Meet Our Wadsworth African Fellows: Theogene Niwenshuti

In addition to highlighting our Wadsworth International Fellows the Foundation would also like to introduce one of our newest Wadsworth African Fellows, Theogene Niwenshuit. Funded through the Wadsworth African Fellowship Theogene Niwenshuti will continue his PhD training in social cultural anthropology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, supervised by Dr. Susan Levine.

I earned a BA (with distinction) from National University of Rwanda and a MA (cum laude) from Wits University School of Arts in Johannesburg before enrolling in the PhD program in at the University of Cape Town (UCT). I travel extensively facilitating, lecturing, performing and campaigning for peace, healing, human rights and the prevention of genocide, war and other violent conflicts and have been the recipient of several awards, prestigious scholarships, medals and honors for my community, artistic, leadership and academic contributions.

I was born and grew up in the hills of Kanombe and Ndera in Gasabo, Rwanda, the Great Lakes – East Afrikan Region. Like other children of my generation, my studies were disrupted by war and genocide. After missing a few years of study I managed to complete high school and earn an undergraduate degree at the National University of Rwanda (NUR). I have been pursuing my academic, artistic and community engagements in various post-conflict African regions and communities. My current research is concerned with contestation over the interpretation of memory and heritage of violence. While trying to identify mechanisms and strategies developed by individuals and institutions in response to the legacies of violence, my study also attempts to make sense of the impact of this violence on mental health and the general wellbeing of individuals and communities.

In my study of memory and trauma I am interested in the relationship between body, space and memory, and understanding how it helps inform healing and recovery in a post-conflict / post-genocide context. My approach consists of interrogating how the body intervenes in the process of mapping and translating private, difficult memories from an intimate space to a public one. I hope to build on past research and gather and make use of local stories, memories, interpretations, and individual and collective experiences to make a contribution in the fields of memory, (mental) health, art, culture, performance, heritage, academia, institutional practice, governance and violence.

Since October 2018, I have been facilitating a unique academic platform entitled “Contested Spaces” Seminar Series. Several scholars, artists, health, education, heritage and museum practitioners of local and global repute have attended and engaged in critical and creative conversations during these seminars.  With the support of local communities and institutions, artists, students and scholars, the 2nd series of “Contested Spaces” Seminar will be launched in the coming months.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Camille Louis

This month we return to our series spotlighting Wadsworth International Fellows as we introduce you to Camille Louis, who received a Wadsworth International Fellowship which has given him the opportunity to train in archaeology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, supervised by Dr. James Cameron Monroe.

I received my undergraduate degrees in Art History, Archaeology and psychology from the Université d’Etat d’Haïti.  Later I spent a year at the University of the West Indies (Mona Campus, Jamaica) where I received archaeological training organized by members of the Department of Archaeology at Monticello (Virginia, USA), one of the preeminent groups exploring the archaeology of slavery in the New World. I earned a Master’s Degree in Cultural Resources Management from Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan. Following my master’s degree, I received specialized training in underwater archaeology from UNESCO and the University of Leiden team in St-Eustatius.

The Haitian Revolution created a total cultural and social “rupture”. Slaves, free blacks, and some mulattoes united against and overthrew the colonial system. During the revolution, opposing armies of the French and the enslaved destroyed innumerable colonial settlements and plantations, the remnants of which can be studied archaeologically.  My academic interests are to study the nature of Maroon settlement and the organization of plantations in Dondon region Northern Haiti, and the cultural memory of such communities in the region today. This area was a hotbed of maroon settlement in the colonial period, and played a determinative role in sparking the Haitian Revolution in 1791. Rather than viewing Maroons as isolated and removed from the plantation world, I seek to explore how they were intensely entangled in colonial world-making processes, revealing the active role these “people without history” played in the making of the modern world. This research has the potential to provide new insights into the communication networks that fostered revolution in Saint-Domingue, and provide a valuable perspective on archaeologies of power and resistance more broadly. Finally it focuses on the relationship between Dondon’s community and heritage of the colonial period.

The University of California at Santa Cruz provides a unique professional development opportunity to acquire expertise in Historical Archaeology based in Haiti. Since 2015 Dr. Cameron Monroe of the Department of Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz has been carrying out research in Milot the Northern region of Haiti, which has afforded me the opportunity to pursue my PhD program at this University.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Blade Engda Redae

This month Wenner-Gren is excited to spotlight Blade Engda Redae who recently received a Wadsworth International Fellowship to continue his training in archaeology at the University of Poitiers, France, supervised by Dr. Jean-Renaud Boisserie. Read the previous entries in the series here, here and here.

