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.

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Carwil Bjork-James

Poster announcing academic seminar on The Sovereign Street: The City as a Terrain of Protest

Carwil Bjork-James is an Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Vanderbilt University. In 2010 he received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Claiming Space, Redefining Politics: Urban Protest and Grassroots Power in Bolivia,” supervised by Dr. Marc Edelman. In 2015 Dr. Bjork-James received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Public Space, Self-Organization, and Indigenous Values in Bolivia’s Urban Movements”.

My engagement project, centered around an early November trip to Bolivia, brought my research back to the community where I did most of my fieldwork, Cochabamba, Bolivia. My recent work centers on urban social movements in Cochabamba, Bolivia, which became internationally famous for the Water War, a 1999–2000 campaign against the privatization of the public water system that inspired the Goya Award-winning film También La Lluvia. In the years that followed, mass mobilizations taking over central urban spaces were a vital part of nationwide political upheaval, leading to the resignation of two presidents and dramatic political transformations. My dissertation research, conducted in 2010 and 2011 with the support of Wenner-Gren and the National Science Foundation, investigated space-claiming urban protests using oral history interviews, collecting documents, and experiencing the daily realities of protest and political organizing. My research integrates an experiential understanding of mass protest with an analysis of how both racialized and governmental power function in and through public space. By focusing on social life as experienced through the human body, the meanings attached to place, and social movement practices, I explain how race and power are lived and changed through protest.

Booklet: "Voces y Visiones de La Calle Soberana"

My engagement project involved four components: a 38-page booklet Voces y Visiones de La Calle Soberana (“Voices and Visions of the Sovereign Street”), an academic presentation, a community dialogue with activists and academics, and a collection of twenty photos exhibited alongside the community dialogue. The Spanish-language booklet compiles brief ethnographic descriptions and segments of oral history interviews to document how space-claiming protests (especially road blockades) wield power by interrupting economic life, how urban and rural organizations organize internally, and the role of indigenous values in urban organizations. The booklet is illustrated with photographs and was professionally printed. I distributed 100 copies of the booklet in Cochabamba and had conversations with local contacts about producing and publishing an expanded version.

Carwil Bjork-James presents to an audience at the Centro de Estudios Superiores Universitarios (CESU), a multidisciplinary research centre of the University Mayor San Simón

The Engaged Anthropology Grant offered me the opportunity to share my reflections and research conclusions with activists and academics, two groups that are already very much in dialogue. In contemporary Bolivia, the politics of indigeneity, local autonomy, and community self-organization are well articulated and politically influential. The Documentation and Information Center of Bolivia (CEDIB) and the Centro de Estudios Superiores Universitarios (CESU) of the public Higher University of San Simón, which hosted my two events, are two institutions that reflect a local tradition of engaged research and political commitment.

I organized a research presentation at CESU presenting my findings on protest and public space and a community dialogue (or Conversatorio) at CEDIB discussing forms of self-organization among social movements. The presentation, entitled “The City as Terrain of Protest,” was attended by 20 to 25 students and academics. My research shows that the political import of mass protests in Bolivia arises from their interruption of commercially important flows and appropriation of meaning-laden spaces. These protests put forward a new model for governance of their country by inverting the historic exclusion of the indigenous majority and enacting collaborative forms of democracy in the streets.

Community activists, scholars, and advocates participate in a conversation on forms of grassroots movement organization in Bolivia at the Center for Documentation and Information of Bolivia

The community dialogue brought together over 35 community activists, students, academics, and politically involved expatriates to discuss a series of ideas that I presented about the way that Bolivian movements organize. I argued that Bolivian grassroots organizations have two distinct organizational cultures, each with their own internal ethics. Some grassroots organizations are “dense”—including labor unions and neighborhood associations. These groups are bound together by a formal organizational structure and a countervailing ethic that subordinates leaders to the grassroots bases from which they emerge. Others are “nimble,” involving individuals who join voluntarily without a joint decision by the communities where they live or work, and achieve their political effects by networking. While some of these differences and tensions were familiar to participants, I was able to use ethnographic examples to inspire activists to reflect on their own practice. In conversation, we came to a shared acknowledgement of the interdependence of these often-counterposed approaches to political action.

Photography has been an important part of my fieldwork, and I returned from my research in Cochabamba with over seven thousand still images of protests, public events, public spaces, and daily life in Bolivia. This task of re-presenting the process of protest to a Bolivian audience pushed me to make use of these photographs in a new way to illustrate the process of protest as well as to elicit the emotions associated with its most exuberant or affecting moments. The twenty poster-sized images that were hung at CEDIB during and after my presentation and the ten images that are part of the Voces y Visiones booklet range show mass mobilization as simultaneously a personal and collective activity and illustrate how protesters make the city their own.

