Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Lucas Bessire

As we round out the year Wenner-Gren is pleased to present an abstract and trailer for Dr. Lucas Bessire who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on The Ayoreo Video Project.

 

ayoreo_trailer_FINAL from Lucas Bessire on Vimeo.

The Ayoreo Video Project

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Ayoreo Video Project is an experiment in visual anthropology and political advocacy through collaborative video-making with Ayoreo-speaking people. Developed over two years in collaboration with Totobiegosode-Ayoreo leadership and the organization Video Nas Aldeias, the project taught Ayoreo to make their own videos. It began with a video workshop in a remote village, which trained a select group of fourteen Ayoreo from five villages, three different Ayoreo tribes and both sides of the Bolivia/Paraguay border in the basics of digital filmmaking. The project assisted Ayoreo filmmakers as they conceived, shot and eventually edited videos on the topics and themes of their choice. The result is a set of four feature length films, meant as stand-alone parts of a quartet, which substantively revise previous filmic imagery of Ayoreo.  These include the first three Ayoreo-made videos and an ethnographic documentary about the process. Together, the films allow Ayoreo to tell their own stories about themselves, to speak back to impoverished representations of their humanity, and to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue in a context of violent dispossession. At the same time, the films open new directions for future reflection, research and advocacy.  They are:

Farewell to Savage.  2017. 70 minutes.  Directed by Lucas Bessire, with the Ayoreo Video Project.

Yiquijmapiedie / Our Ways. 2017. 52 minutes.  Directed by Chagabi Etacore.

Ore Enominone / Visions.  2017. 92 minutes. Directed by Ajesua Etacore, Daijnidi Picanerai, Chamia Chiqueno and Erui Etacore.

Ujirei / Regeneration. 2017. 55 minutes.  Directed by Mateo Sobode Chiqueno

“The Ayoreo Video Project” is an experiment in visual anthropology and political advocacy through collaborative video-making with Ayoreo-speaking people, members of a small, recently-contacted Indigenous group of the Bolivian and Paraguayan Gran Chaco facing several immediate threats to their lives, land and dignity. The project created a set of four feature length films, including the first three Ayoreo-made videos and an ethnographic documentary about the process. In doing so, the set of films explores how video technology allows Ayoreo to tell their own stories, catalyzes new ways of relating to themselves and the world, and opens novel spaces for cross-cultural dialogue in a context of extreme violence and marginality. The project takes the process of Indigenous video production as a visual theme and the topic for future writings on visuality, personhood and power.

The project entailed several linked activities that were completed between March 2015 and February 2017.  It began with five months of community consultations, after which my long-term Totobiegosode collaborators and I decided to host a four-week video training workshop in a remote village. For this workshop, we invited a select group of fourteen Ayoreo from five villages (Chaidi, Arocojnadi, Campo Loro, Tunucujnai, Zapocó), three historically hostile sub-groups (Totobiegosode, Guidaigosode, Direquednejnaigosode) and both sides of the Bolivia/Paraguay border to take part. The participants included both men and women, ranging in age from approximately 23 to 70 years old. Such gatherings of Ayoreo people from different communities are very rare, and this workshop was one of the few collaborative projects to unite different Ayoreo factions.

Next, we were able to enlist the pioneering Brazilian media collective Video Nas Aldeias (VNA, which has been training Amazonian Indians to make their own videos since the late 1980s) to serve as an institutional collaborator. As part of this partnership, we invited VNA associate and filmmaker Ernesto de Carvalho and Kamikia, a VNA-trained Indigenous filmmaker from the Kisedje tribe of the Brazilian Xingu, to help coordinate the Ayoreo video workshop. From August – September 2015, my collaborators and I installed basic infrastructure (generators + screens) in Chaidi, donated small HD camera kits to each village team, trained Ayoreo participants in the basics of digital video and assisted village teams as they conceived, directed and began to film videos on the themes of their choice. Kamikia and Ernesto documented most of the workshop process on video, and village teams retained copies of their footage. This was the first Ayoreo video training, the first Indigenous video workshop held in the Paraguayan Gran Chaco, and the first international collaboration for VNA. After the workshop, I advised remotely as the village teams continued to work on their films over the following months.

