On November 20, 2018, Dr. Cyril S. Belshaw, the second editor of Current Anthropology, the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s flagship journal, passed away in Vancouver, Canada. He guided Current Anthropology through a formative phase in its growth, taking over from the founder, Sol Tax, in 1974. Known for his extensive research in New Guinea, Fiji, and British Columbia, Dr. Belshaw wrote for broad audiences on topics ranging from urbanism in Papua to the future of the Canadian university. An avid promotor of global dialogue in anthropology, he served as President of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences and was an honorary lifetime member of Royal Anthropological Institute, the Pacific Science Association and the Association for the Social Anthropology of Oceania. The Foundation is grateful for his service to the discipline. We extend our condolences to his friends and family on their loss.
Wenner-Gren is thrilled to share yet another great trailer and blog post from one of our Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship recipients, Jenny Chio. In 2017 Dr. Chio received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on “These Days, These Homes: An Ethnographic Portrait Film.”
These Days, These Homes
Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship
During the grant period, my work was focused on preparing for and conducting a final period of in-country research (May-June 2018) when I met with Wu and Qin again in Kaili, Guizhou. They had both moved into new houses, again, so filming and production was concentrated on shooting these new spaces as well as holding more “reflective” conversations about changes in their lives and our relationship. I also discussed the next steps of the film with them, letting them both know that I will prepare a cut for their review before any distribution or full public screening. After returning to the US from this in-country research, the remainder of the grant period was used to organize footage (video and audio) and to prepare for a final footage review/logging and editing. In reviewing all of the footage from 2018, 2017, 2015, and 2006-2008, I have begun to develop a stronger sense of narrative in the film as well as to experiment with using first-person voice-over narration to help structure the film.
These Days, These Homes will be an ethnographic portrait film focused on the lives of two ethnic Miao women in Guizhou, China. Wu and Qin, as they are referred to in the film, were both born in China’s post-reform 1980s and both married into the same village, Jidao, at approximately the same time, fourteen years ago in 2004. In 2006, I arrived in Jidao with the intent of studying the village’s nascent tourism development program, and over the period of my fieldwork in Jidao, Wu and Qin both became close friends and interlocutors. Since that time, I have visited them wherever their lives have taken them: from Jidao, to the factory towns of south China (Wu), to the nearest provincial capital city Kaili, where both Wu and Qin now reside, at least part time. These Days, These Homes uses the spaces of their lives – their homes in the village and the city – to illuminate and reflect upon the gendered experience of modernity for ethnic minority women like Wu and Qin, whose lives are still unfolding against a backdrop of rapid, almost unimaginable socioeconomic transformation across rural and urban China.
The majority of the film takes place inside the homes of Wu and Qin, and it will span multiples spaces and multiple years. In the time I have known her, Wu has moved numerous times, from her husband’s village house in Jidao to south China’s Guangdong province to a farmstead built by her family on the outskirts of Kaili city and now, in 2018, to a new concrete one-bedroom apartment within one of Kaili’s informal settlement communities. For Chen, her work as the village clinician and in Jidao village’s tourism has brought her new challenges and new sources of income. Within the village, she has moved three times: from a small apartment attached to the village clinic to her husband’s family house to a newly built home with guestrooms for tourists. Then, in 2018, she and her immediate family (her husband and two children) moved into a brand-new high-rise apartment in one of Kaili’s more well-to-do residential complexes, where they spend their weekends away from the demands of village life. Thus, for both Wu and Qin, their homes reflect not only their individual or household ambitions but, more significantly, refract the parallel but divergent paths taken by these two women.
Framed by their domestic environments and engaged in their everyday, domestic duties (from cooking for their families to preparing to host tourists and guests), the film features conversations with Wu and Qin in which we reflect upon our relationships to each other, the time that has passed since we met, and the times to come down the line. Once completed, the film will be structured in two parts, one each on Wu and Qin, followed by a short coda. My own reflections will be included as a first-person voice over narration, following in the style and tradition of the essay film. Visually, I will keep the emphasis on the spaces of home and domesticity, as these are the spaces in which I interact with Wu and Qin most frequently, but I also will include some footage of their lives in the city and village.
Over the next six months, I will workshop some of my ideas and rough cuts with audiences at UCLA, where I have been invited to give a public talk on the film project, gender, and modernity in China, and at USC in the Center for Visual Anthropology as part of their work-in-progress seminar series.