Poster announcing community conversation on Dense and Nimble Activisms: Organization and Ethics in Bolivian Grassroots Movements

During my visit, several of my former interviewees approached me to express appreciation for making the effort to return the knowledge I gained from my fieldwork to Bolivia. While Cochabamba has attracted a fair number of social scientists from the global North, they observed, the relationship has usually been one way. For my part, engaging with on-the-ground researchers at CEDIB and getting feedback from Bolivian academics was invaluable. I’ve long been aware of the rich academic production within the country about Bolivian social movements, but this fall gave me some of my first opportunities to talk productively about my work with them. It also served to cement several relationships that will be crucial for future ethnographic work, and for dissemination of my forthcoming book in the country whose political life it describes.

NYAS @ WGF 3/27: Close Encounters: The Dilemmas of Contact for Isolated Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon

Photo by Anna Spiers

Join us Monday evening March 27th at 5:45 PM at The Wenner-Gren Foundation for the next installment of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series. Dr. Glenn H. Shepard Jr., staff researcher in the Human Sciences Division at the Goeldi Museum in Belem, Brazil will be presenting, “Close Encounters: The Dilemmas of Contact for Isolated Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon”. Dr. Janet Chernela from University of Maryland will act as discussant.

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.

The Peru–Brazil border region harbors perhaps the world’s largest remaining refuge for isolated indigenous peoples, sometimes referred to as “uncontacted tribes.” Over the past few years, an increasing intensity of sightings, encounters and conflicts as well as sensational international media coverage has raised international awareness about their status, their unique vulnerabilities and the growing threats to their territories and ways of life. This presentation pieces together what little is known about the cultural history of isolated indigenous peoples in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, separates fact from fiction in popular media representations about them, analyzes their rapidly evolving interactions with outsiders, and weighs the complex opportunities and threats they face over the next decade.

-PLEASE NOTE EARLIER START TIME FOR DINNER AND LECTURE-

Buffet Dinner at 5:45 pm ($20 contribution for dinner guests / free for students).
Lecture begins at 6:30 pm and are free and open to the public.

Pre-registration is required to attend the lecture.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Elana Resnick

Sorting through municipal waste on the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria

While a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Elana Resnick received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2010 to aid research on “Waste, Work, and Racialization in Bulgaria,” supervised by Dr. Alaina Lemon. In 2016 Dr. Resnick received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “She Writes the Book of How Much We Suffer: Engaging Waste Management Research Participants in Sofia, Bulgaria”.

“She writes the book on how much we suffer.”  This was the common explanation among the Romani street sweepers with whom I worked about why I was in Sofia, Bulgaria, cleaning streets, and asking them about their seemingly mundane labor.  Despite my insistence that I wasn’t focusing on suffering, this remained a common local understanding of my presence and ethnographic engagement. With the Engaged Anthropology Grant I returned to Sofia, Bulgaria and used collaborative ethnographic film documentation techniques, public presentations, and visual narration in order to share the findings of my dissertation research.

Film still, municipal street sweeping in Sofia, Bulgaria

My Wenner-Gren research specifically examined disposal, collection, processing, storage, cleaning, and recycling of waste in Bulgaria, focusing on the capital city of Sofia.  Fieldwork addressed relations between informal waste collection (individuals collecting discarded objects for re-use or resale) and formal waste management sectors.

Through participant-observation and interviews with individual trash collectors, employees of trash firms and recycling organizations, environmental and human rights NGOs, governmental agencies, as well as through site visits to landfills, my research addresses the potential for continued life amidst waste and material “death.” Investigating waste through a multi-scale perspective, my dissertation looks beyond dichotomies of dirty vs. clean or animate life vs. inanimate objects to show how personhood, sensory phenomena, and life-death continuums are better understood through the study of waste.

Film stills, street sweeping break in Sofia, Bulgaria

The Engaged Anthropology Grant enabled me to share findings from different aspects of my fieldwork with my variously situated interlocutors so that they could learn about the findings from other participants and sites of my dissertation research. I used interview excerpts, documentary film clips, and photographic images to share my Wenner-Gren research findings with four key populations with whom I worked: 1) Romani waste workers in Sofia, 2) NGO representatives and activists, 3) politicians and policy makers in Bulgaria, 4) Bulgarian anthropologists and academics.