From April – June 2016, I returned to Paraguay. With the help of Bernard Belisário, a VNA collaborator and editor, we coordinated the editing of the Ayoreo-made videos. This meant installing basic editing infrastructure, gathering village teams and developing a collaborative editing method tailored to Ayoreo cultural norms and decision-making styles. We worked closely with village teams as they identified and constructed editorial elements within their footage, crafted a basic story-board, refined it to reflect key priorities and concerns, assembled rough-cuts, screened them in the villages and incorporated this feedback into final cuts of their films. In July 2016, I continued working with Bernard to cut a reflexive ethnographic film about the project based on workshop footage as well as archival footage I shot in those same communities a decade before. The result is a set of four feature length documentary films. These are imagined as a quartet composed of stand-alone but mutually referential chapters. The conceptual implications of the films are framed by the generative tensions between them. In August 2016, the Ayoreo films began post-production at VNA for basic color correction, audio mixing, translation and subtitling in English, Spanish and Portuguese. The Ayoreo films are scheduled for release on a trilingual DVD in late February 2017. The finished films are:

 

  • Ujirei [Regeneration] (55 minutes; Mateo Sobode Chiqueno): This is a critical poetic meditation on contemporary Ayoreo realities by a 65-year-old Ducodegose man and respected leader who played instrumental roles in his people’s transition from forest to evangelical mission. Filmed over the course of eight months on an evangelical mission, the film offers a critique of political marginality and shares one man’s visionary perspective on the destruction and rebirth of Ayoreo society. It was an official selection of the 2016 Forumdoc film festival in Belo Horizonte Brazil.

 

  • Yiquijmapiedie [Our Ways] (52 minutes; Chagabi Etacore): In this quiet reflection on making and belonging, the leader of a band that made first contact in 2004 and two others that were contacted in 1986 create material objects that were once crucial to survival in the pre-contact forest but that have little use in the present and are thus being forgotten. Working together, the three protagonists show the process of digging up a water root, creating wooden storage containers for water, and making bark ropes for a swing game.  They provide subtle commentaries on their activities and instruct younger generations about these practices.

 

  • Ore Enominone [Visions] (92 minutes; Ajesua Etacoro and Daijnidi Picanerai): This film is a remarkable ethnofictional performance about the creation and inhabitation of a dream world in the forest. Created by the survivors of a deadly 1986 first contact, the Totobiegosode protagonists play a fictional version of themselves and share their unique knowledge of traditional foods, practices and beliefs.  Blurring the lines between staged reenactments and serious engagement with present challenges, the film opens new spaces for its creators to reflect on the ruptures of the past and to envision a more inhabitable future.

 

  • Farewell to Savage (70 minutes).  This film uses footage from the workshop process, archives and a drone to craft a non-linear reflection on the power of visuality to provoke new ways of relating to the world, each other and our own past selves. In sustained dialogue with each of the Ayoreo videos, the film documents how the filmmaking process unleashed new potentials and dilemmas for all involved, in ways that pose important questions for anthropological theory, practice and advocacy.

 

For the first time, these films share Ayoreo representations of themselves, their social worlds and their ideal futures with wider publics. Doing so promises to unsettle the existing terms of politics in the Gran Chaco by offering Ayoreo a technology to tell their own stories and to speak back to impoverished representations of their humanity. As a set, the films valorize the social projects of a group of marginal people whose realities do not fit within the conventional frames of analysis or activism. Rather than measuring Ayoreo life against an ideal-type category of culture from which they are already excluded, the films demonstrate their critical and creative capacities to objectify themselves and their world in new ways. This makes the films more than illustrations of existing debates.  Rather, the films show how collaborative video production can be a form of decolonizing praxis. At the same time, the videos overlap and diverge in unexpected ways. The tensions between them convey novel insights into contemporary Ayoreo realities, the organizational force of video production, and the unfinished, open-ended nature of Ayoreo subjectivity. The videos are also archival records that register highly endangered practices, linguistic forms and traditional knowledges that are unknown even to many present-day Ayoreo. Moreover, the finished films provide an opportunity for Ayoreo advocates to establish otherwise impossible social dialogues across the deep divides of language, culture and power that structure daily life in the Paraguayan Gran Chaco. At the same time, the project takes the process of collaborative video production as an ethnographic site for further conceptual reflections on genre, emergence and advocacy.