While a doctoral student at the University of Washington, Erin Masterson received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2014 to aid research on “Putting Teeth into the Developmental Origins Hypothesis: Early Childhood Ecology, Enamel Defects and Adolescent Growth,” supervised by Dr. Daniel Eisenberg. In 2017 Dr. Masterson received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Initiation of a Clean Water Campaign to Improve Children’s Health and Development in Bolivia’s Amazon.”
With support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, in 2018 I returned to Bolivia’s Amazonian Basin for a month to visit the 12 Tsimane’ communities that participated in my dissertation research in 2015. This follow-up visit included an aim to initiate a clean water campaign in the Tsimane’ Territory of the Bolivian Amazon. I was motivated to focus on this topic because my dissertation research findings underscored the importance of a healthy, infection-free childhood for long-term health.
Specifically, I reconnected with my Bolivian colleagues at the Centro Boliviano de Investigación y Desarrollo Socio (CBIDSI) and we set out to: (1) to develop a logo and slogan in the native Tsimane’ language to motivate clean water stewardship, (2) to develop educational materials focused on the risks of parasitic and bacterial infections and the importance of clean water, and (3) to make structural changes in schools by implementing water filters and hand washing stations. The idea for this project was developed directly from my time in the field in 2015, observing and discussing behaviors and thoughts related to water use with community members and my CBIDSI colleagues. Community leaders requested educational information in the native Tsimane’ language, like the oral health workshop we offered during data collection. A primary health concern that was expressed during these workshops was pediatric diarrhea and other infection- related conditions. Although education was the foundation of this project, we also implemented structural changes to enable the positive behavior changes encouraged through education.
First, we developed a label with a parrot “mascot” and the phrase “clean water” in the native Tsimane’ language to attach to all aspects of this project. The idea of this was that repetition will help to reinforce educational messages and recognition of all aspects of the project as parts of one end goal: clean water. We developed a set of posters to guide an educational talk about how water becomes contaminated and causes illness, how to keep water clean, and good hygiene practices to prevent contamination. We wrote the script in Spanish and translated it to the native Tsimane’ language. The talk was then recorded in both Spanish and Tsimane’ is being broadcasted on the local radio, a form of communication accessible in nearly all Tsimane’ communities. To provide a more in-depth understanding of why it is important to keep water clean and to then offer suggestions for how to accomplish this in the home, we developed and distributed coloring books with text in the native Tsimane’ language that instructed how to keep water clean in the home and practice good hygiene.
Based on the idea that implementing structural changes fosters positive behavior change, we provided each school with one Sawyer PointONE filter with a bucket adaptor kit. We hand delivered the filter kit to each community, already set-up, labeled, with photo instructions for caring for the filter, and tested for leaks. We put the filter in the hands and care of the school teacher in each community. When we visited the communities, we invited the teacher, students and community members to participate in a demonstration on using the water filter and a brief training workshop on caring for it. Due to weather that complicated our river travel plans to visit the communities, our time was too limited to actually build the “tippy-tap” handwashing stations with the communities, but we discussed the plans and purpose of these stations in detail with the teachers and community members in each community. We also provided them with photo instructions on how to construct this simple structure. The hope is that, because people tend to develop new behaviors more readily at a younger age, students will hopefully bring these new ideas and habits home to their families.
Through all these activities, we engaged children, teachers, families, community leaders and the local Tsimane’ government leaders. We encountered profound and widespread support of our focus on clean water stewardship, motivated by desperation to mitigate the ill effects of parasitic and bacterial infection in the Tsimane’ communities. This project contributed to generating an equitable relationship between myself and the Tsimane’ people, because I was able to share my study findings with them in an applied and relevant manner, through offering information around and suggestions for improving children’s health and development in their native language.
Finally, prompted by the overwhelming enthusiasm and demands for a filter for each household while visiting the communities, my CBIDSI colleagues and I embarked on a feasibility study to initiate local production of ceramic water filters during my visit so that, as requested in the communities, all households may one day have a filter and clean water. This entailed hours of meeting and discussing, reviewing potential property layouts, equipment and material sourcing opportunities and pricing, and collecting and lab testing the local clay material for mineral and physical properties.
We composed a report summarizing our investigation which will be used to seek start-up funds for this subsequent project, which will continue to work toward the ultimate goal of reducing childhood morbidity attributed to contaminated water.
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.
Finish out the year with one more engaging installment of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series on December 3rd, 5:45 PM at its new location, Roosevelt House, 47-49 E 65th St, New York, NY 10065. Sharon Feliciano-Santos, Assistant Professor in Anthropology at the University of South Carolina, will be presenting, “The Right to Remain Silent: Self-Monitoring and the Experience of Inequality During Traffic Stops in the U.S. South.”