In order to make my results accessible to all of my interlocutors, I shared my findings through oral presentation and video documentation. Having already collaborated on creating over fifty hours of documentary film footage about municipal waste labor, I sat with my former colleagues and shared film clips, oral interview excerpts, and explained the findings I made from our work together.

Film stills, street sweeping break in Sofia, Bulgaria

In response to this, they provided critiques, recommendations, and responses. Most of the women I swept with were surprised to see me in person. They explained that my work with them marked the end of an era since most of our mutual sweeping colleagues had either found “indoor work” or moved abroad. Of the forty-two women with whom I worked sweeping streets, only about ten remained on the job. In practice, this meant that I often had to share my findings one-on-one and using Skype and Facebook as mediums for interaction.

I was able to use my interlocutors’ responses to my findings in order to add narrative text to accompany stills and clips from my film footage that I could share with the other research participants: waste company CEOs, NGO representatives, local politicians, as well as with Bulgarian academics. Since the political landscape of Bulgaria had also changed in the years since I completed fieldwork, I was able to meet with former political representatives now working in other positions. This meant that I shared my findings individually and in small groups, including at the offices of environmental NGOs, in the conference rooms of local landfills, and in the boardrooms of waste management firms with which I worked.

Landfill weigh station in Western Bulgaria

I provided short-form synopses of my dissertation and film in a variety of local venues, which catalyzed further conversations about my findings and the changes since my research ended in 2013. Finally, I was able to share my research findings with local academics and I am currently completing a Bulgarian-language publication about my research findings for a Bulgarian anthropology journal.

Upcoming March – April Conferences

The 13th SIEF (Societe Internationale D’ethnologie Et De Folklore) Congress on “Ways of Dwelling: Crisis Craft Creativity”

March 26-30 2017

Gottingen, Germany

Image courtesy SIEF

With members from across Europe and a growing of attendees from other continents, the intent of this conference is to foster international exchange and increase the visibility and contributions of ethnological anthropological research across national boundaries. Rather than displacement and mobility this congress focuses on the challenges posed by masses of people seeking to make temporary or permanent homes in new places. Themes to be explored include urgent topics in the ethnographic disciplines: free and forced migration, social integration, urban transformation, heritage and heritage loss. Bringing these research programs into conversation with old and new work on craft and creativity, the goal is to energize crisis-driven thinking by demonstrating how anthropological and ethnological research can contribute to intractable problems.

 

13th Meeting of Historians in Latin American Mining (MHLM) “Interdisciplinary Dialogues and Challenges Around Past and Present Latin American Mining”

April 4-7, 2017 

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Image courtesy MHLM

This April for it’s thirteenth conference the Meeting of Historians in Latin American Mining (MHLM) will be held at the Institute of Anthropology, University of Buenos Aires. This will mark the first time MHLM has held its conference at an anthropological institution. Traditionally the MHLM conference is organized by institutions more related to historical discipline. It’s within this setting that MHLM aims for a more interdisciplinary conference than in years past.

While Argentina doesn’t have a tradition in mining studies as compared to Mexico and Chile local researchers have recently shown a growing interest in this issue, especially archaeologists and historical anthropologists. As is the case this years conference will allow to expand and improve the investigations developed here by learning from experiences, theories and methodologies already applied in other regions of Latin America.

MHLM intends to open a discussion on the ethical, political and social problems regarding mining strip projects developed currently in different regions of the continent, which have caused serious social and environmental conflicts. These conflicts have questioned the benefits of mining, highlighting the negative impacts to the environment and the cultural and archaeological heritage and also to the development of social and economic life of the workers and other inhabitants of the mining area. Therefore, social application plans are expected from these discussions.

Keynote speakers will be addressing the current status of research in pre-Columbian, Colonial and present mining as well as the development of the investigations on this subject and the history of the meetings.

 

European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Annual Conference

April 6-8, 2017

Paris, France

Image courtesy EHBEA

The European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association (EHBEA) was established to meet the growing demand for a European platform for human evolutionary research. This April EHBEA will be holding their sixth annual conference in Paris, France at the Ecole Normale Superieure where in which researchers from the fields of human behavioral ecology, evolutionary anthropology, cultural evolution and evolutionary psychology will gather together for an exchange of ideas and to develop new research networks. The goal of this years conference is to highlight research on social cognition in evolutionary anthropology.

