Archive for Grant Programs

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Roger Canals

Wenner-Gren’s newest grant program, the Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship in Ethnographic Film, is named in honor of Paul Fejos, the first director of the Wenner-Gren foundation and a pioneering ethnographic filmmaker. The grant allows an early-career academic to pursue the completion of a work of ethnographic film based on anthropological research already accomplished by the applicant.

We are pleased to present a trailer and abstract for Fejos Fellow Dr. Roger Canals, who received the grant aid to filmmaking on ‘Afro-Venezuelan Rituals in Barcelona: A Comparative Study of Religious Nomadism through Film’.

Trailer A GODDESS IN MOTION – Sub English from Jordi Orobitg Produccions on Vimeo.

 

Afro-Venezuelan Rituals in Barcelona: A Comparative Study of Religious Nomadism through Film

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Afro-Venezuelan Rituals in Barcelona: A Comparative Study of Religious Nomadism through Film is an innovative project about the cult of María Lionza which includes an ethnographic film and a website. The cult of María Lionza is a religious practice originating in Venezuela in which spirit possession is frequent. The film A goddess in motion (María Lionza in Barcelona) focuses on the increasing presence of this religious practice in Barcelona, my native city. Through the montage, I explore the transformations that this religion undergoes when it moves to another cultural context. Moreover, the film is conceived as a reflection upon the role of the ethnographer during the fieldwork and it seeks to discuss the difference between “here” and “there”, “sameness” and “otherness”. The objective of the website is two-fold: on the one hand it aims to make available the research that I have conducted on the cult of María Lionza to date and, on the other hand, it is presented as a participatory medium for the exchange of material and knowledge about María Lionza. Thus, it provides believers and artists with the possibility of sending new images of María Lionza and the cult rituals. As such, the website has been designed as a space for ethnographic experimentation.

Institutional Development Grant: Royal Thimphu College in Bhutan

Anthropology of Development students at Royal Thimphu College, Bhutan

The Wenner-Gren Foundation is pleased to announce the 2016 Institutional Development Grant Recipient, Bhutan’s Royan Thimphu College! We interviewed the grant’s administrator, Dr. Ritu Verma, to learn more about the institution and the challenges facing the discipline in her country.

 

First can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be interested in anthropology?

Anthropology was always been a subject area that fascinated me, even though I didn’t begin my career as an anthropologist. I actually started my career as a civil engineer, but was a fan of popular anthropological works such as the film “Ring of Fire: an Indonesian Odyssey” by anthropologists and filmmakers Lawrence and Lorne Blair. During my tenure as a professional engineer, I worked on international development infrastructure projects around the world, and was deeply concerned about the social, cultural and environmental impacts of such projects on people, their communities and environments, but didn’t have the knowledge or skills to address them. My engineering degree didn’t provide the tools or the conceptual foundation to systematically analyze the impacts, socio-political relations and resistance to such projects.

Dr. Ritu Verma

This interest drew me to pursue a Masters Degree in International Relations/International Development at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Canada, which was supported by a NPSIA scholarship and the Norma Walmsley Award. Making the transition from the biophysical sciences to the social sciences was one of the most challenging, yet academically exciting times of my life. During that first year of transition, I was exposed to new engaging fields of study such as anthropology and flourished intellectually. I was attracted to the idea of ethnography, and spending extended periods of time on the ground with people who are most affected by development and scientific interventions not of their choosing. My Masters degree provided me the opportunity to learn and engage in anthropological debates (including the deepening and problematization of earlier popular anthropological representations of the so-called “third world”), and to carry out my thesis, my first body of ethnographic research on agriculture, soil fertility and natural resource management in Western Kenya, which received distinction and was published by IDRC in 2001.

