From the Covid-19 pandemic to the global struggle for racial justice, anthropology has not escaped 2020 unscathed. On Tuesday, March 30th Danilyn Rutherford, President of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, hosted a discussion of proposal writing in these tumultuous times. She discussed the Foundation’s approach to supporting anthropology worldwide, offered tips on succeeding in the competition for Dissertation Fieldwork and Post-PhD Research Grants, and described some of the Foundation’s new initiatives.
We are proud to announce the creation of a new grant program designed to support and celebrate research partnerships that blend the skills and knowledge of anthropologists and activists and community leaders from minoritized and marginalized groups.
The events of 2020 have forced anthropologists to reckon with their discipline’s history and the nature of the relationships they forge through their research. They are finding themselves asking themselves hard questions about the ethical implications of the work they do. The best way to advance knowledge in anthropology is to draw on new sources of insight.
The best way to ensure anthropological research has an impact is to make sure projects are meaningful for everyone involved. By supporting projects that are collaborative from the get-go, Wenner-Gren hopes to demonstrate the value of this new approach to research for the field.
The deadline for applications is August 1, 2021. The online application will be made available two months before the August 1 deadline.
In 2019, the Wenner-Gren Foundation piloted the Wadsworth Institutional Grant in the Department of Anthropology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, based in the National Museum of Brazil, the site of a devastating fire. At a time when Brazil’s right-wing government has slashed budgets for academic research, this new program provides pilot funding and training in grant writing to doctoral students, who in the future will be increasingly dependent on international sources of support. To select the students who would receive an award, the anthropology department at the Federal University held an internal competition, using Portuguese language proposals modeled on the Wenner-Gren application. The six winners, whose work is featured below, received grants of $5,000 or less to launch a preliminary exploration of their topics. They are now preparing to apply for Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork grants. Through this program, Wenner-Gren is exploring ways to level the playing field, when it comes to the structural inequalities that give students from well-funded North American programs an unfair advantage in the competition for our awards.
Byron Giovanny Ospina Florido
In search of the “Hicotea Man”: An Ethnography of the Amphibious Culture and Construction of a Peasant Way of Life.
La Mojana, is a natural, ecological region located on the Pacific coast in Colombia. It is known for its broad range of productive zones along the floodplains of the Magdalena, Cauca and San Jorge Rivers. It is in this wild setting — governed by land and water, floods and droughts, agriculture and fishing — that Orland Fals Borda described the “amphibious culture” of farmers he referred to as Turtle-Men. Moving beyond Fals Borda’s analysis, I have sought in this project to explore the construction, as well as the capacities and limitations, of this amphibious culture and of “hicotea men” as an interpretive framework for understanding the contemporary way of life of the peasants who reside in the floodplains of the San Jorge River. I have also probed identity and everyday life and considered how processes of continuity, maintenance and transformation are shaped by often conflicting environmental, political and economic processes in a territory lacking clear boundaries between land and water.
Ellen Fernanda Natalino Araujo
The Fulni-ô People of the Brazilian Northeast: An Ethnography of Possibility
I carried out the research reported on here among the indigenous Fulni-ô people (about 4,000 strong) who live in a transitional wilderness area in the state of Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil from November 2019 to April 2020. The research period was marked by an intense dispute between competing leaders, which resulted in a split between opposing factions and allowed me to observe processes of leadership transition firsthand. My close relationship with the new shaman’s extended family and access to their social networks facilitated my research. Because I was able to participate in the daily village life of the Fulni-ô, I obtained ethnographic data that shed light on socio-cosmological beliefs and emic perspectives, which has helped me to understand processes of social reproduction over time. Instead of simply describing mobility practices, my study is advancing understanding of the Fulni-ô by foregrounding the way in which they use mobility as a strategy to guarantee rights over the territory and resources that form the material basis of their ethnic identity.
Helena Santos Assunção
Relations between Women and Madjine: Spiritual Marriages in Ilha de Moçambique
In this research, carried out in Ilha de Moçambique and Nampula (northern Mozambique), I have focused on the relationship between people and spirits. I have explored a phenomenon frequently encountered among women in this region, in which they take on a marido da noite (“night husband”) and suffer from doença de madjine (“spirit disease”). Night husbands are gendered spiritual beings who engage in relationships with people and may manifest themselves in dreams or by possession, causing a series of effects, especially with regard to motherhood and sexuality. By following some of my closest friends in Ilha de Moçambique through their diagnoses and treatments, I have sought to understand how “spiritual marriage” takes place, why this expression is used to describe relations between people and spirits, and how these relations influence other affective relationships. To this end, I have established connections and comparisons between madjine rituals/drummings (ekoma ni djine) and female initiation rites (ekoma za quintale). I have also addressed the literature on gender and kinship in makhuwa/nahará matrilineal societies, which make up the regions’ main ethnic group. Through the study of relationships between women and their madjines, I intend to contribute to analyses of gender that not only examine power relations between men and women, but also consider relationships between humans and spirits that constitute a person.