Dan Sperber (Central University of Budapest) and Rebeca Bliege-Bird (Stanford University) will deliver the keynote.

The conference will also feature two panels presenting work that link social cognition and evolutionary anthropology. In addition there will be to two poster sessions, the second of which will include awards for “Best Poster on Social Cognition in Evolutionary Anthropology”.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Paula Tallman

Students from the Universidad Cayetano Peru Heredia (UPCH) signing in the conference participants

While a doctoral student at Northwestern University Paula Tallman received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2012 to aid research on “Stress, Health, and Physiological Functioning in the Awajun of the Peruvian Amazon” supervised by Dr. Thomas W. McDade. Following that Dr. Tallman received an Engaged Anthropology Grant in 2015  to aid engaged activities on “Vulnerability & Health Outcomes in Amazonia: An Innovative Conference Engaging Peruvian Scholars, Policy-Makers, & Indigenous Community Members”.

On the morning of Feb. 25th, 2016 representatives from academic, non-governmental, and indigenous organizations converged on the campus of the University of Cayetano Peru Heredia (UPCH) in Lima, Peru. Edilberto Kinin, an Awajún community member and an economist working for the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment arrived in full traditional regalia. His necklaces, made from Amazonian Huayruro seeds, clinked together as he expressed his excitement at presenting at our conference, “Vulnerability and Health Outcomes in Amazonia”, which was sponsored by the  Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant and UPCH’s School of Public Health.

Results of the collaborative workshop on the 2nd day of the conference

Drs. Paula Skye Tallman (The Field Museum of Natural History) and Armando Valdés-Velasquez (UPCH) organized the event and aimed to cross cultural and institutional boundaries in the pursuit of three objectives. First, we sought to bring together scholars from across the globe to share their most recent research on vulnerability in the Amazon. To that end, we opened our conference with a greeting from UPCH’s Director of Science and Technology, Carlos Zamudio, and we heard presentations from academics from Tulane University (U.S.), the University of Geneva (Switzerland), and UPCH (Peru). Specifically, researchers Giuliana Sanchez and Alejandra Bussalleu discussed their work investigating vulnerability in relationship to dietary changes, public health scientist, Dr. Gabriella Salmon, detailed her team’s research on vulnerability among communities living on the Inter-Oceanic Highway, and neuroscientist David Chaupis Meza spoke about the timely issue of how oil spills create neurodevelopmental vulnerability among indigenous peoples.

Dr. Armando Valdes-Velasquez of UPCH gives an opening speech for the conference.

Second, I wanted to ensure that indigenous voices were central to these discussions, alternating between academic and local perspectives during the presentations. Thus, the presentations were kicked off by Mr. Diogenes Ampam, an Awajún community member and the chief manager of two national parks in the Northern Peruvian Amazon. Mr. Ampam connected environmental concerns to vulnerability through his presentation on “The Forest is Our Life and Our Sustainable Development”. Mr. Ampam’s colleague, Mr. Edilberto Kinin, also a chief manager of a park and indigenous communal reserve, presented later in the morning and focused on how vulnerability is being created by climate change in Awajún communities. Specifically, Mr. Kinin highlighted the vulnerability of women who are often responsible for providing water and food for the household, which are becoming scarcer with climate change.

Collaborative workshop on day 2

Later in the afternoon, Mr. Leonardo Tello, a spokesperson for the radio station Ucamara in the Amazonian city of Nauta, gave one of the most dynamic and provocative presentations of the conference. Mr. Tello explored the spiritual repercussions of large-scale development projects such as the hydrovia (water highway) for the Kukama people. Particularly, he explained that Kukuma people envision that the spirits of their ancestors live in the rivers and that when the rivers are polluted or compromised through infrastructure development, the well-being of their ancestors is threatened. This presentation yielded new perspectives on how indigenous health goes beyond the physical body. It also provided an exciting path forward for connecting cultural beliefs to government policy as Mr. Imaina is creating cultural and spiritual maps of the Marañon River to argue that the indigenous cosmovision should precede infrastructure development in the rivers.

Dr. Paula Skye Tallman presents her research on the "Index of Vulnerability"

The third and final objective of the conference was to use the scientific perspective on vulnerability and the indigenous perspective on health to think through the potential repercussions of the construction of a series of hydroelectric dams on the Marañon River. Thus on the second day of our event we had a combination of scientists, community members, and indigenous leaders speak about the potential consequences of the proposed dams. Mariana Montoya from the Wildlife Conservation Society started us off by using interactive maps to show how the dams would disrupt the migration patterns of several types of fish that are central food sources for indigenous Amazonian peoples living downstream.