From this intellectual awakening, I applied and was accepted to doctoral programmes in anthropology in the USA, UK and the Netherlands. I chose to carry out my Ph.D. at the Department of Anthropology at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and was awarded the SOAS Research Student Fellowship, the Overseas Research Scholarship, the ASA/Radcliffe Brown Trust Fund Award and the Canadian Centennial Women’s Scholarship. My doctoral research on the disconnects between the socio-cultural and working worlds of development practitioners and those of Betsileo farmers in the Central Highlands of Madagascar, indicated how development shapes the lives of so many actors. My subsequent research with international development research institutions in East and Southern Africa and the Himalayas, deepened my interest in development alternatives that value culture and spirituality. Thus, from popular representations, to critical academic and applied perspectives, anthropology has been a strong guiding force in my career that eventually led me to Bhutan.

Dr. Ritu Verma with Anthropology of Development students, graduation day 2015

Who have been the anthropologists that have most influential in your own personal formation and why?

During my Masters degree, I was inspired by and received enormous support from anthropologists such as Dr. Villia Jefremovas, Dr. Joachim Voss, and a critical geographer greatly dedicated to ethnography, Dr. Fiona Mackenzie, author of “Selective Silence”. Seminal works in the anthropology of development such as “the Anti-Politics Machine” by Dr. James Ferguson, “False Forest History” by Dr. James Fairhead”, “Negotiating Local Knowledge” by Johan Pottier, “Laboratory Life” by Dr. Bruno Latour, “Cultivating Development” by Dr. David Mosse, and “Battlefields of Knowledge” by Dr. Norman Long, fundamentally influenced my own thinking about development. Having worked in the development industry, as an engineer and anthropologist – I felt they profoundly captured the socio-cultural, political-economic and ecological effects of development projects on people and their environments. Given that much of development is dominated by the bio-physical sciences, these works illustrated the way scientific facts are socially constructed and power-laden, how power and socio-cultural networks shape the deployment of development, and the way local cultural-spiritual understanding and managing natural environments are marginalized within dominant forms of development. These anthropologists would later play important roles in my academic and professional career. For instance, I received tremendous support, encouragement and invaluable intellectual guidance during my Ph.D. from Dr. James Fairhead, Dr. Johan Pottier and Dr. Christopher Davis. The above themes were at the heart of my Ph.D. thesis about the disconnects within development, and social and cultural relations that shape the development machine. With the mentoring of influential anthropologists and first-hand experience about the failures of conventional development approaches, I have recently been exploring conceptual and policy innovations, as well as gaps in ethnography, of Bhutan’s alternative development path of Gross National Happiness. In turn, sharing knowledge and experiences about the complexities of development and culture with budding Bhutanese anthropologists, in the same wonderful anthropological tradition I have been privileged to be part of, provides great motivation and sense of continuity.

 

Final year students with guest lecturer Lama Shenphen Zangpo during a Buddhist Social Theory class

Can you tell us a little about anthropology in Bhutan? What are the pressing questions and concerns for the discipline there?

Bhutan represents both a relatively unstudied anthropological and ethnographic terrain as well as a country where there is a dearth of anthropological analytical expertise required to support a nation that is facing numerous socio-cultural and development challenges as it negotiates globalized world. It is regarded as the least anthropologically studied belt in the Buddhist Himalayas. The opportunities for anthropologists to carry out research on Gross National Happiness – the country’s guiding philosophy for development that holds culture in equal weight with other domains of development (sustainable and equitable development, environmental conservation, good governance) – are significant. Over the past few decades, tertiary education has evolved and developed in promising ways (with formal national education system and universal education coming into force in the 1950s), albeit with acute under-representation of anthropology. At the beginning of this millennium, anthropology was still in its infancy in Bhutan. Today, Bhutan continues to lag behind in developing the academic discipline of anthropology. There are a handful of qualified anthropologists with Ph.D.s in the country, with new promising scholars about to join its ranks – all obtaining their degrees internationally. Although anthropological research on the impacts of rapid socio-cultural and political-economic change requires urgent attention, the knowledge and capacity available to carry out and analyze such research, train doctoral scholars, and to advise on policy-relevant questions remains a critical gap within the country. As anthropologist Dorji Penjore notes, “if the Bhutanese education planners had exercised their foresights, anthropology, not sociology, should have been a more useful course to study Bhutan, a nation of villages and farmers… If anthropology is the study of human culture and the hallmark of Bhutan’s nation is founded on the national goal of preserving and promoting its unique cultural identity, how paradoxical it is that the anthropology is neither taught at the Bhutanese colleges nor is there a formal anthropological study of Bhutan”. Currently, there exists no doctoral program in anthropology in Bhutan. Within such a context, ethnographic research is extremely rare and the discipline is exceptionally under-represented while facing highly limited resources for its development. At the same time, this gap also represents an important and timely opportunity to develop a doctoral program in anthropology in Bhutan. This is especially pertinent at a time when the demand for a doctoral program in anthropology is increasing with a small critical mass of senior anthropologists who can support such a vision.

