IDG Interview: Dr. Marjorie Murray at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

Students visiting Cuchipuy archaeological site

In 2018 Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile received an Institutional Development Grant to support the development of a doctoral program in anthropology. Our Administrator of International Programs, Judy Kreid, recently reached out to Dr. Marjorie Murray at PUC to discuss what personally drew her to the field of anthropology, what the past and present perception of anthropology is in Chile, and what she hopes the IDG grant will help the university achieve.

First can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be interested in anthropology?

I was first trained as a sociologist at Universidad Católica de Chile in the second half of the nineties, a few years after the department reopened its undergraduate degree after the Pinochet regime. In those years I learned about the relevance of social and cultural theory for understanding a range of socio-political and religious processes taking place in my country and in the region, more generally, with an emphasis on long-term historical processes. I also learned about the ethical responsibility Latin American social scientists have towards confronting the stark inequalities that characterize our societies. At the same time, I enjoyed the readings in a somewhat marginal course I took on the sociology of mass media, where I became drawn to the study of micro consumption practices and their implications in people’s lives. By 2000 I became interested in the possibilities that new information technologies could provide our population. I completed an MA in Media Studies at Goldsmiths, London, where I enriched my theoretical training and–most importantly–discovered that I was fascinated by ethnography as a methodological tool that could connect my various interests. I wrote a thesis about the uses of mobile phones and social networks of South American immigrants in the UK, for which I carried out fieldwork. I was very inspired by Danny Miller and Don Slater’s ethnography on the uses of the Internet in Trinidad, and decided to apply for a PhD in Anthropology. It was during my time at UCL that I discovered and fell in love with anthropology. I was fortunate to study in a lively department, where I met people with a variety of backgrounds and research interests; where periodic seminars, reading groups, and talks were as important as our own individual projects.

Who have been the anthropologists that have most influential in your own personal formation and why?

Student workshop on Cartonera publishers, political-artistic organizations that print books out of recycled cardboard in collaboration with informal recyclers

As an undergraduate student in sociology, I experienced what professors Pedro Morandé and Eduardo Valenzuela called “anthropology for sociologists,” in which they picked bits and pieces from the work of anthropologists to build their theoretical endeavours in the cultural sociology of Latin America. It was through them that I first acquainted myself with Mauss’s The Gift, Lévi-Strauss’s study of kinship or van Gennep’s work on rites of passage. And it was in my work as their teaching assistant that I first developed my interest in anthropology. The discovery of Bruno Latour’s work in the early 2000s was also important; it was fresh air for questioning the theoretical armature I had grown up with, while confirming the endless potential of ethnographic fieldwork. Having said this, I should note that my two PhD supervisors at UCL, Danny Miller and Martin Holbraad, were actually the most influential in my training as an anthropologist. And it was not primarily because of their exciting work and theoretical advancements, or because of the authors they introduced me to. What I value most was their openness and encouragement for me to develop my own anthropological imagination rather than imposing their own research or theoretical agendas. I also value deeply the range of opportunities I had to share and learn from fellow PhD students who were developing diverse and inspiring lines of research at UCL, including Sergio González, Diana Espirito Santo, Anna Pertierra, and Dimitris Dalakoglou to mention a few.

Can you tell us a little about anthropology in Chile? What are the pressing questions and concerns for the discipline there?

In the four-field sense, anthropology has a long history in Chile, although this history has been mostly related to the study of the indigenous populations in the country. This emphasis has generated a strong tradition of research on issues such as acculturation, intercultural relations, and indigenous development, consolidating an image of anthropology as a field that could be properly developed only within academia. At the same time, this emphasis has produced an overall perception of anthropology as a niche discipline, undermining its potential in comparison to other social sciences. This situation remained for a long time and was reinforced by a lack of university programs offering graduate training in anthropology until very recently. Nevertheless, this tendency has changed somewhat in recent decades, due to increased access to graduate training abroad, offered through Chilean government grant programs. Through such opportunities, Chilean anthropologists have been able to bring fresh insights in terms of research topics and theoretical approaches. Also, the current context has driven  this new generation of anthropologists to question how they can make a difference beyond academia, expanding the professional possibilities for the discipline in Chile. At Anthropology PUC we see ourselves as part of that development, as first with our undergraduate program (that opened in 2013) and now with our graduate programs, we aim to contribute to institutionalizing this new momentum in Chilean anthropology.

Indeed, current pressing questions and concerns for the social sciences and anthropology in Chile remain those of tackling severe injustice and inequalities in a range of forms, manifestations, settings, and populations. Yet, if we want to develop anthropology’s real potential, we need to avoid reducing the discipline to a set of predefined topics and subject areas. With theoretical openness and in-depth ethnographic approaches situated in people’s everyday practices, anthropology is positioned to be the discipline that raises new questions and concerns in contexts that are often overlooked by other fields or obscured by taken-for-granted assumptions.

Is anthropology a subject that attracts students in Chile?

Faculty meeting

In Chile, anthropology is mainly a subject that attracts students who already have some idea of what the discipline is about. Currently, there are few departments offering undergraduate or master’s degrees, with just one doctoral program in the entire country. So numerically-speaking, there is a growing demand for anthropology. Unfortunately, however, most secondary students in Chile have only a vague idea of what anthropology is. And if they do know something about anthropology, they tend to have a very  conventional understanding of the discipline, where anthropologists study so-called “traditional” or “non-modern” societies in a more ethnological way. We want to teach our students that anthropology can be that, but also much more; we want students to understand that in Chile, for instance, anthropologists can (and do!) study scientists and members of the political elite.

We also want to make sure that anthropologists are taken seriously on the job market, as many anthropology graduates are in competition with their peers from other social sciences, such as sociology. Among potential employers, even in NGOs and the nonprofit sector, there can be the perception of anthropologists being less rigorous or too abstract in comparison with other social scientists. We want to tell them that today, anthropologists–as we envision our graduates–can combine a critical vision of society with tangible skills and professionalism, and that they are prepared to work in a variety of different settings.

Can you tell us about your department, its specialties and how the award will help your department as it moves forward?