We also saw that the proposed dams would influence upstream mestizo communities as  Socorro Quiroz Rocha, from the community of Celendin, spoke of the social fragmentation that was resulting in her community as a result of preliminary work by the dam companies. Finally, Gil Inoach Shawit, former president of AIDESEP (the largest national indigenous rights organization in Peru) spoke of the ecological effects that the dams would have on the lives of Awajún and Wampi community members, but he put this issue into the larger context of ecosocial threats to the Amazon such as oil exploitation, mining, highway construction, palm oil cultivation, and hydrovias.

Dr. Tallman and Economist Edilberto Kinin, manager of the communal reserve Chayu Nain

These final presentations inspired the development of inter-institutional alliances that will allow differing stakeholders to work together towards a common cause. For example, members of Remando Juntos, an initiative led by kayakers and conservationists, presented a documentary on their work advocating for the protection of the Marañon River. Mr. Ampam, who works for the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment, invited Remando Juntos to screen their documentary in Awajún communities in the Marañon basin in the coming months. This alliance will bring grass-roots movements based in Lima together with local peoples in the Marañon basis to create awareness of the potential repercussions of the dams, alternative forms of development, and potential avenues for social change.

Post-conference we are creating three concrete products. First, we are working with the Wildlife Conservation Society to produce a one-page informational flyer on the potential social and biological repercussions of the proposed dams on upstream and downstream communities. We will partner with Remando Juntos to distribute these flyers to people attending the screening of their documentary. Second, we are writing an academic article, based on the conference, that is focused on the challenges of working across cultural and disciplinary lines to study vulnerability. And finally, this final report is being translated into Spanish and will distributed via university bulletins in Lima and via radio in the Marañon basin. The aim of distributing this summary is to continue to engage scholars and indigenous peoples in conversations about vulnerability and health in the Amazon and to strengthen the multi-stakeholder alliance that began with this conference.

NYAS @ WGF 2/27: Water and the Big History of the Pre-Columbian Mississippi Valley

Depiction of what the Moundbuilder society of Cahokia would have looked like at its prime

Join us Monday evening February 27th at 5:45 PM at The Wenner-Gren Foundation for the next great installment of the New York Academy of Sciences Lecture Series. Timothy R. Pauketat, Professor of Anthropology at University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign will be presenting, “Water and the Big History of the Pre-Columbian Mississippi Valley”. Dr. Severin Fowles from Barnard College will act as discussant.

Please note: the lecture begins at 6:30 PM, and while the event is free to attend pre-registry is required for entry into the building.

In rethinking the ontological bases of pre-Columbian North America, water emerges as the primary substance through which people lived their histories. Simplistic climate change and flood-event scenarios aside, the atmospheric water cycle enmeshed peoples in ways that explain Mississippi Valley agriculture, astronomy, religious practice, political development, and historical ties to Mesoamerica. The linchpin of such arguments is the greater Cahokia phenomenon (AD 1000s–1300s). Beginning with new large-scale archaeological excavations and a refined chronology in that region, I trace water-human relationships through local-to-continent-wide genealogies of maize cultivation, mussel shell use, and American Indian sweat lodges and other “water shrines.” There are theoretical implications for how we understand history and humanity.

-PLEASE NOTE EARLIER START TIME FOR DINNER AND LECTURE-

Buffet Dinner at 5:45 pm ($20 contribution for dinner guests / free for students).
Lecture begins at 6:30 pm and are free and open to the public.

Pre-registration is required to attend the lecture.

Missed the lecture? Listen to it here!

 

 

 

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Douglas V. Armstrong

 

Figure 1: Allisandra Cummins (Director of the Barbados Museum), Douglas Armstrong (Syracuse University) and Kevin Farmer (Deputy Director, Barbados Museum) at exhibit: “Landscaped of Power, Enslavement, and Resistance: Archaeology of the Early 17th Century Settlement at Trents Plantation, Barbados.” Funded by a Wenner-Gren Engaged Scholar grant.

Douglas V. Armstrong is a Professor of Anthropology at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. In 2012 he received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on “Archaeological Investigation of Early Transformations on Barbadian Plantations”. In 2014 Dr. Armstrong received an Engaged Anthropology Grant  to aid engaged activities on “Archaeology of the Shift to Sugar and Slavery in Barbados: Public Interpretation”.