The four films are on schedule to be finished in late February 2017.  Currently, I am seeking support to allow Ayoreo partners to organize public screenings of their works in Paraguay, both in their villages and in a neighboring town. The circulation of their films to distinct audiences in Paraguay will open new spaces for dialogue in a context of extreme oppression and segregation where such cross-cultural conversations are exceedingly rare. The videos themselves – due to their technical sophistication and critical contents – will undoubtedly catalyze wider discussions and may provide Ayoreo leverage for protesting common racist tropes of Ayoreo as degraded savages and more effectively claiming rights and resources. Supporting Ayoreo filmmakers as they design, implement and coordinate a plan of public outreach around their films will encourage them to take full ownership over the films and the contexts of their circulation. Formal distribution plans for all films are pending. While I anticipate that the Ayoreo films will screen in festivals (one already has), the Ayoreo filmmakers will decide how they will circulate. Likewise, I expect my film to circulate in academic research and festival contexts, although no formal agreements have been made.

To learn more about Dr. Bessire’s project we invite you to read his article in the November issue of Visual Anthropology Review.

Wenner-Gren at AAA 2017: Schedule of Events

This week the 116th annual AAA meeting will kick off in Washington, DC. If you are planning to attend we’d love to see you at the following events:

How to Write for the Public
Thursday, November 30th, 10:30am – 12:30pm, Marriot Park Tower 8217
The Editors of SAPIENS will provide useful tips on writing a compelling pitch and structuring an essay for a newspaper or magazine.

How to Write a Grant Proposal
Friday December 1st, 10:30am – 12:30pm, Marriot Park Tower 8217 (same room as above!)
Representatives from Wenner-Gren and the National Science Foundation offer useful suggestions and answer questions.  All are welcome.

The Wenner-Gren Reception
Friday, December 1st, 7:45pm – 9pm,  Omni Empire Ballroom
Always a lively party – please come meet our staff and chat with your fellow grantees!  We’ll have light snacks, an open bar, and a special slideshow from our archives.

Meet the Editors of Current Anthropology
Thursday November 30th and Friday December 1st, 9am – 11 am, Booth 214 in the Exhibition Hall, University of Chicago Press
Mark Aldenderfer and Lisa McKamy will be available to answer questions and talk about the journal.

Also feel free to drop by to see us at the Wenner-Gren Booth (#219) in the Exhibition Hall.  The editors of SAPIENS will be available as well. The Hall is open
Thursday and Friday, 9am – 5pm, and Saturday 9am – 4pm.

There’s no need to RSVP or to reply to this message. We hope to see you soon!

Meet Our 2017 Wadsworth International Fellows: James Munene

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Adriana Carolina Borda Nino

Initial discussion

While a doctoral student at the University of St. Andrews Adriana Carolina Borda Nino received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2011 to aid research on ”When Does Incest Matter’: Ethnic, Class & Gender Discourses & Experiences About Incest among Female Patients in a Psychiatric Hospital in Bolivia,” supervised by Dr. Tristan Platt. In 2016 Dr. Borda Nino received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Healing Trajectories: Engaging Andean Indigenous Healers’ in the Promotion of Women’s Rights”.

The workshop took place in the city of Sucre, Bolivia. Thirteen traditional healers from the Chuquisaca, Potosi, and Cochabamba regions took part in the workshop. Nine men and four women between jampiris, médicos naturistas, and midwives attended the event. Most of them were over forty years of age, but also some young participants who are learning Andean traditional healing practices in order to become healers themselves participated. Thus, perspectives from experienced healers were matched by the eagerness of young apprentices who will be the future’s healing practitioners and masters. Finally, the event had the logistic support and was enriched by the participation of members of staff of PRODECO, a Bolivian NGO that has worked for more than twenty years of experience in promoting Andean medicine practices from a gender, intercultural, rights, and generational perspective.