I completed my BA degree in Archaeology in 2012 from Addis Ababa University, and have been working in the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) as an archaeology and paleontology expert since 2013. My first experience at  the Omo paleoanthropological site was during the 2014 Omo Group Research Expedition (OGRE) field season. In 2017, I had the opportunity to train in various laboratory activities (such as micro-wear sampling and curation) on the Shungura collections as part of my internship. I have also been participating in various paleontological and archaeological research projects including in the Afar Rift and Turkana Basin.

In 2016, I was sponsored by the Erasmus Mundus program in the International Master in Quaternary and Prehistory (IMQP) during  the academic year of 2017/2018. I am currently finalizing the program through the completion of my Masters project on taphonomic and zooarchaeological assessments of the fossil faunal assemblages from the Plio-Pleistocene Shungura deposits. This study clearly demonstrates the great potential of the site for  reconstructing a more complete picture of the hominin dietary and behavioral ecology of the Plio-Pleistocene Shungura, and gaining a better understanding of  community dynamics, ecology and hominid behaviors.

My PhD topic aims to  investigate  the ecology and taphonomy of vertebrate assemblages in the context of the Shungura Oldowan industry (ca. 2.3 Ma) with comparisons throughout the Shungura sequence. The objectives are to reconstruct the environmental context of the Shungura Oldowan industry, test patterns of hominid habitat exploitation and understand the purpose of making stone tools.

My topic is fully integrated within the OGRE and hosted by the laboratory PALEVOPRIM (University of Poitiers and CNRS) where I plan to pursue my PhD in collaboration with the National Museum of Natural History (Paris).

Finally, my goal is not only to achieve a scientific career in paleoanthropology, but also to return to Ethiopia in order to develop scientific research and strengthen the field of human evolution in the country, where paleoanthropological resources are rich, but largely understudied.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Ireri Ceja Cardenas

Ireri Ceja Cardenas received her undergraduate degree at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, ITESO, México, and a Master’s in Visual Anthropology and Anthropological Documentary at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, FLACSO Ecuador. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in anthropology at Federal U. of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, supervised by Dr. Adrianna de Resende Barreto Vianna. Read the previous two entries in the series. 

I am a Mexican researcher in my first year of a PhD program in Social Anthropology at the National Museum (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). In spite of huge budget cuts to education, science and culture, the museum’s anthropology program has maintained its ranking as one of the most prestigious in the region. But on September 2, 2018, the year of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the National Museum and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Postgraduate Program in Social Anthropology, the museum (housed in San Cristóbal Palace) was consumed by fire. Nearly all of the installations and the historical, artistic, bibliographical and scientific collections perished, and the Social Anthropology Program and its ongoing research activities, teaching and social commitments have been greatly compromised.

By choosing a doctoral program in Brazil my goal is to help create alliances and collaborations between disparate academic traditions in Mexico, Ecuador and Brazil and unite scholars, who despite shared experiences and common histories, rarely have the opportunity to engage in conversation with one another.

After completing my degree in Communication Sciences at the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO, Guadalajara, Mexico), I earned my master’s degree in Visual Anthropology and Anthropological Documentary at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO, Quito, Ecuador), an institution I later joined as a researcher and collaborator.

For the past seven years I have been conducting research on migration and forced displacement. I have worked on identity and belonging of Haitian populations on the move following the 2010 earthquake throughout the Andean region, and studied their use of subversion strategies to overcome discrimination and exclusion. I have also studied displaced populations of Colombians residing in Ecuador and access to rights through their Mercosur visas. As an anthropologist I have developed the tools to explore heterogeneities and struggles within disparate categories such as refugee, multilateralism, regional and local integration. I have also applied a critical perspective to issues of violence, borders and smuggling of migrants, along with violations of human rights in the context of security policies and the closing of borders.

