Engaged Anthropology Grant: Anand Pandian

Anand Pandian is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Johns Hopkins University. In 2008 he received a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant to aid research on “Framing Feelings: Landscape and the Production of Affect in South Indian Cinema”. In 2012 Dr. Pandian received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Engaging Vernacular Publics in an Anthropology of Cinema”.

In November of 2015, I published a book called Reel World: An Anthropology of Creation with Duke University Press. The book examines the creative process of filmmaking in India, building on many years of fieldwork with directors, cameramen, actors, editors, composers and other artists and professionals working in the Tamil film industry of south India. This is one of the largest film industries in the world, with tens of millions of avid fans and consumers, highly keen on these films and deeply curious about the invisible process of their creation. In writing this book, it was therefore important to me to try to reach not only other academics such as myself, but also a wider lay audience in India.

One element of this endeavor has been to publish a more accessible trade edition of the same book in India with Penguin Random House Books, which appeared in print in January 2016. A second element of this endeavor has been to reach a vernacular public of Tamil language readers in south India through a Tamil translation of the trade edition. It is here that an Engaged Anthropology Grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research has proved essential. The fieldwork itself for this project was supported by a Post-PhD Grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation as well as research grants from the American Institute of Indian Studies and the National Foundation. Thanks to this new program for Engaged Anthropology, however, I have been able to work closely with a Tamil translator in preparing a vernacular edition of this book and my research.

V. Kamalalayan

The individual I have worked with most closely on this translation project is a Tamil writer and translator based in the south Indian city of Chennai, V. Kamalalayan. I first met him in 2011, when we began to work together on a previous book project that took my nonagenarian grandfather’s life in India and Burma as a prism through which to examine a century of history in modern India. Kamalalayan and I worked together closely on that project, and he was the most natural person to whom to turn in pursuing a Tamil translation of this next book. He and I have been working together closely on this translation, chapter by chapter, with insights and advice also gleaned from other writer friends and colleagues in south India. The translation is complete now, and in the stage of final editing, with our next task being one of identifying the right Tamil publisher for the book.

Our goal with this project has been to make the stories and ideas that animate the book as engaging and accessible as possible to a broad-based Tamil audience. I have already seen that this is possible with the English-language Penguin edition of Reel World, which has been reviewed very favorably in the last few months in leading popular newspapers such as The Hindu and The Telegraph. We hope and expect that the same will be the case with regard to the Tamil edition. Our plan is to submit the book to an appropriate publisher very soon, and to have the book published in advance of the 2017 Chennai Book Fair, the most important annual event in the world of Tamil letters. By means of this project, I hope to reach, as readers, some of those who have made the very phenomenon I studied, Tamil cinema, possible and appealing as a medium of cultural expression in contemporary India.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Minghao Lin

Visit at Sanxingdui Museum

While a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Minghao Lin received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2012 to aid research on “The Origin and Early History of Oxen Plowing in China,” supervised by Dr. Preston Miracle. In 2015 Dr. Lin received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “The Early History of Cattle Traction in North China”.

I started my journey from Jinan, Shandong Province, in early March, by delivering an academic presentation, entitled “Cattle traction and its role in the making of Chinese early civilization”, to my colleagues at the School of Culture and Heritage, at Shandong University. My research questions were first clarified to them: why is the exploitation of cattle labor important to understand human history? What do we know now (prior to my project) regarding this question? A systematic review was elaborated from lines of evidence including historical documents, oracle and bronze scripts, picturing records, and archaeological remains. Then my talk went to the theory and methods my project had been applied. After successfully establishing the comparative models from modern control samples, I then applied these reliable models to interpret Chinese archaeological assemblages, revealing intensive cattle traction had been exploited since the Late Shang period (c. 1300-1046 BC). It was the intensive use of cattle labour that helped build the fantastic civilisation in Chinese Bronze Age, as characterized by the Late Shang. I finally closed my speech and speculated some likely scenarios by weaving my results into the broader trans-Eurasian network in the Old World.

Speech to colleagues at Shandong University, Jinan.