Representative of the Qhara Qhara nation sharing his experience

Topics covered during the workshop included: definitions of incestuous sexual violence within rural communities in Bolivia and in relation to current national and international legislation; trajectories of indigenous and peasant women who have survived incestuous sexual violence, from their communities of origin to the National Psychiatric;  the psychiatric hospital as a place of in-between-life-and-death confinement for women, thus fulfilling Quechua and Aymara ideas on soul condemnation for women who have been involved in incestuous practices; the relevance of traditional healers in the definition of trajectories of violence against women within their communities; finally, we had a discussion with participants on different forms of approaching incestuous sexual violence from an Andean medicine point of view in the region.

Group discussion

The event included the participation of the eighty-year-old healer Mama Gloria, a highly regarded practitioner of Quechua medicine from Ecuador (much respected amongst Latin American traditional healers), who has a women’s rights approach to healing practices in relation to violence against women. It was suggested by all traditional healers that it is very relevant to include diverse approaches to the particular contexts where they apply their knowledge, considering local circumstances, amongst them: forms of community organization, role of traditional healers within the communities, closeness to cities, relation to judicial and allopathic medical authorities, etc. In this sense, the advice given by Mama Gloria on how to heal the effects that sexual violence might have on women and how to protect them both through healing practices and through working with judicial authorities, was very well received by the jampiris, médicos naturistas, and midwives, who took note of Mama Gloria’s advice as well as that given by their co-participants. They expressed their intention to apply what they learned at their communities. Finally, and as a result of the initiative of one of the four and oldest female healers, time was devoted to discussing the ethical protocols that should be followed by any traditional medicine practitioner when approaching a case of intrafamiliar sexual violence against women and in general any case of sexual violence against women.

Andean medicine exhibition

During this event, the research results were disseminated and discussed (day I). In 2013 the Law No. 459 of December 19 2013, on Ancestral Traditional Bolivian Medicine, was passed. This law elevated the status of traditional medicine to that of Western medicine within Bolivia’s health system. Along with this recognition, the law seeks to regulate the practice and articulation of Bolivian ancestral traditional medicine within the national health system, as well as healers’ organizations, and the rights and responsibilities of service users. Traditional medicine practitioners, as stated by the workshop participants, are allowed and some are paid a salary to work at local hospitals. This is a process that is slowly developing. For instance, within the region of Chuquisaca only approximately ten healers receive a salary for working at local hospitals. The state, though, grants a higher number of healers a sum of money to get the ingredients to prepare medicaments to sell. However, the work of traditional healers at psychiatric hospitals is still forbidden, as is their intervention in cases of sexual violence attended within local hospitals. All the diagnosis gathered during the research were confirmed by the workshop participants, as well as the trajectories followed by women who are expelled from their communities after surviving events of sexual violence.

Farewell and final words by participants

The applicability of the research results and the conclusions of the exchange that was possible during the workshop’s first day amongst the participants, were discussed during the second day. In 2013 a new law on violence against women was issued in the country. It states that all health authorities are responsible for protecting and securing the well-being of women who have experienced any form of violence. This poses a great challenge to traditional medicine practitioners, for they are not only entitled (as they are part of the health system, though not yet in equal conditions) but also made responsible to intervene in these cases. The workshop participants expressed their concern that judicial authorities should intervene first before they can approach a case, for they would be afraid of breaking the law by becoming involved. There is no guidance on how exactly it is expected that traditional medicine practitioners should intervene according to this law. Also, it was expressed by the participants that there is still a long way to go before the participation of traditional medicine practitioners within mental health settings is permitted. Still, they stated that there is a boundary between the cases in which only psychiatrists should intervene, i.e. what they called traumado or a traumatized person, and those that can be healed by them, i.e. susto, agarrado por tierra, and other ailments that occur as a consequence of events of sexual violence on survivors. In this way, traditional medicine practitioners recognized the importance of both Western and Andean traditional medicine in promoting the well-being of women who have experienced sexual violence.

At the end of the workshop a session was held with participation of traditional medicine practitioners as well as representatives of several non-governmental organisations in charge of promoting women’s rights to discuss the research results (governmental authorities were invited but did not attend the session). As during the first part of the workshop, all the findings presented were ratified by the participants. New facts unknown by them, especially on the treatment of women within the psychiatric setting, were received with surprise but were deemed plausible, given the lack of involvement of both NGO’s and healers in this type of setting. This session served to introduce Andean healers with representatives of these organisations, and it is hoped that future work might be done to develop a dialogue between these two sectors in order to promote collaboration for the protection of the rights of women who have experienced incestuous sexual [and other forms of] violence.

