Engaged Anthropology Grant: Sarah Osterhoudt

 

Dr. Osterhoudt in vanilla field

Sarah Osterhoudt is a Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, Bloomington. In 2009 while a doctoral student at Yale University she received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Vanilla for the Ancestors: Landscapes, Trade, and the Cultivation of Place in Madagascar,” supervised by Dr. Michael R. Dove. In 2015 Dr. Osterhoudt received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Engaging Landscapes: Cultural Meanings, Community Management, and Agro-Biodiversity in Madagascar Vanilla Gardens”.

For my Engaged Anthropology project, I returned to my dissertation fieldwork site: the agrarian community of Imorona, on the northeast coast of Madagascar. In this region, families have been cultivating a diversity of subsistence and market crops within hillside swidden and agroforestry systems for generations. Currently, the main market crops that growers cultivate include vanilla, cloves, and coffee. My dissertation research examined these agroforestry systems from overlapping cultural, historical, and material perspectives. It explored connections between the cultivation of land and the cultivation of self, and asked how the work of farming simultaneously emerges as the work of history.

In addition to my ethnographic research methodologies, including working alongside vanilla farmers and recording oral histories of landuse and trade in the region, my work also incorporated methodologies in economic botany. With the assistance of seven local farmers and two local research assistants, I inventoried a sample of Imorona vanilla gardens. Working in measured plots, we recorded the local names, the various uses, and the DBH measurements of the trees found in Imorona vanilla gardens. We collected and dried specimens of each of the tree species found in our study, which I identified with the assistance of botanists at the herbarium at the University of Antananarivo.

Imorona region and fields

The results from this economic botany work were quite striking: in a small sample of seven vanilla fields, we recorded nearly 100 species of trees, nearly a third of which were native to the humid forest ecosystems of Madagascar. Additionally, ecological measurements of the agroforestry fields, including diversity index values and rank abundance curves, showed that these managed forests closely matched the dynamics of “natural” and protected forests in Madagascar. From a cultural perspective, farmers identified a use for 100% of the trees recorded in their fields. Interestingly, while about 75% of these uses related directly to people (for example, for use for food, income, ceremonies or building materials) the other 25% of the trees were primarily noted for their purpose in fostering healthy ecosystem relationships (for example, providing habitat or food for bird and animal species).

Such notable results, I believe, are powerful tools for Imorona farmers as they continue to advocate for their land rights and autonomy. Within Madagascar, as within much of the tropics, dominant conservation narratives often portray smallholder farmers –especially swidden farmers — as destructive environmental actors who fundamentally threaten the health and diversity of rainforest ecosystems. As a result of such conceptions, agricultural land has been taken from Malagasy communities in order to be placed within protected areas. In contrast to such environmental narratives, however, the results of my collaborative research tell a much different story about smallholder Malagasy farmers: one of careful land stewardship based upon extensive environmental knowledge, whereby agricultural practices promote the ecological diversity and integrity of tropical landscapes.

Workshop Participants

With these points in mind, I traveled back to my field site for my Engaged Anthropology project. The first objective of my project was to share with the community – especially my research assistants –the economic botany research results, translated into Malagasy. In a small ceremony held at the Imorona community library, I presented participating farmers with printed copy and a digital copy of this booklet and thanked them for their work on the project. A copy of the booklet will be housed at the library and will be available for all interested people to read. After the ceremony, I discussed the results of the botanical and ethnographic studies in detail with interested farmers. We went over together what exactly the results indicated and how the community could meaningfully use the data when speaking with government agencies and environmental groups.

Walking workshop, vanilla flowers

I also conducted a “walking workshop” with several vanilla farmers, visiting their fields and discussing the challenges and questions that they were currently encountering. In the course of such field visits, farmers raised some concerns, including the increase in a root disease spreading across vanilla vines, the changing patterns of flowering times for key economic crops, and the increasing incidence of immature vanilla flowers dropping to the ground before they opened. Together, we discussed ways that further collaborative research in anthropology and economic botany could help address these challenges.

Finally, I spoke with other organizations that I felt had a potential interest in the results of the research. Within the Imorona region, I met with local farmer organizations, Peace Corps volunteers, vanilla exporters, and government extension officials. In Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar, I spoke with representatives from organizations including the University of Antananarivo, the World Bank, Peace Corps, the World Wildlife Fund, Fair Trade organizations, and the United Nations.

Overall, the experience of my Engaged Anthropology grant provided me the resources to have the incredibly valuable opportunity to do what we all aspire to do as anthropologists: say an in-person thank you to the people who inspired and empowered our work, and to give back in some way. Reconfirming such personal connections, in turn, speaks to another level of anthropological engagement: the continuation of the personal engagements we develop in the places where we work, as we move forward in our lives as scholars, and as friends.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Maurice Rafael Magana

 

Image courtesy Maurice Rafael Magana

Maurice Rafael Magana is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at The University of Arizona. In 2010 while a doctoral student at the University of Oregon he received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Contentious Walls: The Cultural Politics of Social Movement Street Art in Southern Mexico,” supervised by Dr. Lynn Stephen. In 2014 Dr. Magana received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Youth Activism, Anthropology, and Community Building in Oaxaca, Mexico”.