Please note: the lecture begins at 6:30 PM, and while the event is free to attend pre-registration is required for entry into the building. Early registration is strongly recommended, since seating is limited. For the buffet supper, registration is also required. If you will be registering for an event for the first time, the New York Academy of Sciences will ask you first to set up a user account with them. Registration is free and does not require divulging personal or financial information.
What impact do knowledge of police discretion and the potential for the escalation of violence have upon the communication and expression of subjects during police-initiated traffic stops? Drawing on fieldwork in a mid-size Southern city, interviews with subjects of stops, and analysis of dash-cam and body-cam video, we highlight the different fears, concerns, and knowledges that impact how subjects of traffic stops manage their speech and body language in order to avoid being interpreted as threatening or non-compliant. Interviews with differently raced and gendered subjects of police-initiated stops describe the multiple frameworks that influence their expressive decisions, from media-circulated news of shootings between police and subjects, their knowledge of their legal rights, to their past experiences of being stopped by law enforcement officials.
While the knowledge of subject’s rights during a police-initiated stop is not equally distributed, in cases where subjects do know their rights, interviews reveal how subjects experience the responses to expressing their right to remain silent as non-compliance or refusal. Here, pressures toward compliance may implicitly work against subject’s rights. Ultimately, a systemic analysis of these patterns of self-monitoring suggests how racial and gendered inequalities in charges and arrests emerge and become reproduced in the context of routine police stops. The presentation concludes by connecting these findings to global issues related to self-monitoring and the production of silences in reproducing inequality.
About the Speaker:
Dr. Feliciano-Santos‘ research interests include linguistic anthropology, the politics of language use, social activism, language and cultural revitalization, racial and ethnic formations, and religion. Her areas of interests are Puerto Rico, St. Croix, Caribbean, Latin America, and the U.S. Feliciano-Santos’ research has focused on Taíno cultural revitalization and identarian movements in Puerto Rico. She has examined face-to-face interactions, and the culturally situated communicative ideologies that influence and emerge from such movements. She is also interested in how historical revisions affect the task of reconstruction (religious, linguistic, institutional, etc.) and indigenous ethnic identification. Her current project focuses on the language ideologies and practices of Puerto Ricans in St. Croix, including the ways in which they construct their relationships to multiple Caribbean islands linguistically and narratively.
A dinner and wine reception will precede the talk. Buffet dinner begins at 5:45 PM. ($20 contribution for dinner guests/free for students).
Lectures begin at 6:30 PM and are free and open to the public, but registration is required.
Thursday, November 15, 2018
(3-0605) How to Write a Grant Proposal for the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the NSF, 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM, San Jose Convention Center, MR 114
(3-1038) Out of the Ashes: International Solidarity and the Challenges for Rebuilding Anthropology at Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, 4:15 PM – 6 PM, San Jose Convention Center, Executive Ballroom 210 B
Friday, November 16, 2018
(4-0135) Journalism and Anthropology: An Encounter, 8 – 9:45 AM, San Jose Convention Center, LL 21 C
(4-1185) The Art Of Reviewing, 4:15 PM – 6 PM, San Jose Convention Center, Executive Ballroom 210F
Exhibit Hall Fun!
Meet the Editors of Current Anthropology, Thursday and Friday, November 15th and 16th, 10 AM – 12 PM, University of Chicago Press Booth #408, San Jose Convention Center Exhibition Hall Laurence Ralph and Lisa McKamy will be available, and possibly Mark Aldenderfer as well.
Also feel free to drop by to see us at the Wenner-Gren Booth (#211) in the Exhibition Hall.
As a doctoral student at The University of Texas at Austin, Melissa Burch received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to facilitate research on “Navigating the Criminal Records Complex: Hiring and Job-Seeking in the Inland Empire,” supervised by Dr. João Costa Vargas. In 2017, Dr. Burch received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to support “Criminal Records and Employment Roundtables.”
Thanks to the support provided by The Wenner Gren Foundation, I was able to return to my field site southern California’s Inland Empire in January 2018, to share the findings of my dissertation research with key collaborators and stakeholders. Framed as roundtable discussions, I presented the major findings and core arguments of my dissertation research with three audiences. The first was hosted by the Inland Empire Fair Chance Coalition, a collaborative of community-based organizations working together to challenge criminal-records based discrimination in employment. The second roundtable was hosted by the Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership’s employment committee, a network of nonprofit organizations advocating for formerly incarcerated people. The third roundtable was attended primarily by former prisoners and their families and hosted by the San Bernardino branch of the Center for Employment Opportunities.