A final addition to the event was a small fair organised by PRODECO to promote the work of the Andean medicine practitioners at the workshop venue, which was opened for the general public. During this fair several diagnosis, healing sessions, and medicine sales took place.

NYAS @ WGF 11/13: Are Racism, Violence, and Inequality Part of “Human Nature”? Why Understanding Human Evolution Matters

Dr. Agustin Fuentes

Join us at the Wenner-Gren Foundation on November 13th at 5:45 PM for another great installment of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series. Agustin Fuentes, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame will be presenting, “Are Racism, Violence, and Inequality Part of ‘Human Nature’? Why Understanding Human Evolution Matters”. Susan Anton, Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, New York University 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.

Event Registration:  If you will be registering for an event for the first time, the New York Academy of Sciences will ask you first to set up a user account with them. Registration is free and does not require divulging personal or financial information.

You can also register by phone, 212-298-8640 or 212-298-8600.  Early Registration is strongly recommended since seating is limited. 

Many popular accounts of human evolution do a great job of conveying interpretations and perspectives which are entertaining, but often wrong. Such accounts offer incomplete, and at times toxic, portrayals of human biology and evolution that can be used to promulgate and perpetuate racist, misogynistic, and ill-informed views of “human nature.” We are left with perceptions and policies of what is “natural” in contemporary society that damage our capacity to challenge inequity, discrimination, and bias.

Human evolution is ongoing and human populations continue to grow in size and complexity. Getting a handle on “the human” in the Anthropocene is no easy matter and getting the science of human evolution right is important. It turns out that meaning, imagination, and hope are as central to the human story as are bones, genes, and ecologies. Neither selfish aggression nor peaceful altruism dominates human behavior as a whole. We are a species distinguished by our extraordinary capacity for creative cooperation, our simultaneously extreme biological diversity and homogeneity, and our ability to imagine possibilities and to make them material reality.

In the 21st century significant shifts in our understanding of evolutionary biology and theory and of genetics, plus radical expansions in the archeological and fossil records, have led to increasing collaboration across multiple fields of inquiry. Collaboration and expansion of knowledge are altering our capacities to investigate and to understand our history and our future(s). This lecture offers a glimpse, via specific examples, of our past and present to illustrate why, and how, the science of human evolution—far from being dead or outdated–is relevant today

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 for entry into the building.

 

Workshop Grantees Launch “An Anthropocene Primer”

In 2016 Drs. Fiona McDonald and Jason Kelly received a Conference and Workshop Grant to aid their workshop on “Anthropology of the Anthropocene: Structures, Theories, Practices”. A direct outgrowth of the workshop is An Anthropocene Primeran innovative open access, open peer review publication that guides learners through the complex concepts and debates related to the Anthropocene, including climate change, pollution, and environmental justice.

This born-digital publication is a critical and timely resource for learners across multiple fields from academia, to industry, to philanthropy to learn about issues and topics relating to the Anthropocene, a framework for understanding environmental change that highlights human impact on earth systems.

An Anthropocene Primer was created to provide learners in museums, schools, non-profits, and formal research institutions with an entry point into some of the big concepts and debates that dominate discussions about the Anthropocene. The primer is not intended to be comprehensive (this is, after all, An Anthropocene Primer, not The Anthropocene Primer), nor is it intended to be didactic. The primer is a framework to guide individual and collaborative learning from the beginner to advanced levels.

Version 1.0 of An Anthropocene Primer is available for open peer review from October 23, 2017 through February 1, 2018. Open peer review allows users to contribute to and engage with fellow readers and the authors as the editors develop it for a final print and open access ebook version. A video tutorial on how to participate in open peer review is available at  www.anthropoceneprimer.org/index.php/videotutorials/.