After receiving the great news that I was awarded an Engaged Anthropology Grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, I began the challenging process of organizing a collaborative community engagement event in Southern Mexico from my home in Los Angeles. I carried out my dissertation research in Oaxaca City with a network of youth organizers who had participated in a broad-based social movement in 2006. Although crucial to the social movement, the contributions of youth were largely trivialized or ignored by most media and scholarly accounts, which often perpetuate narratives about the political apathy and criminality of Mexican youth. The idea behind the event was to create a space that foregrounded the experiences of youth in the movement, while also bringing together older community members to create an intergenerational space for collective reflection on the movement’s impacts. In addition to the community event, I also presented my research findings to scholars in two separate forums.

After several rounds of emails and social media communication with my collaborators, I decided that the only way the project was going to move forward and maintain its collaborative spirit was by sitting down with my collaborators face-to-face. I flew to Oaxaca in the spring of 2015 in order to concretize our plans for the event. I met with a group of activists representing four different youth collectives that I worked with in my previous research. We decided that given the current state of movement networks (which looked very different than they had during my fieldwork in 2010-2011), the best plan was to hold several smaller events instead of one large event. After meeting two more times we agreed to schedule the events for September of 2015 and continue planning them through regular email and Facebook messaging. While in Oaxaca on this planning trip, I also presented my research to a group of about forty Mexican and international scholars and students at the Institute of Oaxacan Culture. I focused on the ethical and methodological dilemmas of conducting engaged research with decentralized networks of leaderless (or leaderful) movements.

Image courtesy Maurice Rafael Magana

When I returned to Oaxaca in September, the first event was a forum with a punk collective held in a community gallery located in a working class neighborhood in the outskirts of Oaxaca. During the social movement, this collective helped create spaces of refuge for community members fleeing police repression. This introduced the punks to their neighbors- many of whom had previously harbored prejudice against the youth because of their appearance and cultural practices. The forum was an opportunity for the punks to reconnect with some of their neighbors and let them know about the work they were doing, specifically as it related to the social movement of 2006. For example, one of the projects had to do with teaching low-income communities in the city and in rural areas to create their own pedal-powered machines like water pumps, blenders, knife sharpeners and washing machines.

We began the event by introducing ourselves to the audience of about thirty people. Two of my interlocutors shared a little about the collective, focusing on the role that anarchist and liberationist principles played in their organizing. I spoke briefly about my research project, highlighting the role of young people in the movement more broadly, and the role that youth associated with the punk collective played specifically. We then opened up the forum so that community members could offer their own reflections and analysis of the movement, as well as ask us questions. We had a rich discussion, with some healthy debate about what exactly had been gained by the movement- with members of the punk collective reflecting very positively about the experiences and memories of building community and reclaiming space during 2006, but feeling less positive about the current state of affairs in Oaxaca and Mexico more generally.

Image courtesy Maurice Rafael Magana

Four members of the collective then led a two-hour workshop for interested community members (about twenty people stayed ranging in age from teenagers to elderly but most were youth) about how to build a pedal-powered machine. This ended up being a great opportunity to strengthen and rekindle bonds made in 2006. We also exhibited photos of the collective from 2006 taken by a local photographer. The photographs sparked many conversations and memories about the extraordinary events that occurred in the context of the movement.

I also co-organized a forum and workshop with young women who had participated in a now-defunct social center that featured prominently in my research. The young women have gone on to found and participate in feminist, ecological and sustainable development initiatives. The forum highlighted the participation of women in the social movement and in social, cultural and political projects that have developed in the years since. My interlocutors also invited women from a more established women’s organization to join the conversation. This created a great collective and intergenerational space for reflection on the triumphs from 2006, as well as an honest and robust critique of the movement, especially around unequal gender politics and male domination within the movement. My interlocutors offered a nuanced analysis of the movement as creating social and political cleavages, which women expanded into spaces of belonging and participation. At the same time, they recognized the reproduction within the movement of many of the same social ills that they were fighting against, such as sexism, ageism and political opportunism. They understood the work that has followed around these issues as part of the legacy of 2006.

The young women offered two workshops after the forum. Two of the organizers led a workshop on how to repurpose glass bottles by cutting them using string and nail polish remover. Simultaneously, the other two interlocutors led a workshop on how to turn old t-shirts into shopping bags. The idea was to show people how to recycle old products, reduce consumption and waste and to save money. Importantly, in addition to being ecological initiatives, the collectives these young women belong to promote these kinds of workshops as practices of building autonomy from the dominant economic and political systems- much like the work of the punk collective described above. These workshops also attracted about twenty participants, but most were women and young children.

Finally, while in Oaxaca in September I also visited the local public university where I presented my research to a graduate seminar in anthropology. At the request of the students’ professor, this presentation focused on research design and fieldwork.

