affiliated laboratories and completed two internships – one in medical ethics and one in patient education during my time in the field.

In this Engaged Anthropology project, I returned to my field site to discuss my findings with geneticists, genetic counselors, oncologists, educators, and laboratory scientists. I held a number of salons and one-on-one meetings with interested individuals from medical genetics, patient education, and medical ethics. These salons examined the topics that emerged from my research as the most ethically pressing in terms of communication in such a clinic: 1) the process of obtaining informed consent, 2) the disclosure of uncertainty in genetic test results, and 3) the unusual ethical position of medical genetics, located as it is between scientific research and clinical practice. I addressed each of these primary issues within its “thick” ethnographic context, providing clear and poignant case studies to illustrate the relatively more theoretical points I was discussing. Salons were held in the Center for Individualized Medicine and in the Office of Patient Education, but each was attended by a variety of people from across the hospital’s many departments that were touched by each day’s themes. This included participants from nursing, medical ethics, and laboratory science as well as people more directly involved in medical genetics and patient education. Between 20 and 30 people attended each session, including a number of people who Skyped in from the hospital’s other campuses.

In the first salon I held in the Center for Individualized Medicine, I brought up the topic of uncertainty (both in the return of results from genetic testing as well as in the process of informed consent). This proved so interesting to the attendees – and resonated so clearly with their personal concerns as professionals – that this more or less dominated both days of discussion with that group. Moreover, when I addressed this topic with the patient educators (toward the end of my time with them), this spurred particular enthusiasm and led to a number of discussions after the official sessions had closed.

With the patient educators, we primarily discussed insights into their work, insights that I derived from Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of “double voicing” and Althusser’s concept of “interpellation.” I provided numerous real-life examples of these theories in action from my own time as an intern with them. They are very used to this sort of presentation, as it is more or less the same genre that their weekly Writers’ Meetings use: Attendees present a number examples of difficulties from their own work ‘simplifying’ “doctor talk” into “real English.” I took this format but also provided these theoretical frameworks in order to demonstrate some unifying issues underlying their professional practice.

These salons truly proved to be collaborative engagements between myself and the professionals at the hospital – many of whom I had worked with during my fieldwork, but some of whom I had not met before. They provoked critical thought and feedback, and both the attendees and I felt that we left the salons better informed and better positioned to make positive interventions into clinical care. While discussing the three primary forms of “non-knowledge” that I hypothesize are at play in medical genetics (risk, uncertainty, and randomness – which I furthermore proposed are conflated by patients), I got remarkably discerning feedback. While everyone agreed that the distinctions I was making were valid and of clinical significance, one laboratory scientist said that within my framework she saw uncertainty as a subset of risk rather than a stand-alone category. This sparked a long debate about whether uncertainty (as I described it, “knowledge about the limits of one’s knowledge”) was medically actionable and therefore could constitute “real risk.” Likewise, a clinician encouraged a reflective (and anthropological!) discussion when he asked the room for a “definition of knowledge” before anyone continue our current discussion on uncertainty.

Attendees of the salons engaged enthusiastically with my work, asked and answered questions that have arisen from it, and related these topics back to the ongoing local and global transformations currently taking place in their professional worlds. Both groups have requested that I return again to continue the conversations we started in our salons. I received a number of grateful and kind emails, describing how our discussions have led them to reflect on their practices, in particular appreciating the links I drew to ethics, which is a critical domain that typically remains outside of non-clinicians’ conceptions of their professional labors. One person even told me she thought one of the salons was “the best professional development presentation we have had in a while!”

This was a wonderful opportunity for me to re-engage with my old colleagues and friends and to see how the clinic has evolved since my last visit in 2015. These discussions have added to the ways I have been thinking about the clinic and its practices of ‘translation’ as well. In fact, the article I have begun on the three forms of “non-knowledge” in medical genetics will greatly benefit from some of my interlocutors’ recent insights. I very much appreciate Wenner Gren’s continued support of my work, as do the attendees of my salons.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Kelsey Dancause

Image 1 - Central Market, Port Vila, Efate. In 2015 and 2016, we collected data on psychosocial health among women in both rural and urban areas. The central market in Port Vila, the urban capital, was an important data collection site. Image source: Collaborator Mian Li, Binghamton University.