Edited by Jason M. Kelly and Fiona P. McDonald, An Anthropocene Primer emerged from the “Anthropology of the Anthropocene” workshop hosted by the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute in May 2017. The participants from this workshop make up list of authors: Jason M. Kelly (IUPUI, USA), Fiona P. McDonald (IUPUI, USA), Alejandro Camargo (University of Montreal, Canada), Amelia Moore (University of Rhode Island, USA), Mark Kesling (The daVinci Pursuit, USA), Ananya Ghoshal (Forum on Contemporary Theory, India), George Marcus (University of California, Irvine, USA), Paul Stoller (West Chester University, USA), Dominic Boyer (Rice University, USA), Serenella Iovino (University of Turin, Italy), Rebecca Ballestra (Artist, Monaco/Italy), Eduardo S. Brondizio (IU, Bloomington), Jim Enote (A:shiwiw A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, Zuni, USA), Ignatius Gutsa (University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe), Cymene Howe (Rice University, USA), Sue Jackson (Griffith University, Australia), Phil Scarpino (IUPUI, USA). This workshop was funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the IU New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities grant program.


Hunt Fellow Wins 2017 Diana Forsythe Prize!

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

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

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

NYAS @ WGF 10/23: Getting Talked into (and out of) Whiteness

Dr. Mary Bucholtz

Join us at the Wenner-Gren Foundation on October 23rd at 5:45 PM for another installment of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series. Mary Bucholtz, Professor of sociocultural linguistics at University of California, Santa Barbara will be presenting, “Getting Talked into (and out of) Whiteness”. Dr. Angela Reyes, Professor and Deputy Chair, English Department, Hunter College 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.

Event Registration:  If you will be registering for an event for the first time, the New York Academy of Sciences will ask you first to set up a user account with them. Registration is free and does not require divulging personal or financial information.

You can also register by phone, 212-298-8640 or 212-298-8600.  Early Registration is strongly recommended since seating is limited. 

It has long been recognized by social scientists that race is a socially, culturally, and politically constructed system for producing and reproducing inequality (Goodman, Moses, & Jones 2012; Harrison 1995; Omi & Winant 1994). Crucially, the racial system is sustained in large part through language (Bonilla-Silva 2003; Domingúez 1986; Hill 2008; Rosa forthcoming) by creating marked social categories that can then be targeted for material and ideological control. At the center of the process of racialization is whiteness, which constitutes the foundation of the entire racial system precisely because it is the often invisible and unmarked hegemonic norm as well as the apex of the racial hierarchy (Harris 1995; Lipsitz 1998; Twine & Gallagher 2008). In recent decades the growing political power of racialized groups has unsettled the hegemonic position of whiteness, leading to the linguistic repositioning of whiteness—as visible and vulnerable rather than unmarked and dominant—as a strategy for maintaining racial privilege (Bucholtz 2011).

This presentation examines the linguistic strategies that uphold whiteness as the linchpin of the racial system as well as the counterstrategies that work to undo this system of power. The analysis considers two forms of racializing language: talk about race, or racially referential language, and talk that enacts race, or racially indexical language. Focusing on the uneasy racial positioning of white youth in California both in the 1990s and in the present day, I argue that a political critique of the language of whiteness must be at the center of any effort to challenge white supremacy.

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.

 

Symposium #156: “Patchy Anthropocene: Frenzies and Afterlives of Violent Simplifications”

This past September Wenner-Gren found itself back at Tivoli Pálacio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal for the 156th Symposium, “Patchy Anthropocene: Frenzies and Afterlives of Violent Simplifications”. Be on the lookout for the upcoming special issue of Current Anthropology for the meeting’s papers, available to all 100% Open-Access.

Laurie Obbink, Jacob Doherty, Rosa Ficek, Donna Haraway, Heather Swanson, Ivette Perfecto, Anna Tsing, Zahirah Suhaimi, Kate Brown, Vanessa Agard-Jones, Naveeda Khan, Danilyn Rutherford, Andrew Mathews, Nils Bubandt, Natasha Myers, Frédéric Keck, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Atsuro Morita, Mike Hadfield

 

ORGANIZERS’ STATEMENT

Patchy Anthropocene: Frenzies and Afterlives of Violent Simplifications 

Anna Tsing (University of California, Santa Cruz / Aarhus University, Denmark)

Nils Bubandt (Aarhus University, Denmark)

Andrew Mathews (University of California, Santa Cruz)