Our department is fairly young, with many things happening in the last few years. Soon after finishing our PhDs, I, together with Piergiorgio Di Giminiani, started the Anthropology Program in 2010 under the auspices of the Institute of Sociology. Now we have 14 faculty members. In 2013, we admitted our first class of undergraduate majors (licenciatura), which is a five-year degree, following the Chilean system of higher education. Our program emphasizes ethnographic fieldwork and the development of comparative perspectives that allow for reflection on anthropological problems from a variety of regional contexts in Chile, Latin America, and the wider world. We are proud to have graduated our first class last year. Starting this year (2018), we are also offering an archaeology major at the undergraduate level. Our faculty is characterized by a diversity of regional and thematic interests, including political ecology, violence and post-conflict transitions, the anthropology of the state, material culture, visual anthropology, religion, migration, childhood, and education; in Chile and in other Latin American countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru, and also in Spain and Italy. Traditionally in Chile, anthropologists have mainly studied their own country, with a particular emphasis on certain groups and cultures. By hiring anthropologists with expertise in different areas of the world, we wanted to break away a bit from this more national focus. If we want to have a more symmetric dialogue with peers and departments in the global North, we need to move away from the idea that anthropologists in developing countries can only study phenomena within their national borders. I think our choice to cross national borders is a novel and interesting direction in Chile and, in some sense, it responds to developments in other Latin American countries.

For the last two years we have been working on the creation of our graduate programs. Our master’s is a two-year program that incorporates four thematic clusters reflecting the research interests of our faculty:

(1) Environment and Emerging Worlds, (2) Personhood, Self, and the Body, (3) Politics, Difference, and Governance, and (4) Senses and Materialities. Our doctoral program is scheduled to admit its first students in 2020. The activities carried out during the five-year IDG funding period will be crucial at various levels. Investments in infrastructure will ensure that PUC PhD students have access to resources that allow them to become versed in classic and contemporary themes in the discipline, as well as to develop research projects that are engaged with anthropological issues and debates beyond Chile and Latin America. Also, we plan to develop an internal grant scheme that will help make ethnographic fieldwork a norm in the PhD program. We are particularly enthusiastic about the exchange activities with our partner institutions, which will help familiarize our professors with different traditions and experiences in doctoral training and mentoring while also contributing to students’ training at PUC and at our partner institutions. These include student exchanges and the establishment of an international advisory committee that will help the program develop guidelines, procedures, and strategies to promote its long-term success and sustainability. By the conclusion of the IDG funding period, we expect our PhD program will have advanced in becoming a vibrant and growing center for graduate training in Chile. Our hope is that the program will be a timely and enduring contribution to our discipline’s professionalization and overall development in Chile.

4/19 @ WGF: Society for Cultural Anthropology Virtual Conference, Displacements

Join the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Anthropology Section of NYAS on April 19th for a New York City viewing party of the plenary session of the 2018 Society for Cultural Anthropology Virtual Conference, Displacements.  We’ll gather at 3:30pm for light refreshments. From 4-6pm we’ll watch the David Schneider Memorial Panel, featuring new work by Jason De Leon, Stephanie Spray, Eduardo Kohn and Lisa Stevenson. Following the panel, we’ll refill our glasses and continue the discussion.

Please Register:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/society-for-cultural-anthropology-virtual-conference-plenary-viewing-node-tickets-44339832633

The Event:

The David Schneider Memorial Plenary

4 p.m., 4/19

Era Un Lunes (It Was a Monday)

Eduardo Kohn & Lisa Stevenson (McGill University)

The Photoethnographer’s Eye: On Picture-Making, Fieldwork, and the Indecisive Moment

Jason De Leon (University of Michigan)

Digital Ethnography on Time and the Labor of Science at Sea

Stephanie Spray (University of Colorado)

Presenters in conversation, moderated by Anand Pandian (Johns Hopkins University)

The Conference:

The Displacements Program includes 28 hours of engaging and evocative multimedia presentations from anthropologists, film makers, social scientists, artists, and activists from and featuring almost every region in the world.  Beginning at 8 a.m. EST on Thursday, April 19, and concluding at 7 p.m. EST on Saturday, April 21, the conference will live stream a continuous sequence of panels and films, webcasting each panel twice within that span.  Chat boxes and social media will facilitate conversation.

For information on the conference theme: https://displacements.jhu.edu/displacements/

For more information on the viewing party, contact Danilyn Rutherford (drutherford@wennergren.org).

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Cassandra “Beth” Scaffidi

Interviews from "Understanding Archaeological Context from Looted Sites: A North American Perspective on Site Looting in Peru."

In 2013 while a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University Beth Scaffidi received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Networks of Violence: Bioarchaeology of Structural Violence and Imperial Articulation in Middle Horizon Arequipa, Peru,” supervised by Dr. Tiffiny Tung. In 2016 Dr. Scaffidi received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Pathways to Preservation: Understanding Archaeological Looting in Arequipa, Peru Through a Cloud-based Collaborative Database and Public Outreach Film”.

During my dissertation excavation in the Majes Valley, in the Department of Arequipa in Southern Peru, our team encountered evidence of severe tomb robbing at our site—we spent considerable time excavating soil probes, shovels, and cleaning looter refuse, even at the bottom of 2-meter deep excavation trenches. The looting at my site is typical for preservation throughout the valley; practically none of the previously documented archaeological sites in the valley are intact. The extensive looting prompted this project, which sought to discussions with stakeholder communities about the role of artifact provenience in the construction of scientific knowledge.

Many of the conversations about looting among archaeologists and cultural heritage professionals have debated themes like economic motivations for looting, site conservation, and international law enforcement efforts. In contrast, this project explored specific ways that the disruption of archaeological contexts in Peru has impacted the capacity of archaeologists, bioarchaeologists, and archaeological chemists to interpret data from looted sites. The project aimed to engage stakeholder communities throughout Peru in two ways: first, developing a crowd-sourced database for documenting the extent of site damage, and second, by distributing a short film explaining how looting impacts archaeological knowledge.

Wenner-Gren funding supported travel with a professional film crew to Lima and Arequipa, Peru to interview North American researchers. So far, we have recorded over six hours of interview footage and four hours of B-roll. First, we travelled to the World Mummy Congress in Lima, in August of 2016, and interviewed mummy scholars. We learned that many of the mummies in museum collections throughout Peru are from looted sites. With recent advancements in isotopic and molecular analysis methods, our ability to extract useful data from looted human or animal tissues has improved, but in many cases looting leads to contamination that precludes successful laboratory analysis.