Four major findings were elaborated:
1. Criminalization demotes social status through the structures of race, class and gender. This demoted status therefore does not affect everyone equally or similarly.
2. Criminal records stigma encourages criminalized people to construct and perform narratives about their convictions that reinforce dominant assumptions about criminality.
3. A growing criminal records complex increases demand for criminal background checks, facilitates their widespread availability and justifies their use.
4. Many business owners and managers employ a level-headed, non-moralistic approach to criminal records; but this openness is threatened by a political-economy increasingly characterized by regulation, competition and litigation.
As a researcher, the opportunity to share these findings with communities and organizations who had helped to generate the research questions was invaluable. Doing so helped me to concretize my findings in clear, concise and non-jargony terms and presenting in-person allowed me to collect direct feedback on my analysis, creating a mechanism for accountability to those most impacted by the research. For participants, the roundtables carved out a welcome opportunity to reflect on current strategy, dilemmas and contradictions in the day-to-day work of fighting criminal records discrimination. Together, we talked through the potential implications of the research findings and discussed various possibilities and approaches to advance social change.
In addition to the formal roundtables, this return to the field also allowed me to meet one-on-one with a number of employers, advocates and job seekers who have been important research informants. These in-depth conversations provided another means for participants to vet, contest and contribute to my findings and arguments, fostering a mutual sense of collaboration.
To my surprise, while I had imagined that most informants would want to read only an executive summary, or the parts of the dissertation most relevant to them, the vast majority requested complete copies of the dissertation and many of those read and commented on the writing. Overall, the Engaged Anthropology Grant has helped me to produce a more rigorous, relevant and collaborative dissertation and I hope, a stronger forthcoming book.
The Wenner-Gren Foundation couldn’t be happier to share the trailer and blog post from Dr. Flavia Kremer who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2015 to aid filmmaking on Is a non-Bororo man a Mr. Wrong?
In Search of a Bororo Mr. Right
Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship
For my project “Is a non-Bororo man a Mr. Wrong?” I produced two film documents: In Search of a Bororo Mr. Right (40 min) and Dumping Mr. Wrong (approx. 60 min), which are in dialogue with each other.
These films will be the first two episodes of a micro series entitled Tales of Love and Bororo Myth, which explores the anthropology of love and kinship among the Bororo people in Central Brazil. Research and fundraising for the third episode is already underway. The film will follow a group of Bororo gay men in order to research the relationship between gay love and Bororo myth.
Tales of Love and Bororo Myth
The production of the micro series Tales of Love and Bororo Myth is a response to the challenges I faced during fieldwork, which transformed my initial research project. Departing from the first version of the visual ethnography In Search of a Bororo Mr. Right, which is an integral part of my PhD thesis entitled Gendered Prohibitions: Using Film to Explore Continuity and Change among the Bororo people in Central Brazil, I proposed to develop a “new genre” of ethnographic film: a kind of ethnographic “romantic comedy”.
The archetypal “romantic comedy” is often viewed as a “woman’s film” and the genre is generally treated with disdain by (often male) film critics (Mortimer 2010). The “rom com” genre explores the topics of love, marriage and women’s issues with the biological clock (i.e When Harry Met Sally). In Search of a Bororo Mr. Right is an “ethnographic romantic comedy” for it also deals with the search for love and explores the character’s concerns with finding “Mr. Right”, conciliating love and career, as well as the ticking of the biological clock. However, Mr. Right can only be understood as a “rom com” in the context of ethnographic film.
My proposal to produce an “ethnographic rom com” also encountered some resistance from critics, who argued that my project imposed the framework of a “Hollywood genre” to the Bororo context. I disagree with these critics. The traces of a “romantic comedy” genre that we can find in Mr. Right were not imposed on the Bororo. Rather, they emerged ethnographically. In other words, I only realized that the film could be interpreted as an “ethnographic rom com” in the edit suit, when the film was already finished. For this reason, my proposal to the Wenner-Gren Foundation was to develop this idea further. I planned to show how, through Mr. Right, the Bororo challenged the “boy meet girl” narrative structure of the “rom com” (McDonald 2007). Mr. Right is mostly a “a girl meets boy” type of film. As such, it challenges Lévi-Strauss’ theories of “the exchange of women” and shows how, among the Bororo, it is women who exchange men.