Taken together, the two forums and workshops created spaces for youth to engage their peers and older community members in ways that strengthened relationships that were forged in the context of the 2006 social movement. Moreover, I was able to present my research in these spaces in dialogue with my interlocutors, while highlighting their often-overlooked role in the movement. In addition to this, I was able to present my work to local academics and students in ways that were highly rewarding. As we approach the ten-year anniversary of the Oaxacan social movement of 2006, I feel that helping create spaces of reflection, collective knowledge production and analysis is an important way that I can honor the struggle and sacrifice of the communities that animate my research.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Elsa Fan

Image courtesy Elsa Fan

Elsa Fan is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Human Rights at Webster University. In 2010 while a doctoral student at the University of California, Irvine she received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Opportunistic Infections: The Governance of HIV/AIDS in China,” supervised by Dr. Tom Boellstorff. In 2015 she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “People, Profit and Prevention: Scaling-up HIV Testing in China”.

How has the scaling-up of HIV testing among men who have sex with men (MSM) in China impacted, if at all, the work of community-based organizations (CBOs) engaged in HIV prevention? What progress has been made towards reducing new infections through this intervention? These are some of the questions I sought to explore when I returned to Beijing, China in the summer of 2015 to hold a workshop on July 11 to discuss the impacts of expanding HIV testing as an intervention. With the support of the Engaged Anthropology Grant, I planned to bring together multiple stakeholders involved with such programs to assess the effects of these interventions, potential challenges, and long-term strategies for the future.

This grant builds on my fieldwork from 2010–2011 where I traced the emergence the HIV testing as a model par excellence for reducing new infections, and the targeting of the MSM population in which to scale-up this intervention. The turn to this approach stemmed in part from the increasing rates of HIV infection among MSM. Since 2007, sexual contact had become the leading route of HIV transmission in China; in particular, there has been a significant rise through homosexual contact. For instance, homosexual contact accounted 25.8 percent of new infections in 2014 (compared to 3.4 percent in 2007), and HIV prevalence rates among MSM increased to 7.7 percent in 2014 from (National Health and Family Planning Commission 2015). In response, public health institutions and international donors turned to promoting HIV testing in this population in order to ensure more men are aware of their serostatus, thus enabling them to start antiretroviral treatment as needed and engage in safer sexual practices to reduce transmission. To scale-up this intervention, there were two main strategies adopted: (1) to support CBOs to extend testing services, either for free or for a nominal fee; and (2) to contract CBOs to conduct testing among MSM by the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC), a practice called goumai fuwu.

Image courtesy Elsa Fan

This topic of testing became the fodder for an intense debate during dinner the night before the workshop. I sat with a number of participants from CBOs who had been and continue to be involved with offering testing services to MSM: most for a nominal fee, and almost all for the CDC. One participant complained, “Testing, all I hear these days is testing,” commenting that as a gay man, he was sick of hearing about HIV/AIDS all the time. The others at the table agreed, noting that the main message being conveyed to their community was jiance jiushi ganyu, or testing is intervention; but what about counseling, one person posited. This critique carried over into the workshop the following day, as participants discussed the benefits and challenges to this intervention. The day started out with a demonstration of testing services offered by CBOs; audience members volunteered to get tested, and the organizations carried out pre-test consultations and post-test counseling, and administered a rapid HIV test.

This demonstration set the stage for a provocative workshop. Many participants extolled the positive effects of this initiative, noting that for many men, it has become a good habit, or hao xiguan, a practice that has become a part of their everyday lives. Others, however, critiqued the way in which testing had dominated their lives; “as a gay man,” one participant noted, “I’m sick of being told I need to get tested.” On the other hand, discussions turned to the need for testing, and questioned whether it was something men wanted, or the CDC wanted, as a result of the outsourcing of these services to CBOs. One critical issue that came up was how the focus on testing had excluded other needs in the community, such as addressing the emergence of crystal meth. One of the speakers outlined the increasing use of this drug in the community, and the risk for HIV transmission as a result. Especially provocative was listening to one man who shared his personal story of engaging in unsafe sex while on crystal meth, which led to his HIV infection. It was such stories that led one participant to ask, as he recounted the number of clients that had been repeatedly tested only to still become infected, that “perhaps it is that in the context of testing, we never considered the problem of how men became infected?” This theme was reiterated by other participants from CBOs, who questioned whether testing had become a means or an end; that is, were we testing men for the purposes of HIV prevention, or simply as an outcome to count tests? In other words, as some participants noted, had testing become an intervention in and of itself, to the exclusion of other possibilities? Ultimately, the workshop ended on one critical question: Do we still do HIV testing?