 

Is anthropology a subject that attracts students in the Bhutan?  

This is very much the case. Given the unique importance that Bhutan places on culture, and especially cultural resilience and promotion, as enshrined in the conceptual framework of Gross National Happiness, the attraction to anthropology is strong. Also, given the incredible influence of Vajrayana Buddhism in the country, where spiritual and cultural beliefs intermingle in profound ways, anthropology holds a special place. Students who are exposed to concepts and methodologies of anthropology are captured by its history, its ability to represent indigenous voices, and the analytical depth of lived experience captured by ethnography. Through anthropology, they are exposed to different cultural practices, norms and beliefs from around the world. In a country that was isolated from the world until 1959, tuned into television and internet in 1999, and became the world’s newest democracy in 2008, this provides an incredible treasure-house of knowledge and engagement with the world. Although Bhutan values an alternative and middle path to development that challenges GDP, materialism and environmental degradation so often associated with conventional understanding of ‘progress’, this recent paradoxical exposure to the outside world, has also resulted in rapid socio-cultural changes. Anthropology provides a valuable field of knowledge and methodology to view, document, attribute meaning to and protect important cultural practices in the face of globalization. While unemployment rates in Bhutan are not high compared to other countries, when combined with rural-urban migration, rapidly changing cultural identities and economic changes, these issues are of growing concern, and finding jobs is something that increasingly concerns students. The few anthropologists who have obtained Ph.D.s, have gone on to hold important leadership, policy-making, research and tertiary educational positions in the country, thereby making important contributions to nation-building and shaping the country in significant ways.

 

RTC campus

Can you tell us about your department, its specialties and how the award will help your department as it moves forward?

Royal Thimphu College is Bhutan’s first private college, and as such, it strives to do things differently and innovatively. It takes a student-centred approach to teaching and learning, which has yielded important results, including RTC graduates taking all the top positions in the highly valued Civil Service examination in 2014 and 2015. RTC’s faculty and student body is diverse, with lecturers and visiting fellows spanning the globe, and representing many disciplines, including anthropology. The student has slightly more women than men, and is composed of a mix of private tuition, those with scholarships from the Royal Government of Bhutan based on academic excellence and needs-basis, and sports scholarships supported jointly by RTC and the Bhutan Olympic committee. The college was officially inaugurated on July 18, 2009 by Her Majesty, Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck, Royal Grandmother of Bhutan. RTC has 4 departments, including the department of Sociology and Political Science. RTC is of one of the only colleges offering anthropology-focused courses in the country. Although presently under the Sociology and Political Science Program, anthropology is envisioned to become part of a new Social Science Program, together with Political Science and Sociology. The department currently has seven faculty, two of whom are senior anthropologists with Ph.D.s, and five who have graduate degrees in anthropology and political science (and two of who are in the process of carrying out their Ph.D.s.). Although RTC does not have a graduate or a doctoral program in anthropology, the need for a doctoral program that supports high quality ethnographic research in Bhutan is urgent. The department regularly receives requests for M.A.s and Ph.D.s in anthropology and has hosted international visiting faculty interested in ethnographic research in Bhutan, including a Fullbright Scholar, albeit on a limited and ad hoc basis. Given the lack of an institutional framework and financial resources to further the field of anthropology, it has not been able to systematically develop this aspect of the college. However, it benefits from the valued support of its Deans and esteemed Board of Governors, and most notably, His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who is the Chancellor of Royal University of Bhutan, under which RTC is affiliated. With the important support of the award, RTC can now dedicate the expertise of senior anthropologists and resources for important enabling activities, for the development of such a program, given the critical gap that exists in the discipline in the country. The Grant has also enabled the establishment of a significant partnership with esteemed anthropologists at the Department of Anthropology at the University of California Los Angeles (Dr. Akhil Gupta, Dr. Nancy Levine and Dr. Sherry Ortner), whose guidance, academic exchange and intellectual resources for the development of the doctoral program are invaluable.