In 2015 Dr. Kelsey Dancause received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on “Effects of Prenatal Psychosocial Stress on Birth Outcomes in Developing Countries: Filling the Knowledge Gap Using Validated Surveys in Vanuatu”. In 2017 Dr. Dancause received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Promoting Local Research Capacity Through Psychosocial Health Research Training and Knowledge Translation”.

In 2015, we began the “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Communities” study of maternal psychosocial stress during pregnancy in Vanuatu, a lower-middle income country in the South Pacific. The archipelago had recently been hit by a Category 5 cyclone, which destroyed many villages and affected large numbers of the population. Based on studies showing links between prenatal stress due to natural disasters and infant health outcomes, we adapted questionnaires commonly used to assess post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, in order to assess distress due to the cyclone among pregnant women and women of reproductive age in Vanuatu. In 2016, we followed up on this study to assess daily stress, depression, and anxiety among similar samples. Our diverse sample included women from hospitals, clinics, and markets in both rural and urban areas (Images 1 and 2).

Image 2 - Umej village, Aneityum. In 2015 and 2016, we collected data on psychosocial health among women in both rural and urban areas. Collaborator Dr. Alysa Pomer (Yale University) collected data on Aneityum, an island with around 900 people. Image source: Amanda Roome and Elisabeth Standard, Binghamton University.

This is a unique study that allows us to assess the role of psychosocial stress in risk of adverse birth outcomes such as low birthweight and prematurity that remain elevated in many low- and middle-income countries, and to begin to tease apart differences between acute distress and chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. Our analyses to date have helped us to characterize mental health patterns in Vanuatu. We observed that distress following the cyclone was very high, and that high distress among pregnant women in the sample predicted smaller weight among their infants at birth: controlling for confounding variables, distress explained 8.5% of variance in birthweight (p=0.012), and was an even more important predictor of birthweight than maternal dietary characteristics.

Equally importantly, our experience has highlighted that psychosocial health is an increasing priority, both among health professionals and community members. Thus, in 2017, we worked to adapt our assessment tools for broader use by local health professionals, and by other researchers working in Vanuatu.

Image 3 - Collaborators Amanda Roome, Kathryn Olszowy, and Elisabeth Standard. Our work in 2017 included both local and international collaborators. Dr. Kathryn Olszowy (Cleveland State University) collected data on stress among adult men and women, with assistance from graduate students Amanda Roome and Elisabeth Standard (Binghamton University). Image source: Amanda Roome and Elisabeth Standard.

From June-August 2017, we worked in Port Vila, Vanuatu to re-evaluate and refine our psychosocial health assessment measures. We met with nurses, physicians, and professionals at the Ministry of Health. We presented results of our 2015 and 2016 studies, highlighting the importance of maternal mental health in Vanuatu and the need for more detailed surveillance. We reviewed and revised our assessment tool with these key collaborators. We also updated our database in collaboration with midwives from Vila Central Hospital, and shared the full dataset with key health professionals. This provides a baseline dataset for comparison to future studies that incorporate our assessment tool.

Image 4 - Mele village, Efate. We visited villages to follow up with 100 women who completed the questionnaire in 2015 and 2016. Team members Giavana Buffa (Ross University Medical School) and Jake Rafferty visited villages all around the island of Efate. Image source: Kelsey Dancause.

We also followed up with 100 women who completed the questionnaires in 2016 (Image 3). We re-administered the same questionnaires, which allows us to assess consistency of responses over time. We also discussed women’s perceptions of the questionnaires and their suggestions. We met women in their communities, which allowed us to include chiefs and other community leaders in discussions. Finally, we administered the assessment tool among men and among older women in the same communities, allowing us for the first time to begin to assess its applicability among samples beyond women of reproductive age (Image 4). Together, these evaluations help us to refine the assessment tool, for broader use by local health professionals.