We then traveled to Arequipa to meet with researchers excavating a looted settlement in the nearby Siguas Valley. Those interviews illuminated the complex ways that archaeological knowledge is constructed; in this case, through two periods of scientific excavation (in the 1940’s, and then again in 2014-2017), punctuated by looting episodes. This continued pillaging undermined interpretation of architectural features, in both excavations. We also met with a Majes Valley TV station director and arranged for local distribution of the final piece. During my time at my field site, Peruvian members of my team helped me to distribute hard drives full of artifact photographs to two local high schools for use in their curriculum.

Back in the US, we turned to the Curator of Archaeology at the Denver Museum of Art for a museum perspective on looting. She discussed the impact of fakes and looted objects on or understanding of material culture. More interviews are planned during the coming year in the US. We plan on distributing the final 20-minute version, subtitled in Spanish, to Peruvian media organizations and cultural heritage non-profits early next summer.

From our filming efforts, I learned about some of the challenges and benefits of integrating digital media into research. Anthropologists getting started with film in the field can benefit from some of our mistakes. Be aware that, even with a one-person crew using a light-weight kit, luggage can be bulky and expensive. The streets of South American cities and crowded combis pose challenges in transporting bulky film gear to a site. Also, multiple takes are often required—2-3 hours is a minimal requirement to set up, interview, and break down—for only a minute or two of usable footage. The more footage a team acquires, the longer the editing process will take, from backing up and pre-processing data, to laying out complex timelines and compressing files for final distribution. Finally, ethics codes of our professional organizations and IRB processes limit who can be interviewed. Nonetheless, film and digital media are excellent tools for conveying complex information quickly to audiences of various ages, as well as those who cannot access or consume print media.

Wenner-Gren funding also permitted me to field test the crowd-sourced looting database with the ArcMap Collector app for IOS and Android devices. The field tests of the database showed immense promise: anyone with a cell phone or Ipad and an institutional license to ESRI products (commonly used in archaeological fieldwork) can download the database, collect looted site GPS coordinates, collect attribute data on the nature and extent of looting at the site, and upload that data to a constantly-updating cloud-based group map. The need for an expensive license, however, is restrictive, and I am continuing to test free and open-source apps that would allow the public and Peruvian colleagues to contribute to the database. Furthermore, in the coming year, I will be looking for input from archaeologists throughout the country to better understand what additional observation fields should be included in the database. I am eager to invite archaeologists working in Peru to begin collecting these data soon.

The efforts of US researchers and professionals to educate the public and prevent archaeological site looting face significant challenges in the current political climate. While the US Department of State and the Peruvian government recently renewed their 1997 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to restrict importation and repatriate archaeological and historical objects into the US, the plan to withdraw from UNESCO jeopardizes future international cooperation and potentially, the legality of current MOU’s. Because the burden of documenting the extent of looting may soon shift entirely to researchers and stakeholder communities, empowering these communities to understand and document site damage is more important than ever. These pilot projects are just the beginning of comprehensive outreach and research endeavors. The database and film will be the centerpieces of future training workshops in Peru, and they can serve as models for similar cultural preservation efforts in other countries. Researchers interested in participating in the Peruvian Archaeological Site Tampering (PAST) database, or in receiving the final film for outreach or teaching purposes can contact the author at bethkscaffidi@gmail.com.

NYAS @ WGF 3/26: Is Extreme Inequality Inevitable?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the 99 Percent.

Dr. Rosemary Joyce

Join us at the Wenner-Gren Foundation on March 26th at 5:45 PM for another great installment of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series. Rosemary Joyce, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, will be presenting “Is Extreme Inequality Inevitable?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the 99 Percent”. Robert Preucel, Director, Haffenreffer Museum and James Manning Professor of Anthropology at Brown 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. 

In many people’s minds archaeology is about the search for kings and queens, for treasure and luxuries. It seems as if archaeologists are on the side of rulers, at the expense of the everyday farmer and laborer. And so archaeological theories about social complexity are interpreted to say that human societies are on an implacable universal road toward exaggerated inequality: extreme inequality is inevitable. But is this true? Or can archaeologists illuminate places and times when society did not spiral into ever-widening inequality?

In this talk, I critically examine the need for archaeology to contest the representation of a global rise in inequality as inevitable, arguing that we have let the allure of certain things enchant us, leading to an over-emphasis on the wealthy and powerful. I draw on my decades-long research on prehispanic Honduras, where for centuries people in towns and villages sustained a lower level of inequality than archaeologists see in the city-states of their Classic Maya neighbors.

Using this case study as a beginning point, I address how archaeology can be and is being used to illuminate the long term persistence and social contributions of a far more varied range of actors than the few leaders who have often received the greatest attention in our analyses. I sketch out an alternative place for archaeology in the world today, as an ally of new visions of social life that we can say are viable because they have worked already.

About the Speakers:

Rosemary Joyce is Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.  Professor Joyce is a major figure in contemporary archaeology, whose fieldwork focuses on Honduras and Mexico. Professor Joyce works on the archaeology of inequality, gender, and materiality. Her research in Honduras explored social histories “in which economic inequality was never as extreme as among neighboring Maya societies, leading me to consider how archaeologists might combat the common assumption that ever-increasing inequality is somehow inevitable.” As a museum anthropologist, Joyce has engaged in collections management and exhibition work at Harvard’s Peabody Museum, the Wellesley College Museum and Cultural Center, the Heritage Plantation at Sandwich, Massachusetts, the Museo de Antropología e Historia in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. Her published work includes Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives (2008),The Languages of Archaeology: Dialogue, Narrative, and Writing (2002), and Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesoamerica (2001).

Robert Preucel is Director, Haffenreffer Museum and James Manning Professor of Anthropology at Brown University.  Professor Preucel received his doctorate from UCLA in 1988. He was a member of Jim Hill’s Pajarito Archaeological Research Project and wrote his dissertation on seasonal agricultural circulation. He was the 6th Annual CAI Visiting Scholar at SIU Carbondale in 1989 and organized a conference on the Processual/Postprocessual debate. In 1990, he took an Assistant Professor position at Harvard University. In 1995, he left Harvard for an Associate Professor position at the University of Pennsylvania. He was made Sally and Alvin V. Shoemaker Professor of Anthropology in 2009 and served as Chair of the Department (2009-2012) and Gregory Annenberg Weingarten Curator-in-charge of the American Section at University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology (2010-2012).