Meet Our 2016 Wadsworth African Fellow: Kefiloe Sello

Meet our Wadsworth African Fellow for 2016 – Lesotho’s Kefiloe Sello, who will be studying at the University of Cape Town.

I am pursuing a PhD in Environmental Humanities under Social Anthropology based on the fact that most times environmental concerns are left to the natural and geographical sciences. With Anthropological background, I am able to merge my understating of environment to human behaviour and offer insight into how moving forward we can implement policies, technologies and behaviours that are ‘environment friendly’. This research is inspired by my own life, my two lives: the life I knew, and the life I was forced to know due to resettlement. The life I was forced to know was professed to give me a better life but instead I experienced precariousness, as my family got battered, scotched and withered. I hope my research will introduce narratives on beliefs and resilience, accounts of  rural souls in urban settings.

I grew up in the highlands of Lesotho. The first time I came across a computer was when I got to university, ultimately I failed the computing course because I did not have enough exposure and experience.  Later on in life I co-founded a foundation (www.herchancetobe.org) which offers scholarships to girls from rural areas of Lesotho an opportunity to go to the best schools in Lesotho, so that they may have a better chance at life and education, and to break the poverty cycle that entraps them.

How I came to know about Anthropology is that while registered for Political Science, beginning of second year at National University of Lesotho, I accompanied a friend to her class. The lecturer was deliberating on women and development. I never went back to my politics. I found Anthropology to be the most practical discipline, addressing social Issues, causations and probable solutions in a manner that can be grasped by all. I have come a long way since then. I was awarded a Margaret McNamara Memorial Grant for commitment to children and Women in 2012 while pursing a Masters degree at the University of Cape Town. I have also co-authored a book on Marginality, Mobility and Reconfiguration of Social Relations in Africa, in which I address issues on women, identity and negotiation of space.

Meet Our 2015 Wadsworth International Fellows: Suvanthee Gunasekera

The Wadsworth International Fellowship provides the opportunity for students in countries where anthropological education is underrepresented to receive world-class training at a university abroad. In the final post of a series meeting this year’s cohort (here’s the first and second) we meet Suvanthee Gunasekera. A native of Sri Lanka, Gunasekera pursued her undergraduate degree in Zoology at the University of Colombo and will begin work on a doctorate in Biological Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champlain.

Although we never see them with the naked eye, microorganisms play an important role in shaping human biology. My fascination with human evolution and variation was ignited during my undergraduate studies in Zoology at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. I was intrigued by the role of microorganisms in the development of human physiology, and by how the immune system detects and responds to infectious agents.

An interest in the interactions between humans and pathogens was the stimulus to undertake an epidemiological study to detect Human papillomavirus (HPV) in oral and pharyngeal cancer patients where the results of the study suggested HPV as a strong aetiological agent in developing oral and pharyngeal cancer in Sri Lanka. This aroused my curiosity of how infectious agents cause cancers, how such pathogens are transmitted and why they are expressed so variably in infected humans. The project also prompted me to try understand the biological differences in human populations and to investigate the manner in which they have evolutionarily diverged at the level of the immune response.

Soon, it came to my realization that the field of Biological Anthropology would best suit my research goals. Now, it is my desire to be one of the few fortunate individuals studying host-pathogen interactions to better understand human evolution and to produce basic research that can be applied not just to Biological Anthropology/Human Evolutionary Biology, but can also be useful in the development of products and strategies to reduce the global burden of infectious disease. With a particular emphasis on questions relating to human immune system diversification and co-evolution with pathogens, I will conduct research that combines immunologic, genetic, cell biology and bioinformatic techniques to better understanding human evolution. I believe that examining how past pathogen outbreaks and life experience affect present day immune function variation in humans will not only enlighten the study of human evolution, but also help deepen the connection between Anthropology and fields concerned with modern day disease challenges in humans.