As a follow-up to Wenner-Gren funded research on early-17th century plantations in Barbados I was asked by the Barbados Museum to organize an exhibit and public presentation of findings.   A Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant provided me with the resources necessary to organize an exhibit and related events aimed at conveying information on the research to the people of Barbados and engaging with the public.  An exhibit titled “Landscaped of Power, Enslavement, and Resistance: Archaeology of the Early 17th Century Settlement at Trents Plantation, Barbados.”  This exhibit was organized and installed at the Barbados Museum in March 2016 with the assistance of Keven Farmer, Deputy Director of the museum.  This exhibit was part of Barbados commemoration of its 50th Anniversary of independence (Figures 1-3)

Figure 2: Exhibit: “Landscaped of Power, Enslavement, and Resistance: Archaeology of the Early 17th Century Settlement at Trents Plantation, Barbados.” March to September 2016, Barbados Museum

The exhibit presented panels and artifact display cases projecting information recovered from three themes of archaeological research at Trents Plantation.  The text, photographs, and artifacts conveyed information on archaeological and historical research exploring the shift from a small-scale farming settlement (1620s-1640s) to a large scale sugar plantation (post 1640s).  This part of the exhibit described the historical research and archaeological studies that resulted in the identification of a pre-sugar settlement at Trents  and explored the cultural landscape of the pre-sugar era.  It used findings from the site to illustrate the small-scale nature of pre-sugar settlement as well as archaeological and historical data which combined to show how plantation farmers and laborers (including indentured Europeans and enslaved Africans) lived in close quarters during the pre-sugar era.   Visitors continued through the exhibit to review comparative data from contexts associated with the planter’s residence to data from the enslaved laborer settlement at the plantation (1640s-1838) and described the abandonment of that settlement at the time of emancipation.  The survival of an unplowed enslaved laborer settlement at Trents provides a unique opportunity to examine life and living conditions on a Barbadian plantation.  Finally, the exhibit presented an unveiling of artifacts from a newly discovered cave site on the property, Trents cave. Evidence from Trents cave, or the “cave of iron and steel”, provides a glimpse at a hidden place of African-Barbadian social interaction, ritual practice, and resistance.

Figure 3: Exhibit: “Landscaped of Power, Enslavement, and Resistance: Archaeology of the Early 17th Century Settlement at Trents Plantation, Barbados.” March to September 2016, Barbados Museum

Preliminary work for the exhibit began in the summer of 2015 when I worked with Keven Farmer to frame the scale and scope of the field work that was then just being completed.    Throughout the project the public was invited to visit the site to participate in the project and to learn about our findings.  In advance of the exhibit two articles on the project were published in the Journal of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, and a third in the proceedings of the International Congress of Caribbean Archaeology.

Armstrong, Douglas V., 2015. Cave of Iron and Resistance: A Preliminary Examination.  Journal of the Barbados Historical Society. 61: 178-199.

Armstrong, Douglas V., 2015. Archaeology of the Enslaved Laborer Settlement at Trents Plantation: 2014-2015.  Journal of the Barbados Historical Society. 61: 146-177.

Armstrong, Douglas V., 2015.  Archaeology at Trents Plantation, Barbados. Actas del 25to Congreso International de Arqueología del Caribe. Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueño, el Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe y la Universitad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras. Pp. 1030-1048.

During the summer of 2015 I began to organize the exhibit and I corresponded with Keven Farmer to define dates and to set up the timing of a public lecture.  Initially, the exhibit was set to open in May of 2016.  However, it was decided to integrate the exhibit into the opening of Barbados’ 50th Anniversary Celebration and to also organize a second exhibit examining Barbados’ slave revolt of 1816.   In January 2016 I spent a week in Barbados organizing the Trents – “Landscapes of Power, Enslavement, and Resistance” exhibit and also assisting with the “Freedom:  We Must Fight For It” exhibit.  In March of 2016 I returned to Barbados to work on the installation and on June 24, I presented a public lecture at the museum describing the research and explaining the exhibit.

The exhibit was well received and resulted in interest from organizers of the Smithsonian’s African American History Museum, who visited the exhibit. This has resulted in support for the installation of a permanent exhibit and a joint effort funded by the Smithsonian aimed at capacity building in the area of archaeology, digital databases, curation, public engagement.  This project will be coordinated by Kevin Farmer (Barbados  Museum) and I will coordinate instruction relating to archaeology during summer courses for Barbadian and Caribbean students over the next three years.