Afro-indigenous Peoples of the Peruvian Desert: An Ethnographic Theory of Mestizaje and Afro-indigenous Relations in Zaña and Subtanjalla, Peru.
The hegemonic notion of mestizaje describes a process of hybridity between two discrete races/cultures, usually whiteness and indigeneity that results in the formation of a new “mestizo” race/culture. In this research, I have sought to challenge this hegemonic understanding by way of an Afro-Andean ethnographic theory of mestizaje from Zaña, a Peruvian district constituted by people who auto-identify as Afro-Andean mestizos, descendants of enslaved Africans and indigenous Andeans. Since Peru gained independence, its leaders have used classifications such as “the Peruvian mestizo,” “the Peruvian Indian,” and “the Peruvian peasant” to construct a national identity. My intention is to introduce the notion of “Peruvian interculturality” into this conversation. Peruvian society predominantly identifies as “mestizo.” However, paraphrasing Marisol de la Cadena, it can be said that in Peru the mestizo is a mestizo but not just that (De la Cadena 2014). Based on ethnographic research in Zaña and Subtanjalla, I am probing the Afro-Andean mestizo population’s ontological understanding of what mestizaje and mestizo are. By focusing on the articulations between indigenous and Afro-descendants, this research will analyze the emic analytical concepts of grafting, graft, crossed and crossing, which are local words used to define mestizaje and mestizo, respectively.
Marcelo Moura Silva
Cosmopolitics, Transformation and Translation among the Yanomami of the Demini and Toototobi Rivers
I have been conducting research among the Yanomami in Brazil, more precisely among inhabitants of the region of the Demini and Toototobi Rivers in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory. My focus is on the dynamics of transformation activated through these inhabitants’ experience of the interethnic political relationships in which the Yanomami are involved, both in the forest and in the cities, where we can observe the interaction between two registers of political action. My aim is to reveal constant and variable elements (and how these vary) in the communication between napë (“white”) politics and Yanomami politics. Through an analysis of the translations – of terms, concepts and practices – performed on this relational interface, I am mapping the contexts associated with napë and Yanomami politics and exploring how these registers alternate in the spaces where the Yanomami act.
Mariane Aparecida do Nascimento Vieira
Rescuing the National Museum of Brazil: Between Collection Remnants and Curatorial Reinvention.
My thesis deals with the crisis surrounding the fire that ravaged the preeminent scientific institution of Brazil, the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro. Working closely with interdisciplinary teams coordinated by the Rescue Group, my ethnographic study has focused on the process of recovering the remnants of the collections. Through an analysis of museum space and interviews with partners engaged in “aid policy,” I have examined rescue action protocols and their execution. This task has been especially challenging given that diverse collections, originally housed on three floors, have been lumped together. As a next step, I will reach out to the Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia of Universidade Federal de São Paulo (Museum of Archeology and Ethnology of the University of São Paulo) and the Museu Antropológico of Universidade Federal de Goiás (Anthropological Museum of the Federal University of Goiás) to analyze the impact of the Museu Nacional fire on the broader scientific community and to create a network of collaborators to discuss strategies for the museum’s reinvention. In addition, I will visit the village of Karajá to explore the museum fire’s impact on its inhabitants and to better understand the relationship between the Museu Nacional and the people it aims to represent.
In response to urgent calls to address systemic racism in all spheres of institutional life, a group of archaeology centers based in the United States have come together to identify avenues for concrete change. Since July, center directors and representatives have been meeting via Zoom to consider ways to move archaeology forward towards greater diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The Archaeology Centers Coalition is also seeking to define avenues of impactful change in four key areas: curriculum and training, administration and finance, the culture of archaeology, and capacity building and community engagement. In the coming months, the group anticipates developing a series of recommendations on best practices for overcoming traditional barriers to inclusion. Through these conversations, the SBA, IAC, and Wenner-Gren will work with archaeology centers to help bring substantive change.
The Wenner-Gren Foundation, in collaboration with the Social Science Research Council, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, is proud to announce the recipients of Rapid-Response Grants on Covid-19 and the Social Sciences. Below is a list of the projects funded by Wenner-Gren, all of which were proposed by anthropologists and scholars in closely related fields. For a full list of recipients and further information about this program, please visit the SSRC website.