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.

All talks in this series take place at the Wenner-Gren Foundation Building, 470 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor, New York (at 32nd Street).

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Natasha Fijn

Once again we are proud to present a trailer and blog post from one of our Fejos Postdoctoral Fellows, Dr. Natasha Fijn. In 2016 Dr. Fijn received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on Two Seasons: Multispecies Medicine in Mongolia.

Two Seasons Trailer from Natasha Fijn on Vimeo.

Two Seasons: Multispecies Medicine in Mongolia

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

We bumped along a rough dirt track across rolling Mongolian grassland. Ganbaa, the driver, was heading for a spring encampment of an elder, who is often called upon to carry out bloodletting on horses. I was in the field to focus on filming cross-species medicinal practices amongst herders for a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship. Part of my interest was in how medicinal knowledge is still passed on within herding families in the form of practical mentorship.

As we passed a free-roaming horse herd beside the rutted road, I exclaimed ‘Zogsooroi!’ (Please stop!). Tiny hooves were protruding from a mare as she lay heaving on the ground. We tumbled out of the vehicle but our approach on foot caused the mare to painfully rise and walk a few steps away. The rest of the herd surrounded her as a means of protection from the strangers. I began filming while Ganbaa retrieved some milk from his vehicle and began whispering an incantation, sprinkling the milk three times to the heavens (Tengger). Both he and I were concerned for the foal, as although the head had emerged there didn’t seem to be any movement. We drove up the hillside to a nearby encampment and were immediately welcomed by a young herding couple. When the herder looked through his very old monocular he commented nonchalantly that the foal had just been born. We leapt up from small stools and hurried down the hill to where the mare was still standing.

Unlike earlier, the mare allowed the familiar herder to approach and inspect the placenta. He was clearly someone she trusted and, like her newborn foal, was perhaps one of the first humans she saw in the world. The herder picked up a brown, rubbery object near the placenta, in Mongolia called the ‘foal’s bite’ (or in English the ‘foal’s bread’). He gave it as a gift to Ganbaa, even though he could have sold it as medicine. Ganbaa was excited by the experience, as it was a sign of good fortune for our travels, witnessing a foal born during daylight, while the herder added that it was the first born for that year within the herd, another auspicious sign. Later, as we set off down the road again, Ganbaa sang songs featuring foals, still elated from our lucky encounter. As I looked out at the expansive rolling landscape from the back seat, I felt elated too, as I could clearly see that what we had just witnessed would make a poignant scene for the start of the documentary.

Such events are the best aspects of observational filmmaking, as without structuring according to a script, or the re-creation of scenes, spur-of-the-moment happenings become important elements. The birth of the foal and the herder’s family would not have occurred as a result of a list of shots, or a pre-planned script. The scene encompassed many aspects that I wanted to convey within the film in relation to multispecies medicine in Mongolia, such as: the significance of other beings, not just humans; how ritual and psychology are connected with medicinal health; the importance of timing and the seasons; the nurturing and welfare of mothers and their newborns and that multispecies medicine includes products that are derived from both domestic and wild animals and plants.

I lived in Mongolia for a year in 2005 and again in the spring of 2007. During my PhD fieldwork I found that an almost daily task was the treatment of extended family members, including herd animals by knowledgeable practitioners. One chapter of my book, Living with Herds: human-animal coexistence in Mongolia (2011), describes a multispecies form of Mongolian medicine, yet I wanted to return to the countryside to delve into the topic further through filmmaking. In between, my academic research and filmmaking was focused on Aboriginal Australia, until I returned to Ulaanbaatar in the autumn of 2016 for the coordination of a workshop on ‘One Health’. I knew that the most active times of year are spring, with many births and extreme fluctuations in weather conditions. The other key season is autumn, when herders collect medicinal herbs, while preparing hay for the long and hard winter months.

For the purposes of filming this multispecies medicine film, I re-visited two extended families after not having seen them and the beautiful river valleys for ten years. Many of the children were now all grown up and even getting married, yet daily life and routines with the herd animals were still much the same. With their wonderful generosity and cooperation they re-connected me with the local herding community. I discovered the benefits of a longitudinal perspective of researching in the field and noted many subtle changes over time, particularly in the availability of modern medicine.

Ganbaa became not just a driver of the vehicle to carry me into the field from the capital of Ulaanbaatar, he became a collaborator while in the field. He offered to take me to his homeland where he grew up and where his extended family and friends still reside. Through his familial connections in the area, we were warmly welcomed in the homes we visited. He insisted on gifts of a bottle of vodka and his latest book of poetry, spontaneously reciting poetry in every home we visited. Ganbaa is a great orator and managed to loosen even the most reticent herders’ tongues. I gave him background information on what I wanted to learn from the herders we visited. During informal interviews and conversations, I let Ganbaa ask questions, in order to allow the discussion to flow smoothly. I wanted to avoid external interruptions and it meant I could concentrate on responding to the conversation with the video camera. If I needed to change a shooting position, or film some different shots of the surroundings, it was only then that I would interject and ask a question to occasionally redirect the conversation for further insights.

The two other homelands within the film were where I had lived in 2005 and the spring of 2007. Nara, as matriarch of a large extended family encampment, is Buddhist and adheres to ritual and ceremony to keep her family and the herds healthy. The film includes other characters within Nara’s homeland, however, such as her son. I filmed Nara’s son with his own young son observing, while he nurtured a newborn foal in freezing temperatures. Mongolian medicine involves many different forms of treatment, including preventative strategies, moxibustion, bone-setting, antibiotics and vaccinations. I chose to focus primarily on medicinal herbs and bloodletting, which meant that I could draw upon the differing knowledge of herding men and women. It is often the women who collect the medicinal plants, prepare and dry them, and ultimately administer them to the family, or young animals. Bloodletting, on the other hand, is passed down along male patrilines and is usually practiced by men.

The third field location where I filmed was in Bor and Bömbög’s homeland. I had lived in the same valley previously within Bömbög’s mother’s encampment, which meant I had established strong bonds with the extended family. Herders are often reticent to admit that they have any ill animals at all, as a successful practitioner and herder pride themselves in preventing illness in the first place. Some individual casualties, however, are inevitable in such harsh environmental conditions. Bor has been a leader of the local herding community and is well respected for his herding knowledge. Because both he and his wife have confidence in their abilities, they were willing to reveal that they had individual herd animals that were injured and allowed me to film the treatment of them. Bor drove me to the nearest township to visit the local doctor, who also practices traditional medicine, and was comfortable with me filming the doctor diagnosing his ailments.