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Brendan Tuttle

Examining a photo from the Pitt Rivers Museum

Brendan Tuttle is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Brooklyn College. In 2009 he received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Lives Apart: Diasporan Return, Youth, and Intergenerational Transformation in South Sudan,” supervised by Dr. Jessica R. Winegar. In 2014 Dr. Tuttle received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “New Histories for a New South Sudan: A Public Anthropology Project”.

For my Engaged Anthropology project I planned to return to my fieldwork site near Bor Town, the capital of Jonglei State, in what is today South Sudan.  When I was first there in 2009 and 2010, the town was a settlement of roughly forty thousand people.  Many had recently arrived after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, which formally ended Sudan’s long-running civil war.  My dissertation research examined the processes by which people in Bor were reconstructing their lives and trying to get by in difficult circumstances, making choices about where to settle, fashioning binding agreements with one another, and looking for humor in their predicaments.  Many people I spoke to emphasized the importance of ordinary routines and life trajectories.  During Sudan’s second civil war (1983-2005) this show of resilience in the face of disaster (riääk) was framed in Bor as a resistance strategy called gum ëlik (‘quiet suffering’ or steadfastness).  By attending to how people caught by violence pursued projects that extended beyond it, I sought to counter ideas of Dinka society as particularly prone to violence—an idea that has often served to elide the role of governments, petroleum companies, international NGOs and financial institutions in the insecurity and instability of the county by attributing violence to local cultural forces.

The outbreak of civil war in December 2013 prevented my return to Bor.  Hostilities began in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and followed the fault lines of unresolved political divisions within the country’s governing party, the SPLM, and the army, the SPLA.  (Many journalists have evoked ‘tribalism’ and ‘deep ethnic divisions’ to explain this war.  It should be underlined that ethnicity was not the cause of South Sudan’s conflicts.  It was the outcome.)  During the following months, Bor and other state capitals in South Sudan changed hands several times in battles fought between government forces and the Ugandan army, on one side, and defected soldiers and armed irregulars, on the other.  By the end of January, 2014, the destruction of Bor Town’s market center was virtually total.  The town was deserted except for the soldiers stationed there to occupy it.

Gurae Map Seri Mario

All of the surviving participants in my dissertation research had evacuated Bor Town and the surrounding countryside by the end of December 2013.  Many relocated across the Nile to a large IDP site in Minkaman (Guol Yar).  Others had travelled south to Juba, and a few joined relatives in Kenya and Uganda; still others relocated farther afield.  In January, I stayed with my former research assistant in a home rented by his uncle on the eastern fringe of Nairobi, and he stayed with me in Juba before departing for South Dakota.  In February, I travelled to Minkaman.  Though I facilitated two workshops in Juba, much of my engagement work consisted of traveling around South Sudan and Kenya and talking with people wherever they were able to meet.  Many discussions were held in my house in Juba.  I met others singly and in groups in their homes, at coffee stands, or in hotels located in the growing informal settlements that ring Juba.  I would generally begin by presenting my dissertation findings and reviewing and revising written portions of the work with participants and then let the discussion develop any way participants wanted.

My interlocutors challenged portrayals of IDP camps and informal settlements as ‘non-places’, and guided my attention toward the many locations where their lives unfolded.  A group of people who had once shared a geographic place, but no longer do, is a common mode of ‘community’ in contemporary South Sudan.  Many of the people I knew best in Bor had been born nearby—where they were bound together by overlapping ties of kindship, marriage, partnership, and friendship—and displaced in the 1980s to varying degrees of geographic and social distance.  Others had come to know each other in refugee camps in Uganda and Kenya and resettled together in Bor after 2005.  Participants in the project drew maps and described the histories of the places where they had lived and the relationships that they had formed there.  These discussions provided a lesson about how the customary anthropological practice of studying in one locale tends to privilege genealogical modes of belonging (particularly in South Sudan) by failing to capture patterns of movement and plural association, the ways in which people live out their lives across multiple places and social fields.

The accounts people told about their experiences of migration destabilized depictions of refugees and IDPs as people whose movement is without history, politics, or self-reflection.  People spoke about the hardships of building homes with improvised materials and of raising families without adequate food, clean water, or access to schools.  Many described their struggles to be generous to others: to host visitors, foster children, and support friends and in-laws.  Efforts to live normal lives in these circumstances were partly by way of simply trying to get by.  But the maintenance of ordinary routines, standards of generosity, and lifecycle processes also embodied a refusal to be reduced to an existence totally determined by violence.  In Minkaman, friends told me how difficult it had been to leave their homes unguarded and risk accusations of cowardice by leaving conflict zones (or demanding that family members do so).  One man compared the mounting numbers of IDPs and refugees published each week by the UN to an election return: “They’re defecting! The people are voting against this war with their feet.”