Image courtesy Elsa Fan

The responses varied; for some CBOs, there was still a demand for it from men in their community. For others, it has become a part of their institutional sustainability, as articulated by one speaker who shared their success in charging for their testing services; men choose to pay for their testing, rather than go to the CDC for free. While no conclusion was reached, the workshop helped to articulate some of the unintended consequences emerging from this intervention, and highlighted important issues that risk being marginalized. It allowed stakeholders to question the purpose of testing, and whether it was being scaled-up for the good of the community, or for the government. In creating a space for such discussions, the workshop brought issues to the fore that enabled those involved with shaping the HIV/AIDS landscape to be aware of the limitations of such interventions.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Cheryl Knott

Participants in the post-conference field trip to the Cabang Panti Research Station pose with the conference banner on the front steps of the main camp building.

Cheryl Knott is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Boston University. In 2012 she received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on “Sexual Coercion and Reproductive Strategies in Wild Bornean Orangutans”. In 2014 Dr. Knott received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Gunung Palung Orangutan Project: 20 Years of Research and Conservation”.

On August 6-7 of 2015, the Gunung Palung Orangutan Project (GPOP), with support from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, hosted the GP30+ Conference to highlight and celebrate over 30 years of research and conservation work at Cabang Panti Research Station in Gunung Palung National Park. Over the past three decades, over 150 foreign and Indonesian researchers have done field work at Cabang Panti, and we have been supported by countless Indonesian academic and government counterparts. GP30+ was the perfect way to bring all of these people together to share research results, make new connections and emphasize the importance of continuing research and education in and around Gunung Palung National Park. The main event was a two- day Symposium, held at the Mahkota Kayong Hotel in Sukadana, appropriately held in the “Gunung Palung” ballroom, and featured presentations from 15 invited speakers. The Symposium, which was open to current and former researchers and field assistants, local government officials, National Park representatives, and area conservation organizations, was attended by over 100 people. Many of the government officials were hearing about the research station and results for the first time. Invited guests included government officials and Indonesian scientists, who came from as far away as Jakarta.

Dr. Mark Leighton, founder of the Cabang Panti Research Station, speaks on the early days of the research station.

The Symposium opened with welcome speeches from both the Bupati (district head) of Kayong Utara regency and the head of the Gunung Palung National Park Bureau. These opening remarks were followed by a plenary presentation by Dr. Mark Leighton, the founder of Cabang Panti Research Site. He shared the history of the station, from the very first research trip before Gunung Palung National Park even existed to what it has become today. Although Dr. Leighton spoke in English, everyone, even our Indonesian guests who aren’t fluent in English, had a great time looking at his old photos and listening to the stories about the early days of research at

Cabang Panti. The morning session on August 6th continued with a series of presentations about orangutan research in GPNP, with talks by primatologist Dr. Cheryl Knott (founder of GPOP and the Gunung  Palung  Orangutan  Conservation  Program,  GPOCP),  Wahyu  Susanto  (Research Director, GPOP), Andrea DiGiorgio (Ph.D. student, Boston University), and Taufiq Purnama (Indonesian Institute of Sciences).

Edward Tang presents a talk on his vegetation study along the Kubang River.

The second session of the day focused on ecology research. Presenters included Dr. Andrew Marshall (founder of the Gunung Palung Gibbon and Read Leaf Monkey Project), Dr. Campbell Webb (Yayasan ASRI), Mr. Riyandi (Tanjungpura University), Kobayashi (Indonesia/Japan- REDD+ Project), and Edward Tang (former research assistant and GPOCP Environmental Education Coordinator). The presentations were highly varied, touching on topics including the ecology of mangrove forests, the phenology and productivity of the Gunung Palung rainforest, and the avian diversity of the National Park. Together these presentations highlighted the importance of the entire suite of research that has been done in Gunung Palung over the past 30 years.

To share the GP30+ celebration with the entire local community, on the evening of August 6th we hosted a public gathering at Datok Beach in Sukadana. We opened the evening with performances by two traditional musical groups from Tanjung Gunung, which is the village that anyone hiking into Cabang Panti passes through. This was their first public performance, and the crowd very much enjoyed the music. The audience was then treated to a slideshow presentation by National Geographic photographer, Dr. Tim Laman. For nearly an hour, Tim shared photos and stories about the biodiversity of Gunung Palung with the crowd. His photos highlighted the beauty of this rainforest ecosystem, allowing people to see the National Park through fresh eyes, and – hopefully – inspiring them to protect and conserve the area.

GPOCP Staff Jainudin, Mariamah Achmad, and Rudy lead conference participants on a tour of the Education Trail at Bentangor Environmental Education Center.

The second day of the Symposium, August 7th, focused on the conservation work being done in and around Gunung Palung National Park. Presentations were given by Cassie Freund (Program Director, GPOCP), Etty Rahmawati (Yayasan ASRI), Budi Sempurna (Gunung Palung National Park Bureau), Yoshikura (Indonesia/Japan-REDD+ Project), and Juanisa Andiani (International Animal Rescue). These talks showcased the range of conservation work being done in the GP landscape, including environmental education, promoting sustainable livelihoods, and mitigating human-orangutan conflict. After a break for lunch, all of the Symposium participants were invited to GPOCP’s Bentangor Environmental Education Center in Pampang Harapan village for a tour of our educational facilities and to watch a demonstration by our Non-Timber Forest Product artisans. Many of the conference guests had never been to Bentangor before and it was great to have the chance to showcase our conservation center. GPOCP staff led field trips, the artisans taught participants how to make baskets and jewelry, and our guests even had a chance to support rainforest conservation by purchasing traditional handicrafts!