The concept of a homeland (nutag) and a strong sense of place are important to semi-nomadic herders. I felt the unique environmental conditions should be an important aspect within a film focusing on Mongolian medicine. While editing the footage together, in terms of structure, I chose to focus on the three different areas I filmed in spring and then again in autumn, hence the title ‘Two Seasons’. Layering the two seasons with the three locations meant the film is divided into six separate parts: Ganbaa visiting his homeland in spring; Nara’s homeland in spring; Bor and Bömbög’s homeland in spring, then again all three homelands in autumn. Although the inter-titles focus on just four main protagonists, the different homelands encompass many other knowledgeable individuals from different inter-connected herding families that I filmed within the project.

Filming within a multispecies context in a remote cross-cultural field location requires a form of both observational and participatory filmmaking. Participant observation requires time, embedded in context on location, but it also means that the filmmaker is there and attuned to situations when they happen to occur. Having already spent over a year in the Khangai Mountains ten years previously, it meant I could quickly reintegrate with families and an inherent trust, while new relationships could be formed through collaboration with Mongolians with an ongoing connection to their homeland.

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Devaka Premawardhana

Devaka returning to the district of his fieldwork, this time with Baraka

In 2010 while a doctoral student at Harvard University Devaka Premawardhana received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on “Sacrificial Exchanges: Pentecostal Conversions and Urban Migrations in Northern Mozambique,” supervised by Dr. Michael D. Jackson. In 2015 Dr. Premawardhana received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Displacement: A Seminar Series on Makhuwa Mobility”.

“Papá Baraka!”

I didn’t respond and kept on my walk.

“Oi! Papá Baraka!”

This time I turned around and saw the daughter of a good friend waving. I walked back toward her, apologizing for not knowing it was me she was calling. We exchanged greetings, asked after each other’s family, and then separated with promises for a later, longer visit.

I’m not the same person anymore, I thought to myself as I went back on my way. And I would need to get used to that.

In my year of fieldwork among a Makhuwa-speaking people of Mozambique, I was Devaka. Formally, at least. Those who knew me well called me Namanriya, the Makhuwa word for chameleon. “Vakhani vakhani ntoko namanriya,” say the Makhuwa (“slowly, slowly, like the chameleon”), an expression of admiration for the chameleon’s unique ability—not so much to change color as to walk slowly, deliberately, and at that pace to take in the margins with its laterally positioned eyes.

Baraka getting a taste of the joyous welcome his parents received

That year, I got around the district on a 50cc Lifo. It was my first time riding a motorbike, and I was riding on sandy, unpaved roads. So I never went fast. Hence, the nickname Namanriya: the chameleon who rides slowly, slowly—enough to receive greetings from those on the roadside and to reciprocate with a wave or a beep.

I was also slow in another respect. During that year of fieldwork, four years into our marriage, my wife and I were still without children. Our friends pitied us. Though we had access to more financial resources than all the village households put together, we were the poor ones. Prayers went up in the mosque and the church, and offerings were laid for ancestors—all for us to receive the blessing of fertility we had clearly been denied.

Two years later, back in the US, we received that blessing, and named him as such—Baraka. Less than a year after that, we returned to Mozambique, to bring Baraka to our friends, to present them the fruit of their ritual labor.

In so doing, my identity changed, and with it my name. No longer Devaka, and only rarely now Namanriya, I had become Papá Baraka. In this part of the world, the measure of a person, certainly the measure of one’s worth, is the quantity and quality of one’s relationships. And just as relationships change—due to births and deaths, comings and goings—so too does oneself change.

Devaka discussing research findings with Makhuwa intellectuals and collaborators

This principle of relationality is, in part, why it was so important to return to my field site with my newborn child, but also with a Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology grant and its mandate to share the results of my initial field research with the communities that made it possible.

Over a five-week period in the summer of 2016, I was able to do just that, meeting with leading scholars in the nation’s preeminent university, with research collaborators in the district where I worked, and with interlocutors in the village where I lived.

At each site, the response was immediately of appreciation and respect. Because knowledge, like identity, is grounded in relationships, people were less impressed with my ability to display an understanding of “the Makhuwa” than with my willingness to return and resume the conversations begun many years earlier.

From each of the groups, I learned something new about my research, or something in need of correcting. With each of the groups, I began thinking about how to approach my second planned project. And to each of the groups, I reflected insights I learned into Makhuwa ways of knowing and being.

Specifically, I shared my analysis of Makhuwa mobility—a propensity for movements both physical and imaginative, a predilection for making fresh starts in new places, an ease and comfort with novelty and change. One aim of the Engaged Anthropology grant is to disseminate research results in a way that offers some benefit to those among whom research was conducted. It’s my hope that, by hearing an outsider articulate the tacit, practical knowledge with which the Makhuwa by and large live, those with whom I met will be even more equipped to cope with the significant constraints on physical movement they face in the context of neoliberal land confiscations and NGO-led development efforts.

This tacit, practical knowledge—the subject of my forthcoming book—is best described as a Makhuwa disposition toward mobility and change. It’s what makes those I lived with eager to partake in resettlement schemes—whether of the developmental state or of religious institutions—but reluctant to remain settled in them. For the Makhuwa, changing is a means of enduring, becoming is a mode of being, and converting is a way of life.

By returning to my field site as the parent of a child, I learned that what’s special about the Makhuwa is not only their capacity for regular transformations, but also their readiness to mark transformations in others, even in people like me prone to seeing themselves as consistent over time, as settled rather than shifting.

No longer Namanriya, my new name was Papá Baraka. My name had changed. I had changed. Maybe, after all, it was not just my slowness that warranted the nickname of chameleon. Maybe it was my capacity—a capacity I didn’t think I had until the Makhuwa made me see it—to change and to adapt, and thereby truly to live.

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Christopher Hewlett

We are pleased to present a trailer and abstract for Dr. Christopher Hewlett who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on ‘Amahuaca: Building the Future’: A Collaborative Film Project in Peruvian Amazonia.