Meet Our 2015 Wadsworth International Fellows: Elif Irem Az

The Wadsworth International Fellowship provides the opportunity for students in countries where anthropological education is underrepresented to receive world-class training at a university abroad. In the second of a series of posts introducing this year’s new cohort of fellows (here’s the first), we meet Elif Irem Az of Turkey, whose work concerns militarism, gender and violence and will be studying for a doctorate at Columbia University.

During my undergraduate studies in Political Science and International Relations at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, my compulsory courses largely focused on quantitative research methods and grand theoretical narratives, which usually disregard the experience and subjectivity of both the subjects of the study and the researcher. As a result of my disappointment towards the mainstream research practice within political science as well as of my active involvement with the feminist movement(s) in Turkey, in the later stages of my undergraduate education, I gravitated towards sociocultural anthropology, a discipline which takes into account the significance of self-reflexivity and textuality.

I enrolled in the Master of Arts program in Cultural Studies at Sabancı University in the fall of 2012 with a full scholarship and teaching assistantship, and received my master’s degree in September 2014. Owing to my experience at Sabancı University, teaching is of great value to my academic life.

My master’s thesis entitled Military Masculinities in the Making: Professional Military Education in Contemporary Turkey was on military masculinities and professional military education in contemporary Turkey, and I have ongoing interests in militaries, militarism, gender and violence.

The connections between the body/self and labor in Turkey are central to my current research interests. In my doctoral work, I plan to focus on the intersections of the ongoing rural transformation in Aegean Turkey, national and international agricultural regulations of the neoliberal era, public discourses and policies on coal mining, and mineworkers’ understandings of the body as the self and as labor, and of life and death. Finally, I hope the interplay between fieldwork, ethnographic writing and fiction to be a fundamental concern of my research and writing.

Meet Our 2015 Wadsworth International Fellows: Abebe Mengistu

The Wadsworth International Fellowship provides the opportunity for students in countries where anthropological education is underrepresented to receive world-class training at a university abroad. In the first of a series of posts introducing this year’s new cohort of fellows, we meet Abebe Mengistu of Ethiopia, who will be studying paleoanthropology at the University of Florida.

My interest in archaeology developed while obtaining my B.A. degree in History at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, followed by my employment opportunity to work as cultural expert in the World Heritage Sites of Lalibela northwestern part of Ethiopia. During the time I was working Lalibela, I had the opportunity to obtain archaeological excavation and surveying experience with various researchers. This archaeological field work opportunities in Lalibela laid the foundation for my interest in studying archaeology, an interest that lead me to pursue M.A. degree in archaeology from Addis Ababa University in 2011. After my M.A. degree, I had the opportunity to work as an archaeologist for the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for 2 years which has opened me more opportunity to involve in more archaeological research projects and to decide my future research interest and specialization. Due to this, in September 2013 and I went to Portugal and joined Polytechnic Institute of Tomar to Study another M.A. degree to benefit from a specialization in quaternary and prehistoric archaeology.

For my PhD research, I am interested to conduct archaeological research on understanding lithic technology that can make important contributions for understanding the dynamics of prehistoric societies. Particularly, I am interested on Late Pleistocene period, which is a very crucial period to understand modern humans behavioral pattern and their paleoenvironmental adaptation which uncovered on limited geographical regions where the prehistoric human population took refuge and later radiated elsewhere.  The project I am currently developing in Ethiopia focuses on understanding cultural changes of hunter-gatherers of the Late Pleistocene through close examination of land-use and mobility patterns, subsistence strategies, symbolic and social behaviors and technological innovations.