During afternoon trip to the Bentangor Environmental Education Center, Jessica Laman (age 11) receives instruction on how to make a basket out of nipah palm reeds from master crasftsman Darwani, as Monalisa Pasaribu looks on.

Following the two day Symposium we were thrilled to have many of the conference participants come visit Cabang Panti Research Station – some for the first time and some after more than 20 years away. Among our special guests were GPOP board members, Dr. Barita Manullang and Pak Darmawan Liswanto (Flora & Fauna International). We also were very honored to have Dr. Dadan Kusnandar, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at West Kalimantan’s University of Tanjungpura (UNTAN), and UNTAN Docent (Lecturer), Pak Riyandi, join us, along with Dr. Wendy Erb from Rutgers University. It was a homecoming for many former researchers, including study site founder, Dr. Mark Leighton (Harvard University), Dr. Lisa Curran (Stanford University) and her Indonesian counterpart, Dessy Rasel Ratnasari (Simpur Hutan), Dr. Dan Gavin (University of Oregon) and Andrea Johnson (Environmental Investigation Agency). Current researchers and graduate students, as well as additional Gunung Palung National Park Bureau staff members, a team from the forest patrol unit, field assistants, and Cabang Panti staff were also in attendance. On the first night we set a record for the number of people at dinner: 57!

Participants in the post-conference field trip to the Cabang Panti Research Station accompany Dr. Mark Leighton (center back) on a walk to learn about the unique habitat diversity at the Cabang Panti Reseach Station.

One of the highlights of the week was a “Habitat Walk” by Dr. Mark Leighton. As Mark explained during his plenary address at the symposium, he chose to establish the research site in Gunung  Palung  National  Park,  and  specifically the Cabang Panti location,  because  of  its incredible habitat diversity. In just a few hours one can traverse peat swamp, freshwater swamp, alluvial bench, lowland sandstone, lowland granite, upland granite and montane habitats. This gives researchers the opportunity to study the unique animal and plant diversity found within each forest type and to do comparative studies between habitats. During his demonstration, Mark explained how each habitat was formed, what made it unique, how to identify it and which animals and plants were found there. Many of these habitats, such as the alluvial bench forest, are increasingly rare in Southeast Asia, because they are suitable for human settlement.

A rare binturong (Arctictis binturong) seen on a night walk at the Cabang Panti Research Site during the post-conference field trip. Photo by Robert Rodriguez-Suro.

The week was filled with incredibly lucky animal sightings by our visitors. On her first day in Cabang Panti, Dr. Wendy Erb, a primatologist at Tuanan Research station in Central Kalimantan, found and followed an orangutan to its night nest on her own. On her way home in the dark she saw a sun bear! Dr. Dan Gavin caught a great view of our dominant male orangutan, Codet, the only sighting of him by anyone all month. Finally, on the last night of the week-long visit, many of us went on a short night walk close to camp, and were lucky enough to spot a rarely-seen binturong in the forest. Other special events included an evening bonfire on the beach with stories from Cabang Panti lore told all around, long hikes through the forest, and catching up with old friends. Some of the attendees also hiked up to the 948-meter top of Gunung Palung, called “GP 90” which indicates the 4.5 km trail marker. It was a week full of many happy smiles, sweaty hugs and the creation of new memories.

Overall GP30+ was a huge success. We’re thankful to all of the participants who traveled to West Kalimantan to attend the Symposium. We are especially grateful to the Wenner-Gren Foundation, who made the conference possible through their Engaged Anthropology Grant. Hopefully we can do it again in five years!

NYAS @ WGF 10/24: Re-Framing Punishment [REGISTRATION REQUIRED]

Bob Jagendorf - http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobjagendorf/5685335098/

Join us Monday evening October 24th at 6 PM at the Wenner-Gren Foundation for the next installment of the New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Lecture Series. Didier Fassin, Professor of Anthropology at the Institute for Advanced Study and Andrea Barrow from Black Lives Matter will be presenting, “Re-Framing Punishment”.

Please note that, while the event is free to attend pre-registration is required for entry into the building.

Punishment has been studied for centuries by moral philosophers and legal scholars, with a particular emphasis on its definition (notably to distinguish it from vengeance) and justification (with the classic opposition between utilitarianism and retributivism). Based on ethnographic research conducted over the past ten years in France on policing, justice and prison, the lecture will challenge the normative and idealist approach, trying to analyze what punishment is and how it is justified in actual interactions between officers, judges and guards with their respective publics while illuminating what is often the blind spot of the traditional approach: the distribution of sanctions. This inductive method thus makes possible a critique of punishment that resonates with contemporary issues about law enforcement, the penal system and mass incarceration in the United States, and more broadly the punitive turn in most contemporary societies.