AMAHUACA SIEMPRE english trailer from Fernando Valdivia on Vimeo.

‘Amahuaca: Building the Future’: A Collaborative Film Project in Peruvian Amazonia

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Postdoctoral Fellowship was spent working on a series of inter-connected films about Amahuaca people from communities on the Inuya River in the central Peruvian amazon.  Throughout the course of the fellowship I collaborated with Fernando Valdivia, a Peruvian filmmaker, social commentator and professor of cinema and filmmaking. While we made three separate films during the fellowship, including one documenting a health crisis in an Amahuaca community, the project is oriented around the creation of an Indigenous Cultural Heritage Center and formation of a new indigenous political federation, which took place over a three-day event in 2015. While centering the narrative on this event the film explores the themes of memory, transformation, cultural heritage, and collective resilience. These themes emerge as the film follows three generations of Amahuaca people as they they navigate contemporary life, reflect upon their lives and share their hopes for the future. The title, ‘Amahuaca Siempre’ (Amahuaca Always) comes from the final scene of the documentary when Carlos Melendez, the only Amahuaca bilingual schoolteacher, explains the importance of being Amahuaca for himself and why he continues fighting to make younger Amahuaca people proud of their heritage and identity.

The period of the Postdoctoral Fellowship was spent working on a series of inter-connected films about Amahuaca people from communities on the Inuya River in the central peruvian amazon.

The first was a short video we made about a serious health crisis in the Amahuaca community of Alto Esperanza at the headwaters of the Inuya River. During the filming-stage of the documentary, which took place in January and February of 2017, I visited visited Alto Esperanza with the film crew and found many sick women and children. The primary illness was leshmaniasis, which is a potentially deadly disease spread by a small fly that often results in sores on the skin that spreads across the body. In response to the high number of cases in this one village, we made a short film about the situation that we later posted to youtube with English and Spanish versions. The film was also shared with media outlets around Peru, and was picked up by newspapers, radio programs, television and online news platforms.

As a result of the video and campaign, a group of medical practitioners and representatives of the ministry of health visited the community. From the information that I currently have these medical practitioners identified more tan 15 cases of leshmaniasis in just this one Amahuaca community. The ministry of health reported that the trip had been succesful; however, as of December of 2017 there had been no treatment provided for the illnesses. As a result, the new organization (SHARE-Amazonica.org) which I started during the period of my fellowship, funded the making of another video. This has been completed and posted on youtube. If nothing further is done by April of 2018, then we will begin another public campaign using the video, our website and other material to raise awareness about the issue.

The second is the film ‘Amahuaca’, which was produced as a result of a filmmaking workshop held at the Indigenous Cultural Heritage Center in the Amahuaca community of Nuevo San Martin. During the course of the workshop, a group of Amahuaca people ranging in age from approximately 8-70 years old learned about the process of making a film. The result was a 30 minute film created by Amahuaca people about their traditions and why these are important. The group were responsible for creating the story, filming, recording sound and doing the lighting. the workshop was organized by me and led by Fernando Valdivia whp was also responsible for editing the material. Luisa Wagenschwanz and Alex Giraldo who comprised the film crew assisted with the workshop and trained the group on lighting, sound and managing production.

The third and central film combines these two shorter films with additional footage shot in 2015 and 2017, as well as archival material from the 1960s. It is approximately 65 minutes in length. The title, ‘Amahuaca Siempre’ (Amahuaca, Allways) comes from the final scene of the documentary when Carlos Melendez, the only Amahuaca bilingual schoolteacher explains the importance of being Amahuaca for himself and why he fights to make younger Amahuaca people proud of their heritage and identity. This is particularly appropriate as the project began with the creation of an Indigenous Cultural Heritage Center in the Amahuaca community where Carlos teaches. Focusing on this event allows the film to explore the themes of memory, transformation, cultural heritage, and collective resilience.

The film opens with photos and text to set out the historical context and then introduces the main protagonists who are representative of three generations of Amahuaca people. The viewer is introduced to Margarita who is a great-great grandmother and was a young mother when she lived in the first evangelical mission for Amahuaca people that was established in the headwaters of the Inuya River. She is looking at pictures from this period in the book ‘Farewell to Eden’ and Carlos is asking her questions. Carlos later says that Margarita is now like his mother, as she was very close with his own who had recently died. At the end of the film Margarita says that she wants to return to the area where she was born to eat a kind of fish that no longer exists on the Inuya. She is now too old to return.

The viewer is then introduced to two younger Amahuaca, Gino and Nelly who are in their early 20s. Gino is the only Amahuaca student from the area attending university. Nelly is a young mother and was unable to complete primary school. The film follows them as they navigate life as young Amahuaca adults, talk about their lives and share their hopes for the future. Gino wants to return to his community to help out, become a role model for younger Amahuaca and eventually start a small business. Nelly wants to finish school, but has really always dreamt of being a cosmolotologist. Finally, we are introduced to Roberto Pansitimba who at the age of 10 became a central protagonist in the book ‘Farewell to Eden’ while living with his parents and extended family in the mission. He is now a great-grandfather and leader of Nuevo San Martin. The film aims to offer a balance of ages, experiences and genders with 1 woman and 1 man from the first and third generations, with Carlos as an unmarried professor and founder of the cultural center is positioned as the main protagonist. Throughout the film we travel with Carlos as he is elected to be the first president of the newly established indigenous federation for representing Amahuaca people, visiting communities, and eventually renouncing the position so he can focus on his duties as a teacher.

The idea for the foundation of the cultural center arose during my fieldwork in Amahuaca communities on the Inuya River from 2009-2011, which was funded by a Wenner-Gren dissertation fieldwork grant. In fact, the film project began with the inauguration ceremony of this cultural center, which was also funded through a Wenner-Gren Engagement Grant. The Cultural Heritage Center plays a central role in the documentary to anchor the stories of three generations of Amahuaca people as they remember the past, reflect upon the present and anticipate what challenges and opportunities the future may bring.

The documentary incorporates archival material that was made available through the support of the American Museum of Natural History and International Center for Photography. I have signed contracts with these institutions for non-commercial use of photos and film footage which was collected in the early 1960s. Robert Carneiro and Gertrude Dole lived with Amahuaca people at two sites in 1960-61, which resulted in the creation of a large archive of photos, notes and film footage. Gertrude Dole used a portion of the footage to make a short documentary, which was released in 1974. Matthew Huxley and Cornell Capa visited the mission of Varadero several times during this same period and co-published ‘Farewell to Eden’ in 1964. This book, photos from the museum archive, the original film and new documentaries are displayed in the Cultural Heritage Center along with material artifacts made by Amahuaca people.