The success of my talk in Shandong University rendered me more confidence and enthusiasm to continue my scheduled trip to spread out my research results with other Chinese colleagues in other institutes. In the following few weeks, I traveled among many cities across nearly the whole China by means of flights or trains, to further address the significance of the exploitation of animal power in human history. Apart from personally discussing this topic with professors, I also contributed with a formal academic speech at these institutes, such as Northwest University (Xi’an), Sichuan University (Chengdu), Peking University (Beijing) etc.

To summarize, there were three levels of knowledge flow from my research trip. First, not only the prestigious professors, those students (both undergraduates and graduates) were also impressed by my research methods and discussion within the broader trans-Eurasian context. Some of these students expressed that the pictures I drew in my talk had, to some extent, enlightened them to well construct their own thesis projects, which makes my efforts over these weeks much worthwhile. Meanwhile, I also benefited from the discussion with those professors and students in terms of how to address my research questions from other interesting perspectives. Second, apart from preparing the talks, I was also interested in seeking potential lines of evidence to broaden my expertise, within which visiting local museums was a useful means. By exploring the Sanxingdui civilization in Sanxingdui Museum, I have been considering the role of cattle traction in building its own civilization as well as its connection with the civilizations in the Central Plains region. The pottery model at Nanjing Museum vividly displayed the use of cattle in dragging a cart in Chinese historic period. Three, non-archaeologists were also impressed by the information revealed from small pieces of cattle lower limb bones. For them, this was not only an academic seminar to understanding the ancient cultures in China, but also helped build the sense of preserving multiple archaeological remains – even pieces as fragmental as cattle feet bones could deliver important messages from the past. As such, this served as a good opportunity to educate the general public.

Pottery ox cart model at Nanjing Museum

This Engaged Anthropology Grant has provided me this valuable chance to engage with the Chinese colleagues, which becomes one of my unforgettable experiences. The support from Wenner-Gren is even more significant for Chinese zooarchaeology, as this field has just been aroused in the most recent decade to contribute to our understanding of the past civilizations.

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Harjant Gill – U.S. Film Premiere

We are pleased to present a trailer and abstract for Dr. Harjant Gill who received a Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship to aid filmmaking on Sent Away Boys.

Sent Away Boys will be making its U.S. premier this November at the Society for Visual Anthropology’s Film Festival at the AAA meetings in Minneapolis, MN.

Screening to be followed by Q&A with Harjant Gill.

DATE: November 16, 2016, 10:30 AM

LOCATION: Minneapolis Convention Center, Auditorium 2 (SVAA Film Festival at the AAAs)

Trailer: Sent Away Boys from Tilotama Productions.

Sent Away Boys: A Rural Landscape Transformed by Transnational Migration

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

What happens to families in the absence of sons? What happens to land in the absence of farmers? What happens to communities in the absence of men? Sent Away Boys weaves together testaments of individual ambitions and family biographies from Punjab, India to chronicle the gradual transformation of agrarian landscape and patriarchal traditions through ongoing transnational migration. As the promise of a secure future in agriculture grows increasingly uncertain for young men across the region, escaping India to join the low-wage labor in countries like Canada and USA becomes their sole aspiration. In rural Punjab, being a successful man now entails leaving their village, traveling abroad, and sending money home. Through interviews with men preparing to undertake often risky journeys and women awaiting the return of their sons, brothers and husbands, Sent Away Boys shows how the decision to emigrate implicate the entire family and the larger community.

 

 

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship: Roger Canals – U.S. Film Premiere

We’re pleased to announce the U.S. Premiere of Wenner-Gren Foundation’s Fejos Fellow Roger Canals’ film, A Goddess in Motion at the Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival.

Screenings are followed by Q&A with Kathryn S. Oths and Roger Canals.

The cult of María Lionza, one of the most important religious practices in Venezuela, is beginning to manifest itself in Barcelona. Through the testimonies of believers, artists and esoteric art sellers, this documentary depicts, for the first time, the appearance of this religion in the Catalan capital.

DATE: November 19, 2016, 1:20 PM
LOCATION: Minneapolis Convention Center, Auditorium 2 (SVAA Film Festival at the AAAs)

Wenner-Gren’s newest grant program, the Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship in Ethnographic Film, is named in honor of Paul Fejos, the first director of the Wenner-Gren foundation and a pioneering ethnographic filmmaker. The grant allows an early-career academic to pursue the completion of a work of ethnographic film based on anthropological research already accomplished by the applicant.

