IDG Interview: Dr. Marjorie Murray at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

Students visiting Cuchipuy archaeological site

In 2018 Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile received an Institutional Development Grant to support the development of a doctoral program in anthropology. Our Administrator of International Programs, Judy Kreid, recently reached out to Dr. Marjorie Murray at PUC to discuss what personally drew her to the field of anthropology, what the past and present perception of anthropology is in Chile, and what she hopes the IDG grant will help the university achieve.

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

I was first trained as a sociologist at Universidad Católica de Chile in the second half of the nineties, a few years after the department reopened its undergraduate degree after the Pinochet regime. In those years I learned about the relevance of social and cultural theory for understanding a range of socio-political and religious processes taking place in my country and in the region, more generally, with an emphasis on long-term historical processes. I also learned about the ethical responsibility Latin American social scientists have towards confronting the stark inequalities that characterize our societies. At the same time, I enjoyed the readings in a somewhat marginal course I took on the sociology of mass media, where I became drawn to the study of micro consumption practices and their implications in people’s lives. By 2000 I became interested in the possibilities that new information technologies could provide our population. I completed an MA in Media Studies at Goldsmiths, London, where I enriched my theoretical training and–most importantly–discovered that I was fascinated by ethnography as a methodological tool that could connect my various interests. I wrote a thesis about the uses of mobile phones and social networks of South American immigrants in the UK, for which I carried out fieldwork. I was very inspired by Danny Miller and Don Slater’s ethnography on the uses of the Internet in Trinidad, and decided to apply for a PhD in Anthropology. It was during my time at UCL that I discovered and fell in love with anthropology. I was fortunate to study in a lively department, where I met people with a variety of backgrounds and research interests; where periodic seminars, reading groups, and talks were as important as our own individual projects.

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

Student workshop on Cartonera publishers, political-artistic organizations that print books out of recycled cardboard in collaboration with informal recyclers

As an undergraduate student in sociology, I experienced what professors Pedro Morandé and Eduardo Valenzuela called “anthropology for sociologists,” in which they picked bits and pieces from the work of anthropologists to build their theoretical endeavours in the cultural sociology of Latin America. It was through them that I first acquainted myself with Mauss’s The Gift, Lévi-Strauss’s study of kinship or van Gennep’s work on rites of passage. And it was in my work as their teaching assistant that I first developed my interest in anthropology. The discovery of Bruno Latour’s work in the early 2000s was also important; it was fresh air for questioning the theoretical armature I had grown up with, while confirming the endless potential of ethnographic fieldwork. Having said this, I should note that my two PhD supervisors at UCL, Danny Miller and Martin Holbraad, were actually the most influential in my training as an anthropologist. And it was not primarily because of their exciting work and theoretical advancements, or because of the authors they introduced me to. What I value most was their openness and encouragement for me to develop my own anthropological imagination rather than imposing their own research or theoretical agendas. I also value deeply the range of opportunities I had to share and learn from fellow PhD students who were developing diverse and inspiring lines of research at UCL, including Sergio González, Diana Espirito Santo, Anna Pertierra, and Dimitris Dalakoglou to mention a few.

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

In the four-field sense, anthropology has a long history in Chile, although this history has been mostly related to the study of the indigenous populations in the country. This emphasis has generated a strong tradition of research on issues such as acculturation, intercultural relations, and indigenous development, consolidating an image of anthropology as a field that could be properly developed only within academia. At the same time, this emphasis has produced an overall perception of anthropology as a niche discipline, undermining its potential in comparison to other social sciences. This situation remained for a long time and was reinforced by a lack of university programs offering graduate training in anthropology until very recently. Nevertheless, this tendency has changed somewhat in recent decades, due to increased access to graduate training abroad, offered through Chilean government grant programs. Through such opportunities, Chilean anthropologists have been able to bring fresh insights in terms of research topics and theoretical approaches. Also, the current context has driven  this new generation of anthropologists to question how they can make a difference beyond academia, expanding the professional possibilities for the discipline in Chile. At Anthropology PUC we see ourselves as part of that development, as first with our undergraduate program (that opened in 2013) and now with our graduate programs, we aim to contribute to institutionalizing this new momentum in Chilean anthropology.

Indeed, current pressing questions and concerns for the social sciences and anthropology in Chile remain those of tackling severe injustice and inequalities in a range of forms, manifestations, settings, and populations. Yet, if we want to develop anthropology’s real potential, we need to avoid reducing the discipline to a set of predefined topics and subject areas. With theoretical openness and in-depth ethnographic approaches situated in people’s everyday practices, anthropology is positioned to be the discipline that raises new questions and concerns in contexts that are often overlooked by other fields or obscured by taken-for-granted assumptions.