Feedback from Bororo viewers is a key element of the research project “Is a non-Bororo man a Mr.Wrong?”. For my Fejos Fellowship, I proposed to return to the Bororo village to screen Mr. Right and assess the impact of the film among Bororo viewers; a stage of the filmmaking processes that has been historically neglected in visual anthropology (Martinez 1992). The film Dumping Mr.Wrong, which I shot specifically for my fellowship, explores the reception of Mr. Right as a film document in the Bororo village. The initial plan was to produce a single film, one that would incorporate Mr. Right as memory, feedback, and develop the concept of an “ethnographic romantic comedy” further. However, by the time I began shooting, the reality of the main characters of Mr. Right, Daniela and Jordana, had changed dramatically. They had babies with non-Bororo men, who left them single. The footage from 2016 is not as lighthearted as the footage from 2011. Both Daniela and Jordana mentioned that their lives have been difficult since having babies and leaving Mr. Wrong behind. Moreover, in the feedback sessions, it became clear that a sort of “Bororo prophecy” had confirmed itself.
Bororo mythology designs specific paths of marriage for each clan. It prescribes the path one should take on the moral village plan in order to find their true husband or wife. Not marrying mythical Mr.Right is a risky business for Bororo women. If one marries out of their path, the “true wife” can claim their husband back. A “true wife” even has the right to claim her husband back and beat up the woman who invaded her path. None of the film characters married Mr. Right according to Bororo law. They had their children with men from different indigenous groups. Daniela had a baby with a man from the Xavante nation, the historical enemy of the Bororo, and Jordana had twins with a man from the Chiquitano nation. However, as the Bororo law would say, their “true wives” have taken them back. The Xavante left Daniela for a Xavante woman and the Chiquitano left Jordana for a Chiquitano woman.
There’s a melancholic mood in the footage of 2016 that problematised the project of refining the ethnographic “rom com” genre. For this reason, I decided to create the micro series Tales of Love and Bororo Myth and divide the footage in two parts. This new approach will give me the liberty to portray the reality of Daniela and Jordana in a lighthearted way, without compromising with the notion of ethnographic “rom com” or the film. The second episode, Dumping Mr.Wrong, follows the main characters of Mr. Right in new adventures in the city of Cuiabá and the Bororo village of Tadarimana, Brazil. We see the upshot of three stories involving mythical Mr. Right. The film cites Mr. Right as memory, but focuses on the cultural and subjective tensions of three Bororo girls, who share past memories and present experiences with mythical Mr. Right: our shy Leandro “DiCaprio”, who remains caught in the middle.
During the research process, I often wondered if making a series would create more problems than it would solve. I concluded that I have created a practical problem in order to solve a theoretical problem. In my application, I sent In Search of a Bororo Mr.Right as a pilot film to the foundation and proposed to refine the ethnographic “rom com” genre, which I developed in my PhD. So I revisited my fieldwork material from 2011 and edited a brand new version of Mr. Right including new footage from 2011, which introduces a new aspect to the film: fierce competition between the two sisters for mythical Mr. Right. I also included aerial images of the Bororo village taken with a drone in 2016 to help us visualize the moral village plan. The new version of Mr. Right does refine the ethnographic “rom com” genre as I had proposed, however, the footage that I shot specifically for the Wenner-Gren Foundation in 2016 brings in a melancholic aspect that clashes with the formula of my ethnographic “rom com” approach generated in Mr. Right. When I decided to deliver Tales of Bororo Love and Myth, I created a practical problem and doubled the amount of work I would need to complete the fellowship. On the other hand, it gives me the opportunity to handle the material I shot in 2016 in its own terms. There are fundamental differences between the two filmmaking processes, in 2011 and 2016, which inevitably shaped the footage.
Dumping Mr. Wrong will not fit on “the old romance formula of transformation of young lovers” (White 1984:44), while Mr. Right fits this formula perfectly. In Mr. Right the main characters are filmmaker and subjects looking for their perfect mythical match. The film breathes transformations of love, youth and hope. Dumping Mr. Wrong brings to the table a number of new topics to explore, both theoretically and ethnographically. The footage from 2016 brings in children as central subjects. Observational footage changes the focus of the film from the search for Mr. Right, to the dispute between babies over Mr. Right, or left, boob! In a culture where grandma’s (or auntie’s) breasts can be great pacifiers, the babies’ search for an available breast takes center stage in the footage. Children also become the center of interviews as the main characters’ love is now devoted to them, unconditionally, with little space for Mr. Right and much less Mr. Wrong.