Image 5 - People complete the distress questionnaire on the island of Ambae. In October 2017, the entire population of Ambae was evacuated due to threat of a volcano eruption. In December 2017, Amanda Roome and collaborator Dr. Chim Chan used our questionnaire to assess psychosocial health among people in the evacuated communities. Image source: Amanda Roome, Binghamton University.

Recently, the entire population of one island in Vanuatu – more than 12,000 people – was evacuated because of risk of a volcano eruption. Given the increased focus on mental health in Vanuatu, a mental health team was on hand to help provide services to the displaced communities. We worked with local collaborators to collect data in the displaced communities using our assessment tool (Image 5). These studies will allow us assess the efficacy of the intervention programs, and the short and long-term effects of stress due to displacement in these communities. This could provide important insights to guide the development of similar services in other low- and middle-income countries. We are also currently adapting our assessment tools for use not only by local health professionals, but by community volunteers who could help to increase mental health surveillance resources, and also provide a first contact for people seeking mental health services. Where resources are limited, such community-focused efforts might provide a sustainable means of increasing mental health services and ultimately improving health and well-being.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Marissa Mika

Staying Alive exhibition poster, designed by Rumanzi Canon. Image courtesy of Andrea Stultiens.

While a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania Marissa Mika received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2012 to aid research on “Experimental Infrastructures: Building Cancer Research in Uganda from 1950 to the Present,” supervised by Dr. Steven Feierman.” In 2017 Dr. Mika was able to follow up on her fieldwork research when she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Staying Alive in Photographs at the Uganda Cancer Institute”.

In August 2017, the Uganda Cancer Institute celebrated its 50th anniversary in Kampala. Since 2010, I have worked at this site as a historian and ethnographer. My work explores the past and present of the Institute to examine how scientific research shapes biomedical care on the African continent. I focus on how experiments create and shape cultures of care that take on a political and social life of their own, well after the experiments themselves have ended. I argue that there is a fundamental dynamism to experimental sites such as the Uganda Cancer Institute. Collaborations ebb and flow according to scientific interests. Political violence forces physicians and families to flee into exile. Epidemics such as HIV transform dedicated research wards into late stage palliative care triage centers.

The Lymphoma Treatment Center, 2012. Image courtesy of Andrea Stultiens.

I started working at the Institute at a time of profound infrastructural transformation. Since the mid 2000s, political negotiations to fund better cancer services for aging Ugandans and new American interests in studying the relationship between infectious diseases and cancers in east Africa remade the Institute. Through political lobbying, vision, and USAID grants, two new cancer care facilities were built at the UCI.

These latest transformations are both creative and destructive. Drug procurement patterns, records keeping systems that have not been seriously updated since the 1960s, and ward rounds are all components of infrastructures for care that are being radically reformulated by Ugandan oncologists, nurses, laboratory, and social workers. The new UCI-Fred Hutch Cancer Centre, stands on the demolition site of the Institute’s original Lymphoma Treatment Center from the 1960s. It both ushers in a new era of research on the synergy between infectious diseases in cancer, and violently tears down over 45 years of carefully honed cancer care practices.

For the entire year I worked at the UCI, I knew the Lymphoma Treatment Center was going to be torn down to make way for a new cancer treatment center. My Wenner Gren Dissertation Fieldwork grant made it possible to trace how this experimental infrastructure was being remade in real time across multiple geographies and places. The Wenner Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant made it possible to share, publicize, and exhibit these profound transformations documented through a long-term collaborative photography project and book made with artist and researcher Andrea Stultiens. Staying Alive showcases photographs which capture continuities be they extraordinary bodily states, the physical dynamism of this experimental field, the everyday lives of patients, or the empathetic care which medical staff and families bring to the wards on a daily basis.

The New Uganda Cancer Institute, 2017. Image courtesy of Andrea Stultiens.