Meet Our 2015 Wadsworth African Fellow: Njabulo Chipangura

Every year, the Wenner-Gren Foundation awards the Wadsworth African Fellowship to a young African scholar, enabling them to undertake graduate training in anthropology at a world-class institution. This year’s recipient is Njabulo Chipangura of Zimbabwe, who will be commencing studies at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand.

I was born in 1984 in Mutare, Zimbabwe. I did my undergraduate honours degree in Archaeology, Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies at Midlands State University in Gweru, Zimbabwe between 2004 and 2008. In September 2009, I joined the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe as a curator in the archaeology department at Mutare Museum. Since then I have been involved in a number of archaeological researches which touches on conservation of all archaeological and historical sites, exhumations, rescue excavations and archaeological impact assessments. In 2011, I was awarded with the National Heritage Council of South Africa Scholarship and the Robben Island Museum Grant to study for a Master’s Degree in Museum and Heritage Studies at the University of the Western Cape.

For my PhD in Anthropology at the University of Witwatersrand, I am interested in understanding artisanal and small scale mining practices (ASM), technologies and processes in Eastern Zimbabwe using ethnographic and archaeological methodologies. The research seeks to pursue the significant lack of knowledge of all aspects of ASM in Eastern Zimbabwe, and the little knowledge of its history. Contemporary ASM activities have identifiable historical continuity with the past. This might be, for instance, include contemporary re-exploitation of nineteenth century or even much earlier mine workings and shafts, and there may be oral traditions or indigenous memory in some form.

The University of the Witwatersrand will be an ideal place for my study because of its reputation as one of the best universities in Africa. Moreso, the anthropology department at the university is a place with renowned scholars who will help me in achieving my own career goals. The diversity of anthropological issues that the department is involved in also places me at a vantage position in terms of learning and gaining new knowledge.

Meet Our 2014 Wadsworth Fellows: Tegenu Gossa

Better late than never! Our final report on the 2014 class of Wadsworth International Fellows – Ethiopia’s Tegenu Gossa.

I have a BA degree in History from Alemaya University in Eastern Ethiopia in July 2004. Some of the basic archaeology courses I have taken in my undergraduate study helped me to develop an initial interest in this field of study. Hence, I eventually took up the chance to study my graduate study in Archaeology in Addis Ababa University from 2010 to 2011. I have worked as a lecturer of Ancient History of Ethiopia in Arba Minch University in Southern Ethiopia between 2009 and 2011. I have also been lecturing Archaeology in the same university since 2011.

The research project for my graduate study focused on the analysis of MSA/LSA lithic artifacts excavated from the site of Aladi Springs in the Afar Rift. The research proved to be successful where the major findings of the research were published in an international journal (Gossa et al 2012). Besides, this study provided me with best opportunities to have continuous contact and communications with foreign and Ethiopian researchers working in the country and thereby participate in various paleoanthropological field projects organized by those international team of researchers. To this end, I have participated in the expedition to the Blue Nile Basin of northwestern Ethiopia in 2010, the Main Ethiopian Rift system (Gedamotta MSA site) in 2011 and 2012, and the Ledi-Grearu research project in the Afar Rift system in 2013.

Besides elevating my interest in the discipline, these field engagements also greatly shaped my future research interests. The research project I have proposed for my PhD training is going to be held in the newly discovered site of Melka-Wakena located at the headwaters of Wabe-Shebelle River found in South-central Ethiopia. This site appears to be one of the few highland hominin occupation sites at world scale with an elevation of about 2400 m.a.s.l.  In the exploratory survey we have conducted in the site in 2013 and 2014, we already identified numerous localities rich in Early Stone Age lithic artifacts and faunal remains along the banks of the river.  Hence, the research project is going to revolve around lithic analysis and Early Stone Age hominin foraging strategies. This relatively unique site is expected to produce important paleoanthropological and paleoecological data pertaining to the Lower and Middle Pleistocene hominin highland adaptations.