Other aspects of the “romantic comedy genre” can be explored to tackle the footage in Dumping Mr. Wrong. A closer look at Shakespeare’s romantic comedies and an investigation of representations of motherhood in the “rom com” genre more generally, will help us to define whether or not Dumping Mr. Wrong is an ethnographic “rom com”. I won’t give a final word on the development of Mr. Wrong. New characters, and new topics of anthropological interest emerge in the filmmaking process but I won’t spoil the rest!
The Wenner-Gren Foundation is excited to announce that Chip Colwell, SAPIENS editor-in-chief, has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the American Anthropological Association’s Executive Director’s Award! This award is in recognition of Dr. Colwell’s creative, resourceful, and risk-taking work as founding editor-in-chief of SAPIENS, Wenner-Gren’s digital magazine about the human world. Launched in 2016, and now a podcast series, SAPIENS has shared insights from anthropology with millions of readers and listeners worldwide.
In 2014 Rachel Engmann received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on ”Slavers in the Family: The Archaeology of the Slaver in Eighteenth Century Gold Coast”. In 2018 Dr. Engmann had the opportunity to return to her fieldsite when she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Excavating Knowledge”.
The Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant funded a fact-finding workshop and interviews in order to develop educational materials as part of a community outreach project based on the Wenner-Gren sponsored research, ‘Slavers in the Family’ at Christiansborg Castle, conducted under the auspices of the Christiansborg Archaeological Heritage Project (CAHP). Christiansborg Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is aC17th century former European trading post, Danish and British colonial seat of government and Office of the President of Ghana. An engaged approach to archaeological heritage directed at primary and secondary students is in keeping with the project’s philosophies since CAHP represents an engaged, participatory-orientated approach to archaeological heritage.
We first held consultation meetings with the relevant stakeholders in order to inform them about the CAHP research project, plans for educational outreach and extend an invitation to participate in the workshop itself.
We conducted two workshops in May 2018 in a primary school in the Osu district of Accra, and close to Christiansborg Castle. The attendees comprised teachers and head teachers, mostly from the public school sector but also from a mission school; representatives from the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board; a local Chief and two Queen Mothers.
The CAHP Director gave a brief introduction to the archaeological excavation project at the castle. The CAHP Education Director (facilitator) then explained that the proposed outreach materials had been inspired by the project: the primary materials would serve as an introduction to archaeology; the secondary materials would draw out the connection between archaeology and heritage. They would be based upon the concept of active learning: the teacher or the community based volunteer would lead the students on a voyage of guided discovery with materials that could be downloaded from the CAHP website. Any associated tangible materials would be available at minimal cost from students’ homes or the local market. The focus would be upon real student involvement in the learning process through a variety of activities involving exploration and collaboration, questioning and discussion – skills that would be transferable to other disciplines across the curriculum. And the results might be expressed in various media: for example creative writing, poetry, art and drama. The facilitator then gave the participants a ‘taster’ of the proposed materials at primary and secondary levels. The presentation was very well received and all present were keen to learn and experience more of the proposed materials.
The attendees were then invited to identify the challenges facing the implementation of these materials, and to consider possible solutions to those challenges.
The CAHP Project Director and Education Outreach Director also conducted interviews with parents, caregivers and children in the area close to the castle – one of the most impoverished areas in Accra – in order to get a better understanding of the challenges they face regarding the Ghana government education system and to inform the development and implementation of our outreach materials.
CAHP’s proposed active learning outreach materials will make a positive contribution to the curriculum and to the introduction of a new pedagogy in both primary and secondary schools in Ghana. The current pedagogy is very much ‘chalk and talk’ because this is how teachers are trained. There is also an acute lack of textbooks. There are no other resources (teachers often have to purchase them out of their low salaries). Together, these factors result in very poor exam results. Our materials will help to address all these issues. With these low cost resources, teachers will be motivated to teach more imaginatively and effectively, and students themselves will be motivated to discover and learn more, because they will realize that learning can be fun! Volunteers in the community can also use these materials to work with and help educate students who do not attend school, or do not attend school regularly for financial reasons.
We will need to provide in-service training for teachers and volunteers in the community around the implementation of active learning, including study skills. And we will need to provide hard copies of the materials for those teachers and volunteers who do not have access to the CAHP website.
We will need to seek further funding to create and develop the project and its implementation.