 

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Na’amah Razon

Photo from the symposium "Trauma, Health and History: Perspectives on the Bedouin Community" held at Ben Gurion University. Photo courtesy of Sharon Benheim

While a doctoral student at the University of California, San Francisco, Na’amah Razon received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2011 to aid research on “Mediating Citizenship: The Role of Health Professionals in Israel’s National Health Reform,” supervised by Dr. Sharon Kaufman. In 2015 Dr. Razon received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “The Impact of Military Rule and Language on Healthcare Provision in Southern Israel”.

Engagement 1: Military Rule Workshop

In collaboration with Prof. Nadav Davidovich, chair of the Department of Health Systems Management, I helped develop a workshop for healthcare practitioners and local academics to address the southern military rule and its legacy. Early in the planning stages of the workshop we decided that a discussion of the military rule needed to be framed within the larger context of history, memory, and trauma. We were able to collaborate with the Center for Conflict Resolution and the Health, Humanism, and Society Center to develop an interdisciplinary workshop to address these topics and potential directions forward. While we initially proposed a two-day workshop, because the Israeli University’s semester schedule, we were only able to hold a one-day workshop.

The workshop was very well attended with approximately 35 participants, including a number of local experts whose work focuses on the Bedouin community and health inequality in southern Israel. One of the strengths of the workshop was its interdisciplinary engagement as we brought together participants from the medical school, departments of anthropology, public health, political science, law, and politics and government.

Workshop Flyer

The workshop was organized into two parts. The morning had three lectures (Prof. Michal Alberstein on transitional justice, Dr. Nihaya Daoud on the historical and continued health inequalities among the Palestinian Arab population Israel, and my own work on the military rule in the Negev/Naqab). The discussant, Dr. Mansour Nasasra, from the Department of Politics and Government, is an expert on the military rule and provided critical comments on the long term reverberations of the military rule on the Bedouin community.

The discussion that ensued was rich and difficult. One participant drew the comparison to South Africa, Rwanda, and other sites of trauma and reconciliation and asked the key question: “How do we move forward when there is still not acknowledgement of past wrongs?” This question organized much of the discussion that followed—around anger by the Bedouin community and continued challenges of trust and access specifically in the realm of health. Prof. Alberstein suggested that in situations when a full recognition of past wrongs is not possible, as in this case, creating acts of justice may still be possible. It is this notion of acts of justice that participants began to address and hopefully we spur continued dialogue and work. Dr. Nasasra and I hope to put together an article specifically addressing the military rule and the healthcare system as there is minimal published work on this ear. The second component of the workshop was a lecture on trauma by Prof. Sandro Galea of Boston University. He provided critical evidence of the long term consequences of trauma and how trauma follows landscape of inequality and across generations. He provided important comparative framework for thinking through how experiences such as the military rule impact the health of Bedouins who lived through this period and how this trauma moves and impacts the health and health of multiple generations.

Engagement 2: Arabic Language Services

I was able to meet with the pediatric team members I worked with at Southern Hospital to disseminate information on the results of my research on communication, translation, and language in the hospital setting. I prepared for them a summary of my research findings as well as a summary document regarding the importance and challenges of language services. Importantly, they noted that the make-up of staff in the hospital has changed over the past five years. Due to a number of programs encouraging Bedouins to enter health professions there is a growing number of Arabic speaking staff (especially nurses and social workers) which has helped this problem. Nonetheless, there continues to be no translation services available in the hospital, and staff members were not aware of the Ministry of Health programs that provide phone translation services. It will be important for future work to document the make-up of Arabic speaking healthcare professionals and brainstorm methods of continued documentation of the challenges of language in the hospital.

My discussions with policy makers were more optimistic. Officials in the Ministry of Health’s division on health inequality have been very active about improving cultural and linguistic access. They opened an Arabic phone translation services to Ministry of Health hospitals and a number of clinics. Unfortunately, because Southern Hospital is owned by one of the Health Funds (Clalit) they have not provided this service there. They appreciated the findings regarding the problem of language services in southern Israel and have held cultural competence training at the hospital.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Christopher Hewlett

A group of Amahuaca people building the Casa de Cultura Indígena in the community of Nuevo San Martin on the Inuya River. Preparations for the opening took several months and required long hours of collective work. Here a group shares manioc beer with those working on the roof.