The book and exhibition creates a visual and historical conversation between two sets of photographs from the materials and moments that make up the Institute in the late 1960s and 2012. The first is from the personal archives of John Ziegler, the founding director of the Uganda Cancer Institute in the 1960s. These materials document major and minor events and images from around the Institute in the 1960s and early 1970s. There are snapshots of political visitors touring the wards, wildlife encountered on up country “patient safaris,” laboratory and ward facilities. The contemporary photographs are made by Andrea Stultiens. The intention was to make a series of portraits of patients, as well as a photographic portrait of the Institute as a whole through its spaces—wards, laboratories, hallways, kitchens, parking lots—and the people using them. As Stultiens says, “The images are both responses to the photographs from John Ziegler’s collection and alternative representations. People are photographed as individuals who happen to be patients or caretakers or Institute staff. Spaces are captured without anecdote or event as motivation for the production of the picture. Taken as a whole, these historical and contemporary images complement each other, and make it possible to question each other’s existence and the ethical implications of looking ‘through’ them to people and places in remote or near pasts.”

Professor Charles Olweny, Dr. Jackson Orem, and Marissa Mika at the Staying Alive book launch. Image courtesy of Andrea Stultiens.

We collaborated with the Institute to amplify the history of this hospital in Uganda during its Golden Jubilee celebrations. These events engaged with a diverse range of audiences, including the Ugandan media, government officials, medical community, and wider Ugandan public. Events included the following: the UCI@50 press conference, Radio One’s Saturday morning health awareness, the Staying Alive exhibition opening at AfriArt Gallery, interviews for the UCI’s documentary, organizing and a Health Education Journalists Network Science Café on UCI’s contributions to oncological research and care in east Africa, a series of blogposts on the HIPUganda website, shared by bi-weekly newspaper The Observer, and the keynote lecture at the fiftieth Anniversary Gala Dinner for diplomats, scientific experts, and UCI staff.

The images and words in Staying Alive open up a space for conversation about continuity and change in ways that a scholarly monograph cannot. The exhibition created a space for critical institutional reflexivity about transformations in mortar and concrete, research and care. The publication and distribution of these materials in accessible photo book form also served as a vital component of research results dissementation that was timely and accessible for an audience beyond elite academic seminars or oncology conferences.

You can read more about Staying Alive and the exhibition in the series of blog posts at History in Progress Uganda:

Staying Alive – Blog Post 1

Staying Alive – Blog Post 2 

Staying Alive – Blog Post 3

Staying Alive – Blog Post 4

Staying Alive – Blog Post 5

Staying Alive – Blog Post 6

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Adriana Carolina Borda Nino

Initial discussion

While a doctoral student at the University of St. Andrews Adriana Carolina Borda Nino received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2011 to aid research on ”When Does Incest Matter’: Ethnic, Class & Gender Discourses & Experiences About Incest among Female Patients in a Psychiatric Hospital in Bolivia,” supervised by Dr. Tristan Platt. In 2016 Dr. Borda Nino received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Healing Trajectories: Engaging Andean Indigenous Healers’ in the Promotion of Women’s Rights”.

The workshop took place in the city of Sucre, Bolivia. Thirteen traditional healers from the Chuquisaca, Potosi, and Cochabamba regions took part in the workshop. Nine men and four women between jampiris, médicos naturistas, and midwives attended the event. Most of them were over forty years of age, but also some young participants who are learning Andean traditional healing practices in order to become healers themselves participated. Thus, perspectives from experienced healers were matched by the eagerness of young apprentices who will be the future’s healing practitioners and masters. Finally, the event had the logistic support and was enriched by the participation of members of staff of PRODECO, a Bolivian NGO that has worked for more than twenty years of experience in promoting Andean medicine practices from a gender, intercultural, rights, and generational perspective.

Representative of the Qhara Qhara nation sharing his experience

Topics covered during the workshop included: definitions of incestuous sexual violence within rural communities in Bolivia and in relation to current national and international legislation; trajectories of indigenous and peasant women who have survived incestuous sexual violence, from their communities of origin to the National Psychiatric;  the psychiatric hospital as a place of in-between-life-and-death confinement for women, thus fulfilling Quechua and Aymara ideas on soul condemnation for women who have been involved in incestuous practices; the relevance of traditional healers in the definition of trajectories of violence against women within their communities; finally, we had a discussion with participants on different forms of approaching incestuous sexual violence from an Andean medicine point of view in the region.