Is anthropology a subject that attracts students in Chile?

Faculty meeting

In Chile, anthropology is mainly a subject that attracts students who already have some idea of what the discipline is about. Currently, there are few departments offering undergraduate or master’s degrees, with just one doctoral program in the entire country. So numerically-speaking, there is a growing demand for anthropology. Unfortunately, however, most secondary students in Chile have only a vague idea of what anthropology is. And if they do know something about anthropology, they tend to have a very  conventional understanding of the discipline, where anthropologists study so-called “traditional” or “non-modern” societies in a more ethnological way. We want to teach our students that anthropology can be that, but also much more; we want students to understand that in Chile, for instance, anthropologists can (and do!) study scientists and members of the political elite.

We also want to make sure that anthropologists are taken seriously on the job market, as many anthropology graduates are in competition with their peers from other social sciences, such as sociology. Among potential employers, even in NGOs and the nonprofit sector, there can be the perception of anthropologists being less rigorous or too abstract in comparison with other social scientists. We want to tell them that today, anthropologists–as we envision our graduates–can combine a critical vision of society with tangible skills and professionalism, and that they are prepared to work in a variety of different settings.

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

Our department is fairly young, with many things happening in the last few years. Soon after finishing our PhDs, I, together with Piergiorgio Di Giminiani, started the Anthropology Program in 2010 under the auspices of the Institute of Sociology. Now we have 14 faculty members. In 2013, we admitted our first class of undergraduate majors (licenciatura), which is a five-year degree, following the Chilean system of higher education. Our program emphasizes ethnographic fieldwork and the development of comparative perspectives that allow for reflection on anthropological problems from a variety of regional contexts in Chile, Latin America, and the wider world. We are proud to have graduated our first class last year. Starting this year (2018), we are also offering an archaeology major at the undergraduate level. Our faculty is characterized by a diversity of regional and thematic interests, including political ecology, violence and post-conflict transitions, the anthropology of the state, material culture, visual anthropology, religion, migration, childhood, and education; in Chile and in other Latin American countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru, and also in Spain and Italy. Traditionally in Chile, anthropologists have mainly studied their own country, with a particular emphasis on certain groups and cultures. By hiring anthropologists with expertise in different areas of the world, we wanted to break away a bit from this more national focus. If we want to have a more symmetric dialogue with peers and departments in the global North, we need to move away from the idea that anthropologists in developing countries can only study phenomena within their national borders. I think our choice to cross national borders is a novel and interesting direction in Chile and, in some sense, it responds to developments in other Latin American countries.

For the last two years we have been working on the creation of our graduate programs. Our master’s is a two-year program that incorporates four thematic clusters reflecting the research interests of our faculty:

(1) Environment and Emerging Worlds, (2) Personhood, Self, and the Body, (3) Politics, Difference, and Governance, and (4) Senses and Materialities. Our doctoral program is scheduled to admit its first students in 2020. The activities carried out during the five-year IDG funding period will be crucial at various levels. Investments in infrastructure will ensure that PUC PhD students have access to resources that allow them to become versed in classic and contemporary themes in the discipline, as well as to develop research projects that are engaged with anthropological issues and debates beyond Chile and Latin America. Also, we plan to develop an internal grant scheme that will help make ethnographic fieldwork a norm in the PhD program. We are particularly enthusiastic about the exchange activities with our partner institutions, which will help familiarize our professors with different traditions and experiences in doctoral training and mentoring while also contributing to students’ training at PUC and at our partner institutions. These include student exchanges and the establishment of an international advisory committee that will help the program develop guidelines, procedures, and strategies to promote its long-term success and sustainability. By the conclusion of the IDG funding period, we expect our PhD program will have advanced in becoming a vibrant and growing center for graduate training in Chile. Our hope is that the program will be a timely and enduring contribution to our discipline’s professionalization and overall development in Chile.

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: James Munene

James Munene received his undergraduate degree from Keyatta University. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in archaeology at the University of Michigan, supervised by Dr. Brian Stewart. Read the previous three entries in the series.

I was born and brought up in the eastern slopes of Mt. Kenya, Kenya, where I attended both primary and secondary school. I later joined Kenyatta University for a degree program in History and Kiswahili. This is where I met and fell in love with archaeology. I was surprised to learn that although archaeological research in East Africa has been going on for many decades now, there are just a handful of East Africans who have taken it up as a profession. Thousands of research papers have been published on diverse topics over the years but, it is a pity that so few of them have been published by or in collaboration with East Africans.  These few Kenyan archaeologists are responsible for teaching at several universities simultaneously leaving them little time to carry out research. I chose to enter the field with a goal to bring about change.