My research interests continue to focus on migration and displacement as consequences of “the crisis of civilization” and the Anthropocene and how these trends function in opposition to the control of natural resources and territories in Mexico and Latin America. I believe that anthropology allows us to question dichotomies such as nature / culture, universalism / particularism, agency / structure and to construct theoretical and practical alternatives to problems that emerge from capitalism and development.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Bania Sinai Garcia Sanchez

Bania Sinai Garcia Sanchez received her undergraduate degree at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico and an MA in Amerindian Studies and Bilingual Education at the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, Mexico. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in anthropology at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, supervised by Dr. Mark Sicoli. Read the previous entry in the series. 

My name is Bania Sinaí García Sánchez and I come from a Zapotec indigenous community located in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca. I completed my undergraduate degree in Linguistics and Hispanic Literature at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. During my undergraduate years I wrote a research thesis entitled, “Towards an interpretation of the figure of the Zapotec mother in a portrait of my mother by Andrés Henestrosa”. I received my master’s degree in Amerindian Studies and Bilingual Education from the Autonomous University of Querétaro and  wrote my Master’s thesis entitled, “Wedding Advice among the Zapotec Women of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec: A Discourse Genre.”

I have made it a priority to learn to speak my heritage language, to keep it, protect it, and preserve it. I have studied Zapotec as a second language for two years at the Language School of the Autonomous University of Oaxaca. I have also conducted fieldwork in my community and  have collected legends and myths from oral traditions, interviewed women on ritual practice, made video recordings and taken photographs of the traditions of the people in the community, our festivals, and our rites. I have also investigated the discourse, pragmatics, semantics, and the use of verbs in advice given by women, and other speech genres. I  hosted a literary workshop of Zapotec indigenous literature in the Faculty of Languages in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec of the Autonomous University of Oaxaca, where I taught two semesters of Zapotec oral traditions.

I applied  to the Ph.D. program in Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Virginia because I believe studying there will provide me with the necessary skills to analyze, document, and share my indigenous language of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which will strengthen the vitality of my culture. The University of Virginia is unique for its linguistic anthropology faculty who specialize in language and cognition and documenting language as culture, and for its faculty across the subfields who are dedicated to participatory and community-based research methods. I believe it is the ideal environment for me to pursue my goals of understanding the Zapotec language as lived experience in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Dilmurad Yusupov

Dilmurad Yusupov received his undergraduate degree from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), Russia and an MA in Economics at the Graduate School of Economics, Waseda University, Japan. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in anthropology at the University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom, supervised by Dr. Magnus Marsden.

My research project deals with disability in Uzbekistan, where it is conflated with physical dysfunction caused by various impairments and state efforts are directed towards returning disabled people to ‘normal’ condition through medical rehabilitation. Current practices have been largely influenced by Soviet disability policies based on institutionalization and segregation. The purpose of my study is to explore the potential that community-based approaches hold for promoting inclusive development as an alternative to placing disabled people into specialized care institutions.

Through an approach based on participatory action research with adults with physical, sensory and learning impairments and critical ethnography, my goal is to understand how Soviet disability policies and practices, Islamic culture in post-Soviet Uzbekistan and related cultural stereotypes about disabled people  shape current understandings of disability. I am also deeply interested in learning how existing formal/ informal community networks in Uzbekistan promote or prevent social inclusion of disabled people.

As an economist by training, I used to practice quantitative research and hold  a positivist worldview. But after working with disabled people at grassroots levels on various projects implemented by Japanese international organizations in Uzbekistan, I gained an understanding of how  economics, with its numerous assumptions about human lives and focus  on numbers, can produce a distorted reality. This prompted me to undertake a PhD at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex where I could receive postgraduate training in anthropology and participatory research methods.

Drawing on social and medical anthropology, my research project adopts a constructivist paradigm. After completing a comprehensive literature review on relevant research approaches and methods, I have embraced critical ethnography and  view disability not as a medical but as a culturally and socially constructed concept. In Uzbekistan, anthropological education and research is heavily underrepresented and its potential is underestimated. Therefore, through this research and world-class training in anthropology, I aim to contribute to national academia and advance applied anthropology as a means to promote social development in Uzbekistan.

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Catalina Tesar

In 2007 Catalina Tesar received a Wadsworth International Fellowship to aid training in social anthropology at University College London, supervised by Michael Sinclair Stewart. After completing her Wadsworth Fellowship Dr. Tesar received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on “O Taxtaj: The Chalice”. We are proud to present the following trailer and blog post.