While a doctoral student at the University of St. Andrews Christopher Hewlett received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2009 to aid research on “Mobility, Sociality, and Perceptions of Time among the Amahuaca of Lowland Peru,” supervised by Dr. Peter Gow. In 2014 Dr. Hewlett received an Engaged Anthropology Grant to aid engaged activities on “Amahuaca Cultural Heritage Centre: Anthropological Engagement with Amahuaca People in the Past, Present and Future”.

The original engagement grant project entailed working with Amahuaca people in the Peruvian Amazon to establish a cultural center in the Native Community of Nuevo San Martin on the Inuya River. The idea for the cultural center stemmed from a conversation with Professor Carlos Melendez Piño, an Amahuaca bilingual teacher, during the late stages of my doctoral research (2009-2011). In the course of this conversation Professor Melendez pointed to an empty lot next to his house, saying that this was where he wanted a cultural center for the community to be constructed. As I left the Inuya River to write my doctoral thesis I told Professor Melendez and other members of the community that I would seek funding to build the cultural center.

During the course of my research on Amahuaca history during the 20th century I was fortunate to have the cooperation of Robert Russell, the founder of the first mission for Amahuaca people in the 1950s, and anthropologists Robert Carneiro and Joseph Woodside who carried out research in the 1960s and 1970s respectively. I was able to gain access to extensive archival materials based on their research including video and audio recordings, photos and descriptions of collective life, as well as details pertaining to the lives of individuals during the period from the 1940s to 1980s.

Young Amahuaca/Yaminahua girl making necklaces and armbands in order to participate in the opening ceremony of the Casa de Cultura Indígena.

In July of 2015 I returned to the Inuya River with this material to begin work on the project. We set out with four primary aims. Firstly, to create a space where Professor Melendez and other Amahuaca people could store and display artefacts of their cultural heritage such as pottery, bows & arrows, photos and other audio-visual materials. As part of the preparation for the center, Professor Melendez and I looked for further material, and we located a collection of historical photos held in a Dominican archive in Lima, which we hope will be included in the cultural center at some time in the future.

Preparations also included Amahuaca people themselves engaging in practices that were no longer part of everyday life such as making pottery, headdresses, necklaces, armbands and painting themselves. These activities relate to the second aim, which was for Amahuaca people to use the making of material culture as a way to engage in conversations about culture more broadly, and to reflect on the ways in which their relationship to their past relates to contemporary life. Thus, we hoped that the processes of making materials for the cultural center would facilitate wider discussions regarding both material and immaterial cultural heritage. This proved to be an important part of the process, and led to some important additions to the original project, which I return to below.

A collection of participants and visitors inside the Casa de Cultura Indígena. Visitors included members of the public who traveled 8 hours by boat from the town of Atalaya to participate in the event.

The third aim of the project was to make the cultural center an educational space where young people could learn about their past through photos and videos, as well as participate in the making of their own adornments. This was highly successful as young people made their own adornments, and enthusiastically participated in all aspects of the project.

Finally, it was hoped that the center would become a space where tourists could visit to learn about Amahuaca people’s culture, past and present, as well as create a market for Amahuaca goods. Although there are not many tourists in this area, occasionally groups do visit the community and there is a movement in the region to expand tourism thus opening up new opportunities for indigenous people.

As the project progressed over the course of several months new ideas were expressed and a series of opportunities emerged that would transform the original idea into something more comprehensive. Firstly, it was decided that the cultural center should be made more inclusive and, thus, the name was changed from Amahuaca Cultural Center to the Casa de Cultura Indígena. This would allow the inclusion of Yaminahua and Ashaninka people, who are neighbors and friends of Amahuaca people.

Professor Melendez explaining the history of the photos to a group during the day of the inauguration. These photos were taken by Robert Carneiro and Gertrude Dole during their fieldwork with Amahuaca people in 1960-61.

Secondly, this discussion regarding inclusion resulted in the idea of forming an indigenous federation that would incorporate all the Native Communities in this area. In the end, the organizing idea created a platform for celebrating the history and culture of this particular area, which was used to bring together these groups of people to form a new political organization that would represent them both socially and politically.