After my undergraduate degree, I enrolled for a master’s degree in archaeology at Kenyatta University and used my time as a student to gather experience in archaeological field and laboratory methods by working in different research projects in Kenya and South Africa. I am particularly interested in lithic technology, subsistence patterns, environmental reconstruction and comparative studies of Later Stone Age sites. I have worked with collections from various sites in East Africa and Southern Africa. My master’s thesis was a comparative study of two Later Stone Age sites, one in Magadi Basin and another in Lake Turkana Basin. I am especially interested in comparative studies, lithic technology, environmental reconstruction and subsistence systems. I also have a great passion for heritage management.

My decision to seek training at the University of Michigan was a reflection on my experience as a master’s student in Kenya. I was fortunate to meet a number of archaeology students from different parts of the world over the last few years and learn about their experiences in Graduate School. I was inspired to seek admission in schools with well-established archaeology departments that would give me the kind of training I needed to build a professional career and help promote future generations of African archaeologists. I am grateful that the University of Michigan offered me this chance.

Over the past five years, I have tried to get as much archaeological experience as possible to prepare myself for a career in archaeology. I attended field schools in both Kenya and South Africa, worked with various graduate students doing various projects in Kenya as well as participating in laboratory analysis. I have also worked in heritage management projects and on top of working on my Ph.D. in archaeology, I am enrolled in a Graduate Certificate Program in Museum Studies.

I am constantly thinking about ways of marketing anthropology in general and archaeology in particular as a discipline to East African students to increase scholarship and knowledge about the past. I am always looking for opportunities to inspire and motivate African students and encourage established and upcoming Africanist archaeologists to help in the training of African students. I would like to see more Africans become engaged in anthropological research as professionals.

Hunt Fellow Wins 2017 Diana Forsythe Prize!

The Wenner-Gren Foundation is proud to announce that Sareeta Amrute has won the GAD 2017 Diana Forsythe Prize for her book “Encoding Race, Encoding Class: Indian IT Workers in Berlin”.

In 2015 Dr. Amrute received a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid the writing of her book.

The GAD Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held at the Annual AAA Meeting in Washington D.C., Friday, December 1, 7:45–9:00 PM, Marriott, Maryland Suite A.

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: Alexander Titan Kabelindde

Alexander Kabelindde received his undergraduate degree from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in archaeology at University College London supervised by Dr. Ignacio De La Torre. Read the previous two entries in the series.

In October 2011 I was accepted into the Bachelor of Arts program in Archaeology at the University of Dar es Salaam. During my undergraduate studies, I received training in Palaeolithic Archaeology, Human Evolution and cognate courses. These courses gave me a greater understanding of lithic analysis and early humans’ biological and cultural evolution. Towards the end of my undergraduate studies, I did a hands-on analysis of Oldowan and Acheulean assemblages excavated by Mary Leakey at Olduvai Gorge and wrote a dissertation on the transition from the Oldowan to the Acheulean.

My enthusiasm and commitment to human evolutionary research enabled me to get a studentship to undertake a Postgraduate Diploma in Academic Research and Methods at UCL Qatar in August 2014, and then MA Archaeology of the Arab and Islamic World (2015-2017). During my Masters, I have participated in various archaeological projects as a student, collaborator, volunteer and research assistant in Africa (Tanzania), Middle East (Qatar), Central Asia (Kazakhstan) and Europe (UK). My participation enabled me to receive world-class research skills in conducting archaeological research projects. My newly learned skills were applied to conduct an independent research project, written up as a Masters Dissertation in August 2017.

In my PhD study, I intend to focus on the technological behaviour of Homo erectus in Beds III and IV, Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania). Throughout my study, I intend to undertake fieldwork (survey and excavation) and labwork (Leakey’s collection) to address the technological capacities of our ancestors during late Early Pleistocene. My research will require the use of integrative methods to analyse lithic assemblages unearthed from Beds III/IV sites and those stored in the field laboratory at Olduvai Gorge. Although the goal is to better understand Homo erectus technological behaviour at Olduvai Gorge, my research will also increase our understanding of the Leakey collections and adds new knowledge in Palaeolithic research in East Africa. More importantly, the results of my study will provide a new understanding of Acheulean assemblages from Olduvai and Homo erectus behaviour.