TAXTAJ TEASER from Ciprian Cimpoi on Vimeo.

O Taxtaj: The Chalice

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Romanian Cortorari Gypsies from Transylvania convey a strong commitment to the possession of specific putative objects, namely chalices (sg. taxtaj, pl. taxtaja) which were bequeathed to them by their ancestors and passed on from father to son. Though chalices are permanently tucked away in the granaries and houses of neighboring Romanian peasants, and thus invisible in everyday life, they are in fact an ubiquitous topic, stirring up passionate talks and feelings. Like the hereditary regalia of medieval European nobility, chalices are symbols of the prestige of a family, instigating machinations, theft, fights among brothers and matrimonial strategies to keep them inside the family. Chalices are central to the arrangement of marriages which is the Cortorari’s chief preoccupation at all times: parents of girls seek to marry their daughters off to grooms who own a valuable chalice, while parents of boys demand big cash dowries from the bride’s family to offset the value placed on their chalice. In reality, people are continuously challenging the hierarchy of chalices which, far from being objective, depends on their owners’ ability to boast their value. On the occasion of a marriage arrangement, the groom’s chalice is pledged to the bride’s family and will remain entrusted to them until the young couple beget a son — the ultimate guarantee of the endurance of a marriage. Therefore, there is a yearning among young couples to bring forth a baby boy to weld them together.

My PhD research — which was funded by a Wadsworth International Fellowship — resulted in a thesis titled ‘Women Married off to Chalices’: Gender, Kinship and Wealth among Romanian Cortorari Gypsies that I defended at University College London in 2013. Focusing on the articulation of gender relations with the flow of chalices in the process of marriage, the thesis adopted the stance of the generation who arranges the marriages of their children or grand-children. At the time of my PhD fieldwork, namely between 2008 and 2010, I was in my early 30s, an age at which a Cortorari woman is in the prime of her motherhood, if not already a grandmother. I was thus embraced by women of my age, which pointed my research in the direction of their understandings and representations of gender issues in relation to ceremonial wealth.

The documentary I have made as a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship recipient gives voice to the generation that had been almost entirely left out of my PhD dissertation, namely the newly wed and especially the women in this life stage. Upon marriage, women go to live with their husbands’ families. As young daughters-in-law (bori), most of the chores in the household become their responsibility. Moreover, until they give birth to a son, newly wed women live under the continuous threat of being forsaken by their husbands and their families. They live in a limbo and often seek refuge from the harshness of their marital family into their parental family. Daughters are not desired because they bring for their parents and grandparents the prospects of paying big cash dowries to marry them off. The young couple who have already brought forth a daughter live under the pressure to bring forth a son. It is a pressure which is laid on the couple by the older generations in the extended family and equally internalized as a longing by the young couple. The son is seen as the essence of the family; he ensures both the succession of generations within the household and the passing on of the chalice to future generations. If they have a daughter and a son, parents can arrange a marriage by exchange (of daughters), and this kind of marriage ideally results in the writing off of the dowry. In case a female baby comes after a first-born daughter —and they use ultrasounds to find out the sex of the foetus — the couple resort to pregnancy termination.

The documentary follows the couple Peli and Nina, both in their mid-20s, parents to a five-year old daughter, as they strive to bring forth a son to redeem the chalice belonging to Peli’s family from the trust of Nina’s parental family. The viewer is taken along on the rough journey that the couple and their families must make as they negotiate the twists and turns of  Cortorari marriage making and breaking and engage in passionate arguments over the chalices.

In making this documentary, I took on at least three challenges: 1) I wanted it to reach beyond an anthropological audience; 2) I wanted to avoid the use of authoritative voice-over and allow the characters to speak for themselves instead; and 3) I wanted the film to help clarify and offset preconceived notions or prejudices about the Roma, so I used an inside perspective to convey the broader picture of how they live. The result is a documentary deeply grounded in anthropology yet creative. The film opens and ends with scenes featuring ceremonial events, involving big gatherings of people, a wedding and a discussion about chalices respectively. Both of these scenes stage Cortorari central cultural tropes, namely  marriages, wealth in chalices, and dowries. Between these two big scenes, we get a chance to have a close look at how the couple Peli and Nina live and experience these very cultural tropes in their everyday lives.