Institutional Development Grant Awarded to Baltic Universities

Dr. Aivita Putnina

The latest Institutional Development Grant brings together four Baltic-region universities, three of which have already entered into a collaborative framework for the implementation of tertiary level education through establishment of the Baltic Graduate School in 2008. The project will support the establishment of a separate doctoral program in anthropology within the framework of the Baltic Graduate School and thus will also contribute to strengthening the discipline of anthropology in the Baltics. Our Foundation Anthropologist for International Programs, Judy Kried, spoke to Dr. Aivita Putnina, chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Latvia, to learn more about the program, the grant, and anthropology in the Baltic region.

 

First can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be interested in anthropology? Who have been the anthropologists that have most influential in your own personal formation and why?

I first met anthropology at Vytautus Magnus University in Lithuania where I went as a philology exchange student. I had studied general medicine before but soon realised that it offered a limited view. I switched to the humanities. I was so excited to find that there actually was something that I longed for and which encompassed both perspectives. Vytautus Magnus was a brand new university (re-)established by expatriate Lithuanians to help their newly-liberated country. Quite a few of them, including the acting rector Liucija Baskauskas, were anthropologists. I did not get a degree in Anthropology but in Sociology, which I did not study, simply because anthropology was not included in Lithuanian science nomenclature. I am grateful to my undergraduate teachers as they gave me good foundations in anthropology and inspired me to continue my studies. My further studies at the University of Cambridge were made possible by Soros and Chevening grants in 1995. The next year I received a William Wise studentship to continue my studies at doctoral level. Cambridge is an incredibly intense place where you literally can do so much. I cannot name here all the anthropologists – my professors and peers – that I met there. I received enormous support from Professor Marilyn Strathern. Her personality, her style of writing and speaking made her one of the most important teachers I have ever met in my life. In my doctoral research I focussed on childbirth practices in Latvia, capturing and theorising societal change at a family, health care and political level. However, I realised that my informants did not get as much from our encounters as I did. Thus, there was one more consequence of my Cambridge experience. I realised that a sterile academic environment does not attract me and since then I have tried to make anthropology public and engage with the field which I study. I am glad I could partly “repay” my informants in helping to establish home birthing or introducing cancer screening in Latvia based on my research data. This kind of engagement has gone along with the establishment of anthropology in Latvia.

 

Can you tell us a little about anthropology in the Baltic states of
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania? What are the pressing questions and
concerns for the discipline there?

Dr. Lauren-Rhodes and Dr. Ieva Raubisko with a student.

The history of anthropology in the Baltics starts in 19th century when most of the area which now forms the Baltic states was part of the Russian Empire. The word ’anthropology’ itself was used mostly in the context of physical anthropology. Culture and society were mostly the domain of ethnologists and folklorists, either in the Volkskunde or Soviet traditions, depending on the era. Since the beginning of the 1990s social and cultural anthropology, informed mostly by the British and American schools, started to be taught across the Baltics as separate subjects, partly due to the influx of Western-educated local people.  Latvia now has one Bachelors program and two Masters programs and these have developed in the last eight years. Estonia has had a Bachelors and Masters program for about ten years. It is producing PhDs – although these have to be done in another program in Humanities. Lithuania has had some Anthropology courses since the 1990s and PhDs can be done, but in Sociology. Anthropology is not considered as a separate field of science and rigid science classification procedures inherited from the Soviet period influence both the opportunities and funding for the development of anthropology education and research here.  We will try to solve this frustrating issue with the establishment of the joint doctoral program.

 

Anthropology classes.

Is anthropology a subject that attracts students in the Baltic States?

Indeed, and increasingly so. As time as progressed we are now teaching people who have done both their Bachelors and Masters studies in anthropology, who wish to go further. This IDG comes at the right time to meet this need for doctoral students. However, at every level, anthropology attracts people because it offers interesting and alternative perspectives in changing societies. We try to be as publicly visible as possible, getting involved in debates within society at parliamentary, other political, media and general public engagement levels so this encourages students as they can see that what anthropology does can have some impact.

Dr. Ieva Raubisko working.

 

Can you tell us about your department, its specialties and how the
award will help your department as it moves forward?