Buffet Dinner at 6:00 PM ($20 contribution for dinner guests / free for students).
Lectures begin at 7:00 PM and are free and open to the public.

Pre-registration is required to attend the lecture.

Missed the lecture? Listen to it now!

 

Symposium #154: “The Anthropology of Corruption”

The 154th Wenner-Gren Symposium, “The Anthropology of Corruption” recently wrapped up in Sintra, Portugal. As always, you can expect a Current Anthropology special issue forthcoming, containing the meeting’s papers and available to all 100% Open-Access.

Front: Smoki Musaraj, Sarah Muir, Anu Sharma, Diana Bocarejo, Laurie Obbink, Fátima Pinto. Middle: Soo-Young Kim, Jane Schneider, Akhil Gupta, Leslie Aiello, Ilana Feldman, Aaron Ansell, Julia Hornberger, Italo Pardo. Back: Cris Shore, Sylvia Tidey, Dan Smith, Alan Smart, Kregg Hetherington, David Nugent, John Osburg.

ORGANIZERS’ STATEMENT

“The Anthropology of Corruption”

Sarah Muir (Barnard College, Columbia University)

Akhil Gupta (University of California, Los Angeles)

 Over the past several decades, corruption has become an object of intense popular concern in otherwise disparate locations around the world. Over the same period, corruption has elicited a robust body of scholarship in disciplines such as political science, economics, and sociology. Meanwhile, anthropologists—wary of reproducing clichéd images of political dysfunction—have often approached the topic with reserve. Recently, however, a corpus of anthropological literature on corruption has begun to coalesce. Examining a variety of illegitimate, illegal, or otherwise irregular political and economic practices, as well as critical discourses about those practices, this literature has developed a properly anthropological approach to corruption. That approach challenges commonplace stereotypes regarding political cultures outside the global North, even as it also takes seriously the vehement complaints about corruption that have energized so many citizens in the global South.

It is an opportune time to take stock of the emergent anthropology of corruption because this literature has now reached critical mass. This symposium will gather together pioneering scholars working on corruption from a wide range of perspectives. The meeting will be aimed both at a stock-taking of where the anthropology of corruption has reached and, more importantly, as a place from which to generate new ideas for future research. The challenges are substantive, methodological, and normative. Participants will offer analyses grounded in research in varying places such as Europe, China, South Asia, Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. Our aim is to move across an array of theoretical and regional concerns to chart a set of problematics that will animate anthropological studies of corruption in the coming years.

Toward that end, the symposium is organized around five central themes.

1) Historicizing Corruption: How has the understanding of corruption changed over time in different locations? Why has corruption become such a potent site of social critique in recent years? What are the local and translocal dynamics that have made corruption in the present moment such an important public concern in many different national contexts?

2) The Politics of Corruption: Why does corruption serve as a rallying point for otherwise diverse political parties and social movements? Popular mobilization against corruption is often difficult to locate in terms of left-right politics. How should we assess the possibilities and limits of anti-corruption politics?

3) Social Inequality: How can anthropological approaches shed light on the intersection between corruption and inequalities of race, class, caste, gender, region, language, and ethnicity? While social class often correlates strongly with concerns about corruption, we know very little about the relationship between corruption and other regimes of inequality.

4) Logics of Law and Governance: How is corruption situated with respect to distinctions between legality and illegality? How can we approach the often intimate relationship  between corruption and practices of policing and governance?

5) Normative Evaluation: How is “corruption” as a category produced, deployed, and transformed? How do people extend that category beyond the public areas of everyday life and with what effects?

All five themes are crosscut by a concern with how corruption is represented in academic writing. Self-reflexivity about academic uses of the category of “corruption” distinguishes anthropological work from other disciplines. Throughout the symposium, we will consider how to produce anthropological knowledge about corruption that does not take the category for granted, but constructs a critical perspective on its social life.

 

 

Meet Our 2016 Wadsworth International Fellows: Joanne Munga

Joanne Munga received her undergraduate education at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship she will continue her training with a PhD in physical-biological anthropology at George Washington University, supervised by Dr.David Braun. Meet the previous four WIF recipients in this series.

My focus is on lithic analysis of East African Early Stone Age tools. My previous work involved a morphological analysis of the Lewa Downs tools a site located in Central Kenya. The main reason why I felt the George Washington University (GWU) would be the best institution for me to take my PhD is because they have a very good Human paleobiology doctorate program, which focuses on several areas of studies, from the Paleolithic to hominin evolution and primate studies. I felt I needed a wide array of experience. GWU is also located in Washington DC and is surrounded by so many resources that will help me in my studies, such as the Smithsonian Institute, and also has a wide variety of laboratories with different types of research going on, of which I will be able to visit and learn about all the research going on. I plan to make good use of all the available resources as I pursue my doctorate.

I will use this unique opportunity to specialize further in the sub-field of Paleolithic Archaeology. In particular, I am interested in a focused lithic analysis that can provide in-depth understanding of early hominin technology.