‘The Chalice’ is a feature-length observational and participatory documentary. Pure observational scenes entwine with non-conventional interviews in which the characters tell their private stories to the camera and to me while minding their own business. One of the secondary characters, Peli’s sister Băra – who is married to brother of Peli’s spouse (a marriage arranged by exchange of daughters) – confides her own experience as a daughter-in-law expected to bring forth a son to the camera and recounts the story of her brother’s marriage. She does so while reflecting on idioms that are central to the Cortorari universe, such as family, household, arranged marriages, and the lived condition of women. All her appearances in the film consist of indoor footage in the form of confessional interviews – in choosing this, I wanted to convey that this particular character is representative of (almost all) Cortorari women of her age and marital status. The camera never follows Băra outside of her house – as the house, and its nearby surroundings, is anyway the space to which newly wed women are confined.

Peli and Nina live under the same roof as Peli’s parents, Costică and Uca, and a sense of transience and uncertainty looms over their household, both in regard to material possessions and to human relationships. Their main source of income is the money earned by Costică and Uca begging abroad, which is little and unpredictable. Peli trained as a clown selling balloons on the streets in Italy, but the urge to conceive a son to redeem his family’s chalice has kept him coming and going between Italy and his home village. Nina’s parents have supplied livestock to her marital household, and most of the time Nina is busy looking after them. Five years have passed since Peli and Nina were matched, and Costică is impatient to get back his family chalice. He thus periodically lashes out against Nina for not having conceived a son yet, and to her family who hold his chalice. When Nina finally gets pregnant, the foetus is a baby girl and she has to go through pregnancy termination. We learn about the termination of Nina’s pregnancy from her five-year old daughter Rada who is a witness to all of her mother’s pregnancy ultrasounds. Similarly to Băra, yet less articulately than her aunt, Rada is there to make the viewer aware of the condition of women in Cortorari society. She is the symbol of the next generation of Cortorari women who will follow a life-trajectory punctuated by similar events, namely they will have their marriages arranged for them and then give birth to a son and/or resort to pregnancy termination in case they bear a girl. The arguments over chalices relentlessly bursting through the fabric of the Cortorari everyday lives – as shown in the prologue to the film – is the very source of the predictability of scripted individual life courses.

The shooting started in December 2016, when the pressure on Nina and Peli to bring forth a son turned into a genuine battle ground for their respective parental families, and stopped in November 2017, when the couple learned the sex of their baby and resorted to pregnancy termination. Throughout 2017 shooting sessions alternated with editing sessions. At the beginning of 2018 I completed a rough cut with the story line of the film.

In October 2017 I pitched the project at the ‘Romanian Docs in Progress’ Industry Section at ASTRA International Film Festival in Sibiu. My film was awarded entrance to the 2018 Outlook International Market by the head of the Industry program at Visions du Reel International Festival. This will be a great opportunity to find co-producers and distributors for my film. The documentary will be launched in the fall of 2018.

Meet Our Wadsworth African Fellows: Kelita Shadrach

 

Kelita Shadrach

Kelita Shadrach received her MSc degree in Archaeology from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. Funded through Wadsworth African Fellowship she will continue her PhD training in archaeology at the University of the Witwatersrand, supervised by Prof. Sarah Wurz, Dr Dominic Stratford and Dr Matthew Caruana.

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have always had a natural curiosity for the past and a drive to continuously learn and challenge social and academic structures. As a woman in academia and particularly one of colour, I find that there are many boundaries to be broken down and redefined within South Africa, as well as between South Africa and the international community.

Acquiring my BA, BSc with Honours, and MSc degrees in archaeology from the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) was important to me. Archaeology inspired me and awoke my desire to keep learning, particularly about the importance of the southern African archaeological record in the study of human origins. My interest is in the Earlier Stone Age, a period which spans from 2.18 to 0.3 million years ago in South Africa. During this time significant cognitive, technological and perhaps social thresholds were crossed, and past human species began producing the first (recoverable) cultural material: stone tools.

I have learned many lessons about passion, leadership and communication during my studies. As the current secretary of the Southern African Archaeology Student Council and as a senior postgraduate student, I have the opportunity to lead a dialogue among students, researchers and communities about archaeology and challenge the mind-set of academic exclusion of the public. Furthermore, I think that academia in South Africa needs to be more racially and gender inclusive. I hope to help change the established institutional dynamic.