Thirdly, through contacts with a network of indigenous leaders and NGOs we began coordinating with ProPurus, an organization initiating a new project on the Inuya and Mapuya Rivers that entails helping with land-titling processes, establishing committees to monitor logging, and strengthening protection of areas where people live in isolation. The idea of this new project is to include indigenous people living near the adjacent protected areas to play a role in their protection, thus building the capacities of those who participate, raising awareness about those living in isolation, and increase the potential for getting greater support for community projects.

A group of people watching film-footage recorded by the Anthropologist Gertrude Dole during her fieldwork with Amahuaca people in 1960-61. The woman in front, Margarita, appears in the film along with many members of her family.

Finally, as momentum built around the Casa de Cultura Indígena it was decided that a film should be made about this process. As a result, we raised additional funds and invited Fernando Valdivia, an award-winning Peruvian film-maker, to document the inauguration of the Casa de Cultura Indígena, the formation of the new federation and interview those working to monitor logging in protected areas.

The three-day event took place from the 25th-27th of November 2015, and included three major components: formation of a new indigenous federation, the inauguration of the cultural center, and a celebration that included food, manioc beer, and a soccer tournament. Fernando Valdivia filmed the proceedings and we aim to have the documentary completed by the beginning of 2017.

Leaders from the Native Communities of Raya (Yaminahua), Alto Esperanza (Amahuaca), San Juan (Amahuaca), Nuevo San Martin (Amahuaca), and Paujilero (Ashaninka) during proceedings to establish the new indigenous federation for the upper Inuya and Mapuya Rivers.

The meeting to form the federation was organized for the first day of the event and included leaders from the five native communities: Nuevo San Martin (Amahuaca), San Juan (Amahuaca), Alto Esperanza (Amahuaca), Raya (Yaminahua), and Paujilero (Ashaninka). Importantly, leaders of the two largest regional indigenous organizations OIRA and CORPIAA based in the provincial capital of Atalaya participated to assist with the proceedings, and officially recognize the newly formed Indigenous Federation of the Upper Inuya and Mapuya Rivers. It is the first of its kind in this specific area, as it is comprised exclusively of leaders from the five participating Native Communities.

On the second day of the event, the Casa de Cultura Indígena was officially inaugurated. Amahuaca, Yaminahua, Ashaninka and others gathered together to sing the Peruvian national anthem, speak about the importance of indigenous identity and history, and thank those who had worked to make the Casa de Cultura Indígena possible. In addition, representatives from government ministries, the local university, and members of the public attended to show support for the communities. The Casa de Cultura Indígena is the first cultural center to be established in the province, and promotes opportunities for those living on the Inuya and Mapuya Rivers to claim greater ownership of the ways in which they are represented. Furthermore, it is a project that is not yet completed, and will continue to develop over time. This includes the completion of the documentary film and its incorporation as part of the exhibition, as well as the inclusion of Ashaninka and Yaminahua materials.

The inauguration ceremony for the Casa de Cultura Indígena on the morning of November 26th, 2015 being led by Professor Melendez. Yaminahua, Ashaninka and Amahuaca people from five Native Communities on the Inuya and Mapuya Rivers, as well as representatives from indigenous organizations, NGOs, and the regional university all participated.

Overall, the combination of engaging in the practices of making pottery, body adornments, and other material artifacts, as well as working together to build the Casa de Cultura Indígena itself, became part of a wider experience that inspired people across communities to reflect on their past and come together to forge a path for the future. Thus, the idea of the cultural center, first expressed in 2011, became the impetus for a much more expansive and inclusive series of projects that are based on collective work towards the documentation, defense and strengthening of indigenous identities in the area, which we hope will continue to develop in the coming years.

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Sarah Osterhoudt

 

Dr. Osterhoudt in vanilla field

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

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

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

Imorona region and fields

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

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

Workshop Participants

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

Walking workshop, vanilla flowers

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

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

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

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Maurice Rafael Magana

 

Image courtesy Maurice Rafael Magana

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

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

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

Image courtesy Maurice Rafael Magana

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

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

Image courtesy Maurice Rafael Magana

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

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

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

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

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

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Elsa Fan

Image courtesy Elsa Fan

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

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

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

Image courtesy Elsa Fan

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

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

Image courtesy Elsa Fan

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

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Cheryl Knott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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