I obtained both my BA and MA in Archaeology from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. I was also a research fellow at the National Museums of Kenya from 2012, and was involved in several field projects throughout that whole time.

I would very much love to come back to Kenya after my PhD studies and continue doing research and offer my skills to the teaching institutions as well. My desire is that more young archaeologists will become interested in the deep past of our species and want to explore the rich heritage our country has to offer. I love working with younger students joining the Archaeology Undergraduate programs at the Universities, and doing a mentoring program with them is one of the things I would love to do.  We have a huge archaeological collection, and we need research scientists to actually work on all these collections, and who better to work and do research on these than the young upcoming research scientists from the Universities in Kenya.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Samantha Blatt

Samantha Blatt is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Boise State University. In 2011 while a doctoral student at The Ohio State University she received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant  to aid research on “Assessing Growth and Development of Prehistoric Amerindians from Incremental Microstructures of Dental Enamel,” supervised by Dr. Paul W. Sciulli. In 2013 she received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Toward a Collaborative Indigenous Bioarchaeology: Engaging Communities in the Relevance, Shared Knowledge, and Interpretation of Prehistoric North America,” 2014, Ohio & W. VA.

During December of 2014 and January of 2015, I traveled back to Ohio to disseminate the results and methods outlined in my dissertation in order to narrow the gap of relevance and accessibility of anthropology research between academe, the public, and the indigenous population under study. This was a three-part undertaking in which my goal was to present anthropology and the trials of research in as transparent (and of course as fun) a light as possible.

One of the most eye-opening experiences of undertaking this proposal was in providing a forum for indigenous communities to learn more about and discuss the results of the 2011 project. Dialogue about the prehistory of Native Americans is all too often a one-sided affair and bound by misunderstanding, mistrust, or impatience. Furthermore, indigenous communities are not often offered very much information about the final results of the studies they advocate. I undertook approval of the American Indian Advisory Council of Dayton to complete my dissertation research and wanted to extent my interaction with this group and other indigenous councils, not only to present the results of my research, but to allow them an advocate ear from the very same researcher. Topics discussed include archaeological ethics, importance of indigenous knowledge to archaeology, and the challenges of communication between indigenous groups and scientists during different phases of research. The purpose was to begin a local dialogue between anthropologists and Indigenous communities in order that these relationships might be strengthened and to foster future understanding and partnership both in Ohio and in my current location of Idaho. This forum was informally carried over to discussions I then had with Paiute members in Idaho who had similar, but more current concerns. I believe that this dialogue has opened up opportunities for collaboration of bioarchaeology and indigenous epistemology in the future.

During my previous work organizing workshops for archaeology and forensic anthropology with underrepresented low-income children from the Ohio and Idaho region, local educators consistently told me that their female students lose interest in science before high school and were excited to meet a practicing female scientist. I have since kept in touch as a mentor to several of the girls I have met in these outreach programs, one of which will be starting college in the fall; the first in her family. This project allowed me to revisit Ohio middle schools and invite Idaho school children to a general presentation about anthropology as science. In addition to this, I presented my findings to The Ohio State University Undergraduate Anthropology Club, a small group of graduate students, and at an informal and non-technical setting at the local Science Café. The Science Café is a public lecture in a café setting which is open to the general public, giving them a chance to learn about new research and engage with the researcher in a relaxed and fun environment. It was a chance to toss the technical jargon for a cup of joe. That experience has since led me to supervise undergraduates in planning and administering hands-on activities for the public at Boise State University’s STEM day festival.

Thirdly, I was able to provide hands-on training in sample processing and analytical methods for local researchers and graduate and undergraduate students in Idaho. These workshop built skills in the identification of dental remains, methods for collecting non-destructive dental impressions, basic microscopy procedures, and analyzing dental enamel microstructures. The workshop will specifically focused on how these methods are of value to bioarchaeology with examples from my 2011 study. I was able to use the same materials I used for my own research in addition to demonstrating microscopic analysis by using a digital, portable microscope. This workshop was particularly helpful to several graduate students who were in the planning stages of similar projects. This also resulted in the compilation of an instruction manual of sorts for recommended materials and supplies and sample preparation. The manual sits next to the histology equipment at Ohio State to this day and I was very proud to make the initial research stages for graduate students a bit easier than they were when I began my dissertation. I plan on making this manual readily available for free download to all researchers via website.

Overall, I believe that completing this engagement project has allowed me to maintain local contacts and make new ones, as well as bring the importance of making anthropology relevant to the public a more devoted aspect of my career. I hope in the future to be able establish more regular dialogues and interactions with bioarchaeologists, the public, and indigenous groups.

Meet Our 2016 Wadsworth International Fellows: Ignacio Sandoval

Ignacio Sandoval received his undergraduate education at the Universidad of Chile, Santiago, Chile. Thanks to the Wadsworth International Fellowship he will continue his training with a PhD in social-cultural anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, supervised by Dr. David Graeber. Meet the previous three WIF recipients in the series.