When geologists first argued that modern humans were a geological force and should have an epoch named after them—Anthropocene—cultural anthropologists were skeptical.  After all, the term encapsulated many of the problems anthropologists have pointed to in science policy, including willingness to view the planet as a homogeneous space and the human race as a homogenous group.  In the past few years, however, anthropologists have begun to join multidisciplinary conversations in hopes that anthropological insights might reshape Anthropocene discussions, and, conversely, that the urgencies of the Anthropocene might spark a new anthropology.  This Wenner-Gren Symposium pushes forward this agenda through an exploration of a “patchy Anthropocene,” that is, the fragmented landscapes of livability and unlivability created by colonialism and industrial development.  On the one hand, we are concerned with “violent simplifications,” that is, ecological estrangements and displacements that threaten more-than-human livability.  On the other hand, we do not look for these threats merely in elite plans; instead, our focus is on the unintentional design of landscapes, that is, the social and ecological arrangements that have developed beyond the planning of any authority.

To invoke the unintentional is not to argue for pure souls who should not be blamed for destroying the earth.  Indeed, blaming is often useful in sparking remedial action. However, our point is to move beyond the dreams of engineers to attend to the consequences of their actions, whether or not they imagined them.  Predicting the fate of the earth through the strange dreams of planners is a powerful bad habit that has developed over the last several centuries and continues to reign in the shape of a vision of a “good Anthropocene”; we refuse that vision.  This allows us, too, to offer full regard to the historically shifting actions of nonhumans, both living and nonliving.  Some nonhumans become allies of industrial and imperial landscape engineering; others interrupt their simplifications and coercions.  Landscapes are the sediments of both kinds of actions, along with those of both elite and subaltern humans.

Three kinds of unintentional design inform our discussion.  First, we examine the logics and limits of ecological simplifications, as these have been key to the making of “resources” for capital, on the one hand, and the invasion of indigenous space, on the other.  Second, we track forms of violence that exceed the logics of planners.  Finally, we turn to hope amidst apocalypse—of the kind that emerges out of unintentional design.  Together, these kinds of unintentionality help us describe a patchy Anthropocene in which threats to livability are far from randomly distributed.  By investigating more-than-human landscapes that emerge from, yet also exceed, industrial and imperial plans, we hope to identify “Anthropocene-in-the-making.”  This also means sketching the contours of an anthropology pushed onto new terrain in its efforts to explore a world where the violence of modern simplification and the poisons of the Great Acceleration are creating new worlds of livability and unlivability. Anthropology, we suggest, is currently in a moment of experiment and retooling that would allow it to align the potential of a more-than-human anthropology with insights from critical political history; to cultivate new forms of collaboration that are open to learning from indigenous cosmologies as well as from the natural sciences and environmental activism; and to study both the secular rationalities of a world in ecological crisis and the nonsecular fissures of hope and wonder amidst disaster.

The Symposium begins the arduous process, then, of intervening in debates about dramatic environmental change by describing the Anthropocene with the tools that anthropology can make available—through trans-disciplinary collaboration, ethnographic insight into indigenous worlds, as well as critical reflection about the otherwise—in full recognition of heterogeneity and power differences across life on earth.  Anthropology, arguably, has always been the study of unintended consequences; our conference brings this anthropological perspective to more-than-human landscapes.

The three themes of the Symposium are addressed in three sessions, each organized into dialogues.

I. More-than-human estrangements: what worlds do simplification and acceleration make?

A puzzle to consider: The proliferation of modern engineering has also been the proliferation of pests and plagues.

Projects of state-making and empire building, of weaving world-spanning commodity networks and intrusive bureaucracies, have helped produce the environmental and cultural transformations that we now call Anthropocene. Such projects have focused on controlling plants, animals, and material processes, and on related efforts to define and control the people who work in plantations, factories, farms, or broader landscapes.  At every stage, efforts to control humans and nonhumans have been undermined or reworked by transformations and escapes from control, sometimes visibly, sometimes almost unnoticed. From the Columbian exchange, which moved people, plants, animals and diseases between the Old and New World, to plantation economies which helped bring into being smallholder cultivation systems and forms of anti- and decolonial political resistance, to more recent efforts to build factory-farm systems that have produced new diseases, the ordering projects of modernity have continually undermined themselves, producing unexpected escapes, transformations, and estrangements. The first set of dialogues in this symposium asks participants to consider how world-making projects have produced unexpected consequences, how new and strange forms of human and non-human have come into being. How do the more-than-human relations of non-humans produce new diseases, new plants and animals, new kinds of human subjects, and new landscapes? How might the details of particular cases and landscapes help us understand the Anthropocene more widely, perhaps as “Plantationocene,” perhaps as “Capitalocene,” perhaps as something else? How might thinking of the spaces of modernist control as inhabited by excess and escape enrich anthropological engagements with the Anthropocene? What new concepts, methods or collaborations might we need in order to engage with these experimental spaces?