Covid-19 Messaging and Youth Engagements on TikTok
Crystal Abidin, Senior Research Fellow, Internet Studies, Curtin University
Enduring Social Inequalities: Black Communities’ Responses to the “Covid-19 Crisis” in Brazil, Colombia and Kenya
Jaime Alves, Assistant Professor, Department of Black Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
Raquel de Souza, Researcher, Federal University of Bahia
Wangui Kimari, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Cape Town
Amanda Pinheiro, Doctoral Student, University of California, Santa Barbara
Terrance Wooten, Assistant Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara
Humor as a Semiotic Resource: Coping with Covid-19 Stress in Africa
Bassey Antia, Professor, Linguistics, University of the Western Cape
Sinfree Makoni, Associate Professor, Pennsylvania State University
Occupational Diseases in the Context of Pandemic: Managing Risk and Care among the Working-Class Households
Basak Can, Assistant Professor, Sociology Department, Koç University
Zeynel Gul, PhD Candidate, Johns Hopkins University
A People’s History of the Pandemic: Global Households and Covid-19 in Asia
Cathryn Clayton, Associate Professor and Chair, Asian Studies Program, University of Hawaii at Manoa
The Impacts of Covid-19 on Community-Based Maternal Health Projects
Haile Cole, Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut
Containment and Distrust: Impacts of Covid-19 responses and historical containment on city making from below in Nairobi
Anders Ese, Head of Research and Development, Urban-A
Romola Sanyal, Associate Professor of Urban Geography, London School of Economics and Political Science
Joseph Mukeku, Community Design Architect & Affordable Housing Specialist, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology
Benjamin Sidori, Research Assistant, Urban-A
Queering the Surveillance Assemblage: Covid-19 and Homophobia in South Korea
Timothy Gitzen, Postdoctoral Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Humanities, University of Hong Kong
Wonkeun Chun, Research Professor, Sookmyung Women’s University
Re/defining “Essential Work”: The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Venezuelan Migrants in Argentina
Mariya Ivancheva, School of Histories, Languages, and Cultures, University of Liverpool
Jésica Lorena Pla, Permanent Research Fellow, Research Institute Gino Germani, University of Buenos Aires
Lockdown Diaries: Pandemic Stories from the Field
Ann Laudati, Instructor of Human-Environmental Geography, Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley
Charlotte Mertens, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Melbourne
Stephanie Perazzone, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Antwerp
Re-Imagining Social Futures: Lessons from Diverse Household Experiences during a Global Pandemic
Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, Professor, School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
Well-Being in a Time of Social Distancing: Indonesian Domestic Workers in Singapore and Hong Kong
Dyah Pitaloka, Research Scholar, Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship
Frenia Nababan, Lecturer, Universitas Multimedia Nusantara
Governing the Pandemic: Relief and Resilience in Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Maya Ratnam, Assistant Professor, School of Arts and Sciences, Ahmedabad University
Stigma Syndemics and End-Stage Kidney Disease in Disenfranchised Urban Communities Fighting Covid-19
Merav Shohet, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences, Boston University
Insa Marie Schmidt, Postdoctoral Researcher, Boston University
Lauren Dana Stern, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Boston University
Mapping Daily Routines, Rituals, and Virtual Emotional Intimacies in Covid-19 Pakistan
Zujaja Wahaj, Assistant Professor, International Business and Marketing, NUST Business School, National University of Sciences and Technology
Oliver Kayas, Senior Lecturer in Business Information Systems, Manchester Metropolitan University Business School
Asfia Obaid, Assistant Professor, National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad
Lubaba Sadaf, Assistant Professor, National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad
“Invisible Monsters”: The Pandemic Imaginary of Infectious Pathogens and Infectious Bodies
Lisa Wynn, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Macquarie University
Thomas Strong, Lecturer, Maynooth University
Susanna Trnka, Associate Professor, University of Auckland
On Wednesday, June 17, the Wenner-Gren Foundation and SAPIENS joined forces to share excerpts from four critically significant and deeply relevant books and a conversation with the authors on how their work speaks to our times. We were delighted to have an opportunity to introduce to a broad audience some of the most important and provocative thinkers working in our field.
This is a moment of reckoning. The murder of George Floyd was not an isolated incident but the latest episode in a long history of anti-Blackness, a form of violence that is deeply rooted and global in its reach. The books featured in this webinar help us understand the workings and origins of this form of violence and its infiltration into every corner of our societies. At the same time, these books mobilize the power of the anthropological imagination to show what it might take to make a better world. At this moment of sadness, anger, and possibility, these books are essential reading for anyone worried about where we’ve come from and what to do next.
Laurence Ralph, Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University and Director of the Center on Transnational Policing. The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence.