I graduated from Universidad of Chile in 2006 with a B.A in Anthropology from Universidad of Chile. After obtaining a M.A in Sociocultural Anthropology at Columbia University in 2015, I briefly taught anthropological theory at Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Chile. My work, strongly post-disciplinary and based in Santiago, Chile, has focused on two topics: (1) the relation between neoliberalism, class transformations and life projects; and (2) the metatheory on social and cultural forms, especially the debate agency-structure. Recently, I started a new focus on sex-gender regimes and their historical becoming.

My current research follows strategies and projects embodied in the life of different families living in Metropolitan Santiago, Chile. I pretend to explore the relations between historical macro-processes and the intimate transformation of agency, subjectivity and temporal dwelling. Particularly, I am interested on understanding the cultural bridges between everyday ethics and political engagement and how they mirror practices of elaboration, resistance and reproduction of the ideological and cultural discourses that had emerged after the neoliberal counterrevolution in the country.

I chose the doctoral program at London School of Economics and Political Science because I think is the best place to pursue several interests that come together in my research. First, the emphasis on the study of capitalism and inequality that had been prominent in the department during the last years. Second, the department’s focus on political anthropology, moral anthropology and the research around personhood and agency was also an important factor. Finally, the possibility of developing metatheoretical inquiries during my studies in the stimulating environment that LSE offers was the final reason for which I chose this program.

After completion of my dissertation, I intend to go back to Chile to keep strengthen anthropological research in the country and to collaborate in the developing of a more diverse and robust anthropological community. I expect to continue my work related to independent collectives of young researchers on the topics of class and capitalism, and also the intersections on political economy and gender-sex formations.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Nicholas Limerick

 

Image courtesy Nicholas Limerick

Nicholas Limerick is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. In 2011 while a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania he received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on ‘Contested Language Ideologies and the Mediation of Indigenous Schooling in Ecuador,’ supervised by Dr. Asif Agha. In 2015 he received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on ‘Workshops on Multicultural Recognition and Quechua Language Use in Intercultural Bilingual Education in Ecuador,’ 2015, Ecuador.

Ecuador is frequently lauded for its successful Indigenous political movements. In 1988, Indigenous activists institutionalized a national-level intercultural bilingual school system that would be run by Native individuals for Native students. My dissertation research, which occurred from 2011 to 2013, showed how these advances have also led to challenges for Quichua individuals who have now become upper-level state agents in the school system. Through years of ethnographic research, including in coordinating offices of Ecuador’s Ministry of Education, my research has considered the shifting roles that Indigenous individuals have had to exhibit, and the emerging publics whom they engage, as they invoke the discourses of the state as Native individuals. I show how their work in the office frequently places them in a double-bind, where speaking in the framings of liberal multicultural recognition, including how they speak in the language Quichua, sounds quite different from notions of linguistic diversity that their Indigenous constituents hold. Such differences contribute to pervasive divides across the organization.

With the Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant, I planned to conduct workshops in the offices in the Ministry of Education, and in one school where I conducted research, using the findings of my dissertation to help improve public speaking in Quichua and in Spanish. Though I had returned to my fieldsites since the conclusion of my dissertation research, when I returned to the Ministry of Education in June of 2015, I found that the staff had been greatly reduced. Many of my friends had recently been forced into retirement, or they had transferred to work in other offices in the Ministry of Education or in other provinces of Ecuador. This change is the latest step of educational reform in Ecuador, part of which I have studied in my research.

Image courtesy Nicholas Limerick

Given these circumstances, as well as an unusually tense political climate for Indigenous individuals coordinating EIB, I decided to carry out workshops only with directors and teachers of one of the schools where I have long collaborated and conducted research. In June, administrators of the school and I piloted a Quichua education program that would promote speaking by the students in distinct registers of Quichua in the same classroom. Through the creation of their own books, students attempted to valorize non-standardized registers of communication, culminating in storytelling events with prizes for the students. The directors of the school and I then planned a series of workshops with teachers of the school, to be conducted in August, that would incorporate the results of my dissertation into helping the teachers address linguistic diversity among parents and students.

In August, we conducted fifteen hours of workshops. The workshops had several components. We first discussed the importance of teaching Quichua in general, and supporting vastly different registers of Quichua use in particular, at the school. We then discussed how to interact with parents, most of whom are Quichua individuals from disparate regions of Ecuador. Using recordings and transcripts from my research, we evaluated the speeches of directors of intercultural bilingual education, and also of the teachers’ own parent-teacher meetings. In turn, we collectively elaborated how to speak in a register of Quichua that unites disparate Quichua publics, many of whom have negative opinions about standardized Quichua. We then created materials to teach registers of Quichua that are less common to multicultural and multilingual teaching initiatives in Ecuador. The workshops not only allowed me to test some of my arguments and ideas for my book manuscript, but they created an avenue for reflexivity at the school about how to unite a larger Quichua community through speaking in Quichua. The Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant was indispensable not only for applying my research to the daily needs of my friends in Ecuador, but it also jumpstarted my second project on building community in urban schools.