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Maple Razsa

We are pleased to present a trailer and abstract for Dr. Maple Razsa who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on The Maribor Uprisings: An Interactive Documentary.

Trailer: The Maribor Uprisings: An Interactive Documentary.

The Maribor Uprisings: An Interactive Documentary

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

In the once prosperous industrial city of Maribor, Slovenia, anger over political corruption became unruly revolt. In The Maribor Uprisings: A Live Participatory film—part documentary, part conversation, and part interactive experiment—you are invited to participate in the protests. Dramatic frontline footage from a video activist collective places you in Maribor as crowds surround and ransack City Hall under a hailstorm of tear gas canisters. As a viewer, you must decide collectively with your fellow audience members which cameras you will follow and therefore how the screening will unfold. Like those who joined the actual uprisings, you will be faced with the choice of joining non-violent protests or following rowdy crowds towards City Hall and greater conflict. These dilemmas parallel those faced by protesters everywhere as they grapple with what it means to resist. What sparks outrage? How are participants swept up in—and changed by—confrontations with police? Could something like this happen in your city? What would you do? What audiences see, the emotional quality of their experience, perhaps even whether they feel personally implicated in unruly protest, will all depend on the choices they make.

For more on The Maribor Uprisings check out the official website as well as POV Magazine’s in-depth review and IndieWire’s article about the nine independent films that deserve more attention in 2017. 

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: Ehsan Lor Afshar

Ehsan received his undergraduate degree at Iran University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Tehran, Iran. He also has a Master’s degree from the University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran and The New School for Social Research, New York, NY. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in anthropology at the State University of New York in Binghamton, Binghamton, NY, supervised by Dr. Thomas M. Wilson. Read the previous entry in this series.

My journey in anthropology began in 1999 when I was accepted to the graduate program of anthropology in the University of Tehran. Since then, I have always been engaged with the field as student, academic, ethnographer, member of the Board of Directors of Iranian Society of Anthropology, and again student and adjunct in the United States. My Master’s thesis, which was focused on Iranian caravansaries, received the University’s Research Grant for its novel approach and scholarship. After earning my degree, I taught anthropology in Tehran and two other cities in Iran.

Between November 2005 and August 2012, I worked as an academic at the Department of Anthropology of Sistan and Baluchestan University in the southeast of Iran, at the country’s borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan. While there, I became interested in the question of continuity and change in Baluchestan: how has the Baluch society in this relatively arid and isolated area come to be what it is today? Besides teaching, I also conducted three long-term ethnographies on rural communities of Baluchestan.

In August 2012, I moved to the U.S. to attend the graduate program of anthropology at the New School for Social Research. I completed the Master’s program in May of 2014 and started teaching at Saint John’s University the following year.

In September of 2016, I entered the PhD program of anthropology at Binghamton University, the State University of New York, where I can work on my research project under the supervision of world-class experts in anthropology of borders, state, and globalization. I have envisioned a multidimensional entry to the question of change in Iran’s Baluchestan with particular attention to the vortex of three interrelated dynamics: international borders, state surveillance, and forces of globalization.  I seek to contextualize the economic transformation of the Baluch society within the broader frameworks of nation-state and globalized world. The Baluch merchants, for instance, have to cope with the challenges posed by their group historical modes of adaptation and emerging forces of modern governmentality and market economies. My study’s goal is to investigate the confluences and socio-political consequences arising from these challenges.

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth African Fellows: Kylie Marais

Kylie Marais received her MA degree in Social  Anthropology from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Funded through a Wadsworth African Fellowship she will continue her PhD training in anthropology at the University of Cape Town, supervised by Dr. Dr. Fiona Ross.

I was born in Somerset West, a small town situated outside of Cape Town, where I also attended primary school and my first two years of high school. Thereafter, I spent three years studying at the Cape Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology, before being accepted into the inaugural class of the African Leadership Academy, where I completed my AS and A-levels. In 2011, I began my studies at the University of Cape Town and became the first member of my extended family to obtain a university degree. My education thus forms a crucial part of my identity; not only has it satisfied my love for learning, but it has also provided new opportunities for my single mother and family, none of whom could afford to attend university under the apartheid regime.

For my PhD, I intend to carve my place in the academe as a woman of color and feminist anthropologist, conducting research that will positively impact the lives of other marginalized women in Southern Africa. More broadly, within anthropology, I am most interested in relationships and meaning, gender and sexuality, development, family/kinship, motherhood, and childhood. As a member of the Anthropology of the First 1000 Days of Life project – an initiative that seeks to produce local knowledge on the critical window of the first thousand days of life – I have already developed my interests for early childhood development (ECD) and maternal and child health (MCH).