The department at the University of Latvia is very keen to develop its public role, and has adopted public anthropology as its specialisation within our joint doctoral program as a result. We have staff who have researched in Latvia itself, but also in Germany, Russia, Norway, the UK on themes of morality, violence, gender, medical anthropology, economic anthropology, rhetoric culture, business anthropology among other things. Our partners in Latvia and the other Baltic states add greatly to our joint expertise. This is one of the main benefits of the grant for a doctoral program as students can receive supervision and training in many things, but geographically fairly closely. It also helps create a critical mass in anthropology in the broader region as we will become more visible and attractive to students at home and hopefully abroad. On that last note, it must be said that this is a problem for the Baltic states in general and not only for anthropology. The ‘brain drain’ towards Western Europe is only one aspect of the massive emigration all three countries have faced in the light of EU expansion and financial crises. We hope that more students from this region stay and study here and help to build up a beacon of anthropology in the Baltic states.

 

Interview: Michael Chazan on “The Harvard Kalahari Project”

Dr. Michael Chazan is professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto and director of its Archaeology Center. Dr. Chazan’s history with the Foundation goes back to 2007, when he received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research at Wonderwerk Cave in Northern Cape Province, South Africa, which helped establish it as one of the most important archaeological sites in Southern Africa. In 2011, he and colleague Dr. Susan Pfeiffer co-organized the 2012 Meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA) at UToronto with Wenner-Gren support. During the meeting, Chazan and Pfeiffer took the opportunity to organize a retrospective of the Harvard Kalahari project, commemorating its wide influence on the field, and saving for posterity the reflections of the scholars involved.

 

What is/was the Harvard Kalahari Project and why was it important in the development of archaeology and anthropology in Africa?

From 1963 to 1976 a team of researchers led by Richard Lee and the late Irv Devore studied the Ju/’hoansi of the Kalahari. Their collective work gave rise to insights about diverse topics from child care to nutrition.  For archaeologists this project, including the archaeological and ethnoarchaeological research by Allison Brooks and John Yellin, has been a critical resource for understanding hunter-gatherer societies.

What are the main legacies of the Harvard Kalahari Project? How does it relate to the Kalahari Peoples Fund, which is one of the oldest anthropological advocacy groups in North America?

There is of course a tremendous scientific legacy that stretches across the social sciences.  There is also the literary legacy left by Margerie Schostack’s book, “Nisa: the Life and Words of a !Kung Woman, and the many other books and articles written by the members of the project.  What is clear in the film is that the research team collectively saw the need for social advocacy, leading to the establishment of the Kalahari Peoples Fund – still very active today.  This linkage between a strong program of empirical research and social advocacy is the hallmark of this group’s work. I think quite an interesting model for anthropology as a discipline.

Why was it important to hold a retrospective of the project 2012, who participated, and what were the outcomes of the meeting?

Susan Pfeiffer and I felt that the meeting of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists in Toronto would be a great opportunity to bring together members of the Harvard Kalahari Project to talk about their experience.  Brooks and Yellen are active members, while Richard Lee and Nancy Howell are emeritus U of Toronto faculty. We thought that this would be a natural venue for a reunion. Once we suggested it, momentum arose within the group. All we had to do was secure a venue and arrange for the taping. Part of the motivation for me was the sense that there have been high profile negative stories emerging about anthropological fieldwork, so we can benefit from a reminder of how collaborative research teams can make a fundamental, positive contribution.  We also felt that the so-called Kalahari Debate that had swirled through the 90′s had simmered down to an extent where it would be possible to get a more balanced perspective on the experiences  of the members of the Kalahari Project.
What can we learn from the Harvard Kalahari Project as anthropology and archaeology move into the second decade of the 21st Century?

I think we learn quite a bit from the Harvard Kalahari Project and the initiatives it started.  The project shows the rich potential of collaboration. What we see in the film is how human this collaboration is.  For me, the film is quite inspiring.  We see a group of senior scholars who have been profoundly shaped by the experience they had doing fieldwork. At the same time, we see their deep conviction that research matters– that there is an empirical reality and that gaining new scientific insight is in and of itself important.  Their experience reminds us of the vastness of human experience and the vital contribution that anthropology can make.