Pursuing a PhD allows me to continue pushing boundaries. My research project will be an exploratory study of Early to Middle Pleistocene stone tool technology and site formation processes at the Klasies River Mouth, Geelhoutboom and Amanzi Springs sites in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.  My PhD research at WITS will focus on leading a multi-disciplinary, fine resolution, stratigraphically sensitive study of the sites. For generations, WITS has distinguished itself as a leader in the field of human physical and cultural evolution. This research will build on this existing legacy and, through the application of new techniques and approaches, help transform archaeological practices.

Meet Our Wadsworth International Fellows: Dmitri Prieto Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto Samsonov received his undergraduate degree from the University of Havana. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in anthropology at University College London, supervised by Dr. Martin Holbraad. Read the previous four entries in the series.

My research interests are focused on the political anthropology of radical social transformations, particularly in Eurasia and the Caribbean. As a person of Cuban-Russian ancestry, I have experienced the long-term, trans-oceanic effects of the Cuban revolution, the Soviet revolution, and Perestroika. I am particularly interested in how emancipatory revolutions produce unintended dynamics of social asymmetry (including class inequality) and structures of hierarchy, authoritarianism and domination. In my MSc dissertation (LSE, 2008) and a subsequent book about the socio-legal aspects of the anti-slavery revolution in Haiti (1791-1826), I coined the term “transdomination” for this sort of social process.  I also auto-ethnographically investigated the (post)-Soviet diaspora in Cuba, a complex group of barely perceptible ethnicities, which emerged as an outcome of revolutionary policies and transatlantic migratory fluxes during the period of geopolitical alliance between Cuba and the USSR.

My current research topic is the ethnography of transdomination in post-insurrectional and post-Soviet Cuba (from1959 to the present). It encompasses the intersection of three areas of anthropological interest, the: (1) anthropology of revolutions, (2) anthropology of freedom, and (3) anthropology of historical consciousness. Additionally, issues related to geopolitics, 20th-century ideological and strategic models of State socialism, and the modern capitalist world-system are relevant for analyzing post-1959 Cuba.

Such a proposal requires carrying out massive fieldwork –which is exactly the sort of inquiry that ethnographic approaches make possible — and conceptualizing an innovative theoretical framework. I will need to collect ethnographic evidence pertinent for interpreting the complex social reality of present-day Cuba, and to put the resulting accounts in dialogue with life histories narrated by the witnesses and protagonists of the post-1959 revolutionary project. Anthropology is the academic discipline that makes such an integrative approach possible. I chose the University College London (UCL) because its Anthropology Department is deeply engaged with the ontological turn in the research of contemporary revolutions, which conceptualizes their social and cultural dynamics as radical cosmological changes. This kind of theoretical and investigative framework will be crucial for formulating an accurate scientific narrative of the process of transdomination in Cuba.UCL also has a tradition of expertise in both Latin-American and Eastern-European studies, which is an interesting combination for problematizing the issues of State socialism in contemporary Cuba.

My previous research has focused on social asymmetries and ethnography of the habitat in Old Havana and the Guanahacabibes peninsula (Cuba), history of the Cuban anthropology, work cultures of the Cuban emergent economic agents, history of the Cuban legal-constitutional identity, and administrative corruption in Cuba. I earned a Masters in Law, Anthropology and Society with Distinction at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and obtained a Graduate Diploma in Biological Anthropology from the University of Havana. My first degrees are a BSc in Biochemistry and an LLB at the same university. I am currently a member of the Research Workgroup “Anti-Capitalismos & Sociabilidades Emergentes” affiliated with the Latin-American Council for Social Sciences (CLACSO) and one of the coordinators of its Cuban chapter. I worked as an ethnographer at the Instituto Cubano de Antropologia, as a Constitutional Law specialist at the Centre for Law Research of the Cuban Ministry of Justice, and as a molecular biologist at the Centro de Ingenieria Genetica y Biotecnologia in Havana. I lectured in Social Theory, Anthropology, Constitutional Law, History of Cuba and History of Philosophy (inter alia) at the Santa Cruz del Norte Community College of the Universidad Agraria de La Habana.I am deeply committed to the future of Cuba and the development of the anthropological sciences in my homeland. After the completion of my degree, I expect to return and work towards opening new fields of study for Socio-Cultural Anthropology, and to strengthen transdisciplinary research.

 

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.