Group discussion

The event included the participation of the eighty-year-old healer Mama Gloria, a highly regarded practitioner of Quechua medicine from Ecuador (much respected amongst Latin American traditional healers), who has a women’s rights approach to healing practices in relation to violence against women. It was suggested by all traditional healers that it is very relevant to include diverse approaches to the particular contexts where they apply their knowledge, considering local circumstances, amongst them: forms of community organization, role of traditional healers within the communities, closeness to cities, relation to judicial and allopathic medical authorities, etc. In this sense, the advice given by Mama Gloria on how to heal the effects that sexual violence might have on women and how to protect them both through healing practices and through working with judicial authorities, was very well received by the jampiris, médicos naturistas, and midwives, who took note of Mama Gloria’s advice as well as that given by their co-participants. They expressed their intention to apply what they learned at their communities. Finally, and as a result of the initiative of one of the four and oldest female healers, time was devoted to discussing the ethical protocols that should be followed by any traditional medicine practitioner when approaching a case of intrafamiliar sexual violence against women and in general any case of sexual violence against women.

Andean medicine exhibition

During this event, the research results were disseminated and discussed (day I). In 2013 the Law No. 459 of December 19 2013, on Ancestral Traditional Bolivian Medicine, was passed. This law elevated the status of traditional medicine to that of Western medicine within Bolivia’s health system. Along with this recognition, the law seeks to regulate the practice and articulation of Bolivian ancestral traditional medicine within the national health system, as well as healers’ organizations, and the rights and responsibilities of service users. Traditional medicine practitioners, as stated by the workshop participants, are allowed and some are paid a salary to work at local hospitals. This is a process that is slowly developing. For instance, within the region of Chuquisaca only approximately ten healers receive a salary for working at local hospitals. The state, though, grants a higher number of healers a sum of money to get the ingredients to prepare medicaments to sell. However, the work of traditional healers at psychiatric hospitals is still forbidden, as is their intervention in cases of sexual violence attended within local hospitals. All the diagnosis gathered during the research were confirmed by the workshop participants, as well as the trajectories followed by women who are expelled from their communities after surviving events of sexual violence.

Farewell and final words by participants

The applicability of the research results and the conclusions of the exchange that was possible during the workshop’s first day amongst the participants, were discussed during the second day. In 2013 a new law on violence against women was issued in the country. It states that all health authorities are responsible for protecting and securing the well-being of women who have experienced any form of violence. This poses a great challenge to traditional medicine practitioners, for they are not only entitled (as they are part of the health system, though not yet in equal conditions) but also made responsible to intervene in these cases. The workshop participants expressed their concern that judicial authorities should intervene first before they can approach a case, for they would be afraid of breaking the law by becoming involved. There is no guidance on how exactly it is expected that traditional medicine practitioners should intervene according to this law. Also, it was expressed by the participants that there is still a long way to go before the participation of traditional medicine practitioners within mental health settings is permitted. Still, they stated that there is a boundary between the cases in which only psychiatrists should intervene, i.e. what they called traumado or a traumatized person, and those that can be healed by them, i.e. susto, agarrado por tierra, and other ailments that occur as a consequence of events of sexual violence on survivors. In this way, traditional medicine practitioners recognized the importance of both Western and Andean traditional medicine in promoting the well-being of women who have experienced sexual violence.

At the end of the workshop a session was held with participation of traditional medicine practitioners as well as representatives of several non-governmental organisations in charge of promoting women’s rights to discuss the research results (governmental authorities were invited but did not attend the session). As during the first part of the workshop, all the findings presented were ratified by the participants. New facts unknown by them, especially on the treatment of women within the psychiatric setting, were received with surprise but were deemed plausible, given the lack of involvement of both NGO’s and healers in this type of setting. This session served to introduce Andean healers with representatives of these organisations, and it is hoped that future work might be done to develop a dialogue between these two sectors in order to promote collaboration for the protection of the rights of women who have experienced incestuous sexual [and other forms of] violence.

A final addition to the event was a small fair organised by PRODECO to promote the work of the Andean medicine practitioners at the workshop venue, which was opened for the general public. During this fair several diagnosis, healing sessions, and medicine sales took place.