We have completed versions of all the films with English and Spanish subtitles, and will be making another version of ‘Amahuaca Siempre’ with subtitles in German this year. We are also currently in the process of building a website using the domain, Amahuaca-Siempre.org.

‘Amahuaca Siempre’ has been shown several times in Peru and once in Cuba during a film workshop that Fernando was invited to attend. The official premiere was for the CINESUYU Film Festival in Cusco in September of 2017 where Fernando was being honored for his contribution to filmmaking in Peru. The U.S. premiere will be held at the Field Museum in Chicago on the 5th of March as part of a short tour we are making to three cities. We will be showing the second ‘Amahuaca’ at the American Museum of Natural History on March 7th and ‘Amahuaca Siempre’ again as part of a film series I run out of the Center for Research and Collaboration in the Indigenous Americas (CRACIA) at the University of Maryland on March 9th. Most recently, the film has been selected as a potential finalist at the prestigious Anaconda film festival in Bolivia. Over the course of 2017-2018 we will be submitting it to multiple film festivals in South America, North America and Europe over the course of 2017-2018. The most meaningful screening of the film was in the Cultural Heritage Center in the Amahuaca community in December of 2017. It was shown for three consecutive nights to meet the demands of the Amahuaca people for whom it was made. They now have their own copies of both their film ‘Amahuaca’ and the full-length ‘Amahuaca Siempre’ on dvd.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Colin Halverson

While a doctoral student at the University of Chicago Colin Halverson received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2014 to aid research on “Asymmetrical Meaning in Patient–Provider Interaction,” supervised by Dr. Michael Silverstein. In 2017 Dr. Halverson received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Clinical Pragmatics: Revisiting Communication Concerns in Medical Genetics”.

In my dissertation, I posed the question: How does one communicate complex information to people without the background to understand it? In order to find an answer, I conducted about 20 months of fieldwork (including 12 consecutive months in the year 2014) at an academic medical center in the American Midwest. Specifically, I worked with experts ‘translating’ information about patients’ genetic diseases to other specialists and to the lay patients themselves. I conducted interviews and participant observation in the clinic and its affiliated laboratories and completed two internships – one in medical ethics and one in patient education during my time in the field.

In this Engaged Anthropology project, I returned to my field site to discuss my findings with geneticists, genetic counselors, oncologists, educators, and laboratory scientists. I held a number of salons and one-on-one meetings with interested individuals from medical genetics, patient education, and medical ethics. These salons examined the topics that emerged from my research as the most ethically pressing in terms of communication in such a clinic: 1) the process of obtaining informed consent, 2) the disclosure of uncertainty in genetic test results, and 3) the unusual ethical position of medical genetics, located as it is between scientific research and clinical practice. I addressed each of these primary issues within its “thick” ethnographic context, providing clear and poignant case studies to illustrate the relatively more theoretical points I was discussing. Salons were held in the Center for Individualized Medicine and in the Office of Patient Education, but each was attended by a variety of people from across the hospital’s many departments that were touched by each day’s themes. This included participants from nursing, medical ethics, and laboratory science as well as people more directly involved in medical genetics and patient education. Between 20 and 30 people attended each session, including a number of people who Skyped in from the hospital’s other campuses.

In the first salon I held in the Center for Individualized Medicine, I brought up the topic of uncertainty (both in the return of results from genetic testing as well as in the process of informed consent). This proved so interesting to the attendees – and resonated so clearly with their personal concerns as professionals – that this more or less dominated both days of discussion with that group. Moreover, when I addressed this topic with the patient educators (toward the end of my time with them), this spurred particular enthusiasm and led to a number of discussions after the official sessions had closed.

With the patient educators, we primarily discussed insights into their work, insights that I derived from Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of “double voicing” and Althusser’s concept of “interpellation.” I provided numerous real-life examples of these theories in action from my own time as an intern with them. They are very used to this sort of presentation, as it is more or less the same genre that their weekly Writers’ Meetings use: Attendees present a number examples of difficulties from their own work ‘simplifying’ “doctor talk” into “real English.” I took this format but also provided these theoretical frameworks in order to demonstrate some unifying issues underlying their professional practice.

These salons truly proved to be collaborative engagements between myself and the professionals at the hospital – many of whom I had worked with during my fieldwork, but some of whom I had not met before. They provoked critical thought and feedback, and both the attendees and I felt that we left the salons better informed and better positioned to make positive interventions into clinical care. While discussing the three primary forms of “non-knowledge” that I hypothesize are at play in medical genetics (risk, uncertainty, and randomness – which I furthermore proposed are conflated by patients), I got remarkably discerning feedback. While everyone agreed that the distinctions I was making were valid and of clinical significance, one laboratory scientist said that within my framework she saw uncertainty as a subset of risk rather than a stand-alone category. This sparked a long debate about whether uncertainty (as I described it, “knowledge about the limits of one’s knowledge”) was medically actionable and therefore could constitute “real risk.” Likewise, a clinician encouraged a reflective (and anthropological!) discussion when he asked the room for a “definition of knowledge” before anyone continue our current discussion on uncertainty.

Attendees of the salons engaged enthusiastically with my work, asked and answered questions that have arisen from it, and related these topics back to the ongoing local and global transformations currently taking place in their professional worlds. Both groups have requested that I return again to continue the conversations we started in our salons. I received a number of grateful and kind emails, describing how our discussions have led them to reflect on their practices, in particular appreciating the links I drew to ethics, which is a critical domain that typically remains outside of non-clinicians’ conceptions of their professional labors. One person even told me she thought one of the salons was “the best professional development presentation we have had in a while!”

This was a wonderful opportunity for me to re-engage with my old colleagues and friends and to see how the clinic has evolved since my last visit in 2015. These discussions have added to the ways I have been thinking about the clinic and its practices of ‘translation’ as well. In fact, the article I have begun on the three forms of “non-knowledge” in medical genetics will greatly benefit from some of my interlocutors’ recent insights. I very much appreciate Wenner Gren’s continued support of my work, as do the attendees of my salons.