Juba Map Seri Mario

The Engaged Anthropology project allowed me to maintain contacts and share my research.  It also led to new collaborations.  A major goal of this project was to collect and write local histories in order to provide alternative representations of people who are often portrayed as being unable to reflect on their own lives and situations.  One particularly productive collaboration has been with Paul Ruot Kor Wan.  I am currently editing for publication selections drawn from his manuscript, titled “The Myth of Kiir Kaker,” which is based on oral testimonies that he collected during his stay in UN POCs (‘Protection of Civilian’) sites in Malakal and Juba.  Paul Ruot helped me to organize two workshops in Juba in which I presented my research and facilitated discussions of oral history and ethnographic methods.  One participant, who had collected histories that he hoped to publish, recalled his feeling of despair when he returned to Bor to see what of his possessions were salvageable and found his home ransacked and his research and books torn and scattered.  The Engaged Anthropology Grant enabled me to provide electronic copies of books and articles about East Africa, South Sudan, and Sudan on a USB-stick to people who were cut off from these materials by publishers’ paywalls, the cost of academic publications, and the inaccessibility of libraries and postal systems.

Overall, my Engaged Anthropology grant provided me with the resources to reconfirm connections and develop new engagements.  I am grateful to the Wenner-Gren Foundation and, especially, all the participants who took the time to attend workshops and to speak with me.

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Sandra Brunnegger

 

Image courtesy Sandra Brunnegger

Dr. Sandra Brunnegger is a Fellow in Law and Anthropology at St. Edmund’s College – University of Cambridge. In 2009 she received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant, to aid research on “Culture and Human Rights in Colombia: Negotiating Indigenous Law”. In 2015 Dr. Brunnegger received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Engaging with Indigenous Legal Systems in Colombia”.

I organized a one-day workshop on indigenous legal systems in Ibagué in Colombia with the support of the indigenous organization CRIT (Consejo Regional Indígena del Tolima or Regional Indigenous Council of Tolima). Leaders from the ACIN (Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca or Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Northern Cauca) and CRIT, community members, asesores (advisers), lawyers and NGO workers attended. These workshop participants represent some of the personal contacts I have forged during my long-term multi-sited fieldwork on the tribunal established by CRIT in Tolima and the Escuela de Derecho Propio Cristóbal Secué (Cristóbal Secué School of Own Laws) initiated by ACIN in Cauca. These two institutions, the tribunal and the law school, are two examples of the many social, political and legal transformations that the constitutional recognition of indigenous legal systems in 1991 has brought about in Colombia. The law school is currently not operating. In a concurrent effort, a law program at the Universidad Autónoma Indígena Intercultural (UAIIN, Autonomous Intercultural Indigenous University) in Popayán, Cauca, has been drawn up and it is headed by a former graduate of ACIN’s law school.

Image courtesy Sandra Brunnegger

The day before the workshop officially started I was sitting with some leaders whom I have worked together with over a decade. We sat over dinner and talked over recent political events, local occurrences and difficulties. Our rich conversations and engagements were so lively that we talked well past midnight. On the next day, the workshop itself hosted and facilitated a lively discussion amongst attendees on the cumulative findings of my research on indigenous legal systems in Tolima and Cauca. This morning session prompted further reflection and instigated discussion on indigenous legal systems in Colombia in the broader sense while also explicitly looking forward to the future of the indigenous tribunal in Tolima.

Image courtesy Sandra Brunnegger

The afternoon was designed around group work. At formal and informal levels, the event was also geared towards facilitating a dialogue and the exchange of knowledge between the two different indigenous organizations CRIT and ACIN and their respective leaders. This exchange of knowledge was also relevant because CRIT leaders have been thinking of setting up its own law school. The group work has proven pivotal in this respect since it involved participants critically listening to each others’ presentations on their own legal practices and their characterization of the challenges they faced, their past activities, future plans and their political visions. Putting these organizations, CRIT and ACIN, into further dialogue represents one strand of my attempt to foster forms of collaboration and communication between these particular organizations’ leaders. In the past I have also connected my two fieldsites in other ways as imparted by some leaders as I moved back and forth in my research between the two localities. With the workshop, I closed one chapter, with my presenting my results, and consolidating the fieldwork contacts, while potentially opening another chapter.