Over the last six years, the Anthropology department at the University of Cape Town has become my second home, where I have grown to know and love the space and the staff. After having completed my Bachelor of Social Science degree, triple majoring in Anthropology, Sociology, and Public Policy and Administration, my Honor’s degree in Social Anthropology, as well as my Master’s degree in Practical Anthropology, I knew that I also wanted to complete my PhD at UCT as well.  In addition, as UCT and other universities in South Africa begin to decolonize their curricula and campuses, I feel excited to participate in and contribute new and relevant knowledge towards this transformation.

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: Fatemeh Ghaheri

Fatemeh Ghaheri received her undergraduate education at the University of Tehran, Iran. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in archaeology at the University of Texas at Austin, supervised by Dr. Arlene Rosen.

During  my  undergraduate  and graduate career  in archaeology at  the  University of  Tehran  and  Tarbiat  Modares in Iran a number of academic and research experiences strengthened my desire to pursue graduate work.

My research background includes studies of non-elite architecture, site function and landscape in Iran around 500 BCE in Achaemenid lands among non-elite and elite levels of society. Among other issues that I explored in my investigations is the role that environmental and natural elements played in the distribution of ancient sites in the western part of Iran. By examining the relationship between geography, environment and topography, and human settlement distributions and types I explored how humans chose their settlements regarding environment and geography cautiously.

In my current research I will use phytolith analyses to analyze the impact of ancient empires on agriculture and land-use. I will also study the impact of imperial control on local peasant agricultural production. I would like to compare this type of agriculture with farming choices made by peasant farmers who might tend to choose special types of plants because they are a more reliable source of food and would guarantee a reduction in risk in the event of unexpected and unpredicted droughts and floods. To study these plants and plant-based products and analyze the impact of imperial control on land-use and agriculture, I will collect phytolith data through my field work in Iraqi Kurdistan at an on-going excavation of an Assyrian-period town site. I will then conduct phytolith analyses on these samples in the Environmental Archaeology Laboratory in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin.

What impressed me most about The University of Texas at Austin’s graduate program in the department of Anthropology are the diverse, multidimensional and interdisciplinary research interests of the faculty members and their expertise in such different approaches. Fostering fruitful discussions with other departments will surely broaden and enrich my skills as well as my general understanding of the issues.

 

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Harjant Gill – U.S. Film Premiere

We are pleased to present a trailer and abstract for Dr. Harjant Gill who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on Sent Away Boys.

Sent Away Boys will be making its U.S. premier this November at the Society for Visual Anthropology’s Film Festival at the AAA meetings in Minneapolis, MN.

Screening to be followed by Q&A with Harjant Gill.

DATE: November 16, 2016, 10:30 AM

LOCATION: Minneapolis Convention Center, Auditorium 2 (SVAA Film Festival at the AAAs)

Trailer: Sent Away Boys from Tilotama Productions.

Sent Away Boys: A Rural Landscape Transformed by Transnational Migration

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

What happens to families in the absence of sons? What happens to land in the absence of farmers? What happens to communities in the absence of men? Sent Away Boys weaves together testaments of individual ambitions and family biographies from Punjab, India to chronicle the gradual transformation of agrarian landscape and patriarchal traditions through ongoing transnational migration. As the promise of a secure future in agriculture grows increasingly uncertain for young men across the region, escaping India to join the low-wage labor in countries like Canada and USA becomes their sole aspiration. In rural Punjab, being a successful man now entails leaving their village, traveling abroad, and sending money home. Through interviews with men preparing to undertake often risky journeys and women awaiting the return of their sons, brothers and husbands, Sent Away Boys shows how the decision to emigrate implicate the entire family and the larger community.

 

 

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Roger Canals – U.S. Film Premiere

We’re pleased to announce the U.S. Premiere of Wenner-Gren Foundation’s Fejos Fellow Roger Canals’ film, A Goddess in Motion at the Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival.

Screenings are followed by Q&A with Kathryn S. Oths and Roger Canals.

The cult of María Lionza, one of the most important religious practices in Venezuela, is beginning to manifest itself in Barcelona. Through the testimonies of believers, artists and esoteric art sellers, this documentary depicts, for the first time, the appearance of this religion in the Catalan capital.

DATE: November 19, 2016, 1:20 PM
LOCATION: Minneapolis Convention Center, Auditorium 2 (SVAA Film Festival at the AAAs)

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.