NYAS @ WGF 2/26: Passions for Interests: Water and Rural Political Belonging in America

Join us at the Wenner-Gren Foundation on February 26th at 5:45 PM for another great installment of the New York Academy of Sciences lecture series. Jessica Cattelino, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies, associate director of the Center for the Study Women, University of California, Los Angeles, will be presenting, “Passions for Interests: Water and Rural Political Belonging in America”. Paige West, Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia 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. 

The world faces a water crisis, with the United Nations predicting a 40% global water deficit by 2030. Recent water struggles in the United States, from Standing Rock to Flint to California’s droughts, exemplify a broader cultural politics whereby group s come to understand and assess one another through their relations to water. In the Florida Everglades, the world’s largest ecosystem restoration project is underway and has as its policy goal “getting the water right.” There, as across America, political analysis focus on so-called stakeholders and interest groups (such as agriculture and environment). Such passion for interests—as, purportedly, the forces that unite and explain political collectivities—stunts understandings about political belonging in rural America.

This presentation brings together two twenty-first-century examples of everyday politics in a mostly-drained rural region of the Florida Everglades: the headline-grabbing proposed buyout of a major sugar corporation by the State of Florida for purposes of Everglades restoration; and a major Seminole Tribe of Florida water conservation project. The economist A.O. Hirschman, in his influential book The Passions and the Interests (1977), explained how early proponents of capitalism struggled to reconcile the relationship of passions to interests. The political anthropology of interests presented in this lecture highlights their production and (in)commensuration in relation to water and capitalism. The goal is to think through and, hopefully, beyond the passion for “interests” in scholarly and popular understandings of American political life.

 

About the Speakers:

Jessica Cattelino’s research focuses on economy, nature, indigeneity, and settler colonialism. Her book, High Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty (Duke University Press, 2008) won the Delmos Jones and Jagna Sharff  Memorial Book Prize from the Society for the Anthropology of North America.  Her current book project addresses Everglades restoration and theorizes the co-production of nature and indigeneity in settler societies like the United States.  She speaks to the current concerns about environmental degradation and indigenous people’s roles in sparking struggles against the pollution of water sources and the destruction of precious resources such as the Everglades. Cattelino’s current research is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Howard Foundation.

Paige West’s scholarly interest is the relationship between societies and their environments. She has written about the intersections between indigenous epistemic practices and conservation science, the linkages between environmental conservation and international development, the material and symbolic ways in which the natural world is understood and produced, the aesthetics and poetics of human social relations with nature, and the creation of commodities and practices of consumption.  Recent books include Dispossession and The Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea (2016), From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea (2012) (2013 runner up for the Julian Steward Award from the American Anthropological Association) and, co-edited with James G. Carrier, Virtualism, Governance, and Practice: Vision and Execution in Environmental Conservation (2009). Dr. West is a past president of the Anthropology and Environment Section of the American Anthropological Association, past chair of the Association of Social Anthropology in Oceania, and past chair of the Department of Anthropology at Barnard College. She is founder and co-editor of the journal Environment and Society: Advances in Research.  In 2017 / 2018 she is a distinguished national speaker for Phi Beta Kappa.  Dr. West is a co-founder of the PNG Institute of Biological Research in Papua New Guineans. She is the volunteer anthropologist for the PNG NGO Ailan Awareness (AA), a marine-focused organization that works with communities in New Ireland and New Hanover to facilitate the conservation of their traditions, languages, and natural resources.

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.

All talks in this series take place at the Wenner-Gren Foundation Building, 470 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor, New York (at 32nd Street).

NYAS @ WGF 1/29: Will Humans Survive our Assault on the Earth? A Message from Madagascar

Join us at the Wenner-Gren Foundation on January 29th at 5:45 as we kick off the first New York Academy of Sciences lecture of the year. Patricia Wright, Distinguished Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University will be presenting, “Will Humans Survive our Assault on the Earth? A Message from Madagascar”. Joel E. Cohen, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of Populations and Director of the Laboratory of Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller University and Columbia 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.

Anthropologists are well aware that there are wars in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, areas where humans have existed the longest. But rarely do we suggest that the roots of these conflicts are competition for natural resources, ie, fighting for access to farming and grazing land and access to water. Madagascar has been populated by humans for only a few thousand years, yet a shocking portion of its natural resources has been destroyed. Today it is the 6th poorest country on Earth. This grinding human poverty, where 70% of the population is malnourished, is partially caused by destruction of natural resources by fires since human arrival. I will discuss the current political and economic situation in Madagascar and offer two possible predictions for Madagascar of the future. These predictions could apply globally.

About the Speakers:

Patricia Wright is best known for her extensive study of social and family interactions of wild lemurs in Madagascar. She is Distinguished Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University, where she also established the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments. Wright  contributed to the establishment of the Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Books include For the Love of Lemurs: My Life in the Wilds of Madagascar (2014) and High Moon Over the Amazon: My Quest to Understand the Monkeys of the Night (2013).  She was the first woman to receive the Indianapolis Prize for Animal Conservation (2014), and is the recipient of three medals of honor from the Malagasy Government (Knight, Officer, Commander) for her work in Madagascar. She has won numerous awards and fellowships including being made a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow (1989). Her research is highlighted in the National Geographic Magazine, by the BBC Natural History Unit, in Natural History magazine, in several films and TV series, and in the IMAX film, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar (2014).

Joel E. Cohen is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of Populations and Director of the Laboratory of Laboratory of Populations at the Rockefeller University and Columbia University. At Columbia University, Cohen holds appointments as Professor of Populations in the Earth Institute, and as Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, in Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, and in the Department of International and Public Affairs. His research deals with the demography, ecology, epidemiology and social organization of human and non-human populations and with mathematical concepts useful in these fields. Books include Casual Groups of Monkeys and Men (1966), Food Webs and Niche Space (1971), Forecasting Product Liability Claims: Epidemiology and Modeling in the Manville Asbestos Case (2005), and International Perspectives on the Goals of Universal Basic and Secondary Education (with Martin Malin, 2010). Cohen received the Golden Goose Award at the Library of Congress (2015), and has been a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (1981-82) and of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (1981-86).

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.

All talks in this series take place at the Wenner-Gren Foundation Building, 470 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor, New York (at 32nd Street).