Christen Smith, Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin. Afro-Paradise: Blackness, Violence, and Performance in Brazil.
Savannah Shange, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Progressive Dystopia: Abolition, Anti-Blackness, and Schooling in San Francisco.
Deborah A. Thomas, R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, and the Director of the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania. Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Sovereignty, Witnessing, Repair.
Chip Colwell, Editor-in-Chief, SAPIENS
Eshe Lewis, SAPIENS Public Fellow
Danilyn Rutherford, President, Wenner-Gren Foundation
Wenner-Gren is welcoming letters of intent for webinars focusing on the future of anthropological research. We particularly welcome proposals from pairs of scholars, one established and the other an advanced graduate student or recent PhD in the early stages of their career. Webinars can focus on methodological, ethical, or conceptual aspects of anthropological research in these times of upheaval and change. We will consider letters of intent on a rolling basis, until our budget for this program is depleted, and provide funding for up to $5,000, which we expect organizers to use to cover technical costs.
Your letter of intent should be roughly four single-spaced pages long and include a discussion of the theme or problem you plan to address, your proposed format and the speakers you intend to recruit, the skills or insights you hope your webinar will cultivate, and your plans for reaching the most inclusive audience possible with a stake in what you will discuss. Where applicable, you may also include a bibliography of relevant work. Please address your inquiries and proposals to Laurie Obbink at email@example.com and Danilyn Rutherford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On June 17th the Wenner-Gren Foundation and SAPIENS will be hosting a webinar on, “Anti-Blackness: Readings on Violence, Resistance, and Repair”.
Featuring books by Laurence Ralph (The Torture Letters), Savannah Shange (Progressive Dystopia), Christen A. Smith (Afro-Paradise), and Deborah A. Thomas (Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation) and a conversation with the authors on how their work speaks to our current moment.
Moderated by Danilyn Rutherford, Eshe Lewis, and Chip Colwell, the webinar will be began at 7:00 PM EDT(11:00 pm GMT). Click here to register.
The University of Chicago Press and the Wenner-Gren Foundation have expanded their long-standing relationship to include collaboration on SAPIENS, a free online magazine that is dedicated to sharing anthropological research with a public readership. The new initiative supports the missions of both the Press and the Foundation, while maintaining SAPIENS’ editorial independence.
As the largest and one of the oldest university presses in the United States, the University of Chicago Press will provide SAPIENS with economies of scale and expertise in scholarly marketing and administrative services. This will allow the SAPIENS editorial team to focus on developing the stories and writers that serve their wide readership and the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s commitment to broadening the reach of anthropology.
“SAPIENS has been successful in demonstrating the relevance of scholarship to the broader public and we’re proud to align with the Wenner-Gren Foundation—our partner on Current Anthropology since 1971—to serve the academy and the public in new and timely ways,” said Journals Division Director Ashley Towne.
SAPIENS launched in 2016 with the goal of transforming how the public understands anthropology, themselves, and the people around them. Contributors to SAPIENS include anthropologists and science journalists who explore the human experience through news coverage, features, commentaries, reviews, and photo essays all grounded in anthropological research. The articles published on SAPIENS.org are read by millions of non-anthropologists worldwide, and in syndication through publications like ScientificAmerican.com, TheAtlantic.com, and DiscoverMagazine.com.
“We’re so excited about SAPIENS’ continued growth. We have a smart team of editors and writers. They’ve built a broad audience through engaging and relevant writing, an active social media presence, and robust podcast programming,” said Wenner-Gren Foundation President Danilyn Rutherford, Ph.D. “The magazine has now reached over 8 million readers. With its reputation for excellence, the University of Chicago Press will help us build on this momentum and amplify the impact of anthropology in the wider world.”
The University of Chicago Press publishes more than 80 scholarly journals that cover a wide range of disciplines, from the humanities and the social sciences to the life and physical sciences. In addition to working with departments and faculty of the University of Chicago, the University of Chicago Press publishes influential scholarly journals on behalf of learned and professional societies and associations, foundations, museums, and other not-for-profit organizations. All are peer-reviewed publications, with readerships that include scholars, scientists, and practitioners, as well as other interested, educated individuals.
The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc. is a private operating foundation dedicated to the advancement of anthropology throughout the world. Located in New York City, it is one of the major international funding sources for anthropological research and is actively engaged with the anthropological community through its varied grant, fellowship, conference, and capacity building programs. It founded and continues to publish Current Anthropology and disseminates the results of its symposia through open access supplementary issues of this international journal. It also publishes SAPIENS, an award-winning open access magazine read by millions of non-anthropologists worldwide. The Foundation works to support all branches of anthropology and closely related disciplines concerned with human biological and cultural origins, development, and variation.