II. Patchy violence: what kinds of unlivability shape the Anthropocene?

A puzzle to consider: Why, despite continual assertions of its homogeneity, is the Anthropocene so uneven?

The Anthropocene is a time of heightened violence against all living things on earth; the big question today is whether enough can survive to allow the kinds of life on earth we inherited from the Holocene, and earlier epochs, to continue.  Species extinctions have rocketed; ecosystems disappear; industrial and military waste spreads around the planet.  Vulnerable humans and other forms of life bear the brunt of such violence—and sometimes stand in its way.  There is a lot for anthropologists to tackle in such challenges to livability.  In this conference, we’ll take up three themes.  First, beings other than humans make landscapes, and we turn to those “creatures of empire” (to use Virginia Anderson’s term) that wreck indigenous life-worlds along with humans.  These include animals and plants—but also nonliving things, including the waste products of urban life.  What kinds of landscapes are made by such ambivalent allies and enemies of human well-being?  Second, what species and ecosystems are destroyed in industrial and imperial conquest—and what possibilities are there for resistance, resilience, and survival?  This is a set of questions, too, in which biologists and anthropologists might look for common ground; the challenges of transdisciplinarity share center stage in discussing more-than-human vulnerabilities.   We hope to tackle these creatively.  Third, unintentional landscapes of the Anthropocene exist inside bodies as well as around them.  To track the poisons of our times, attention to the links between inner and outer landscapes is essential.  Poison is a key characteristic of the Anthropocene, and we need to understand its dynamics and its distribution.

III: Illegitimate hope: what more-than-human worlds are made amidst destruction?

A puzzle to consider: What do anthropological collaborations with natural scientists, with activists, and with indigenous spokespeople have in common?

The Anthropocene ties new terrors to novel kinds of hope.  Environmental change, global warming and the imminent prospect of mass extinction are pushing new modernist dreams of control, and the contemporary moment is replete with designs for carbon trading, climate engineering, re-wilding, DNA banking, and escapes to Mars.  Anthropology needs to pay attention to the ways in which the modernist project of human mastery and economic growth seeks to reinvent itself in the face of ecological apocalypse.  But other formations of hope, different kinds of conviviality, exist beyond this “good Anthropocene.”  The more-than-human worlds of indigenous communities around the world offer one kind of alternative. Critical environmental activism may hold the promise of another.  And Western science itself, long the backbone of the imagined modern conquest of Nature, is currently being transfigured, as new insights within the natural sciences into the fundamentally symbiotic and an interdependent make-up of life question cherished oppositions and concepts of modernity. All of these alternatives, disparate as they may be, point to another Anthropocene: patchy spaces in which human worlds critically depend on the world of spirits, animals, ghosts, plants and other non-humans. In an Anthropocene that is fundamentally unknown, uninvited, and unexpected, hope may also dwell.  The third session of the symposium explores this more-than-human Anthropocene as an occasion to reinvent anthropology, as an invitation to transdisciplinary collaboration, and as a space for illegitimate hopes for co-species survival. How might anthropology reinvent itself to explore the magic of the more-than-human comparatively across the worlds of indigenous communities, activist groups, and science? What possibilities of transdisciplinary collaboration exist when neither “the human” nor “Nature” is what we thought? What forms of radical hope for co-species survival exist in the critical zones of the Anthropocene?

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Our colleagues and friends from the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC) in Puerto Rico need our help. A number of colleagues have experienced devastating losses due to Hurricane Maria and are facing extreme day-to-day challenges including lack of basic supplies, food, and water.  This harrowing message was painted on the streets of Punta Santiago, just meters from the CPRC main office.

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