NYAS @ WGF: Nuclear Disaster, Environmental Health, and Human Rights in the Marshall Islands

image courtesy American University Dept of Anthropology

Come join us for the third installment of the New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Section Lecture Series at Wenner-Gren TONIGHT at 7:00 PM, when we welcome environmental anthropologist Barbara Rose Johnston, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Political Ecology.

Environmental anthropologist Barbara Rose Johnston discusses methods, findings, ethical quandaries, and political outcomes from her work documenting the consequential damages of nuclear disaster and advocating for the human right to a healthy environment. This talk is illustrated with case-specific examples from her service as an expert advisor to the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal, a civil society advisor supporting a UN Special Rapporteur investigation into nuclear testing, toxic waste, environmental contamination and continuing human rights abuse, and a civil society delegate at the UN Human Rights Commission 21st session.

A reception will precede the meeting at 6:00 pm. Attending is free, but registration is required.

Interview: Rosana Pinheiro-Machado of the University of Oxford

Rosana Pinheiro-Machado is lecturer in Anthropology of Development at the University of Oxford. In 2005, while studying at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sui in Porto Alegre, Brazil, she received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant to aid research on ‘Made in China: Commercial Practices among Chinese Immigrants in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay,’ supervised by Dr. Ruben G. Oliven. We spoke to Rosana to learn more about her work and her journey from Brazil to Oxford.

 

 

How did you originally become interested in anthropology and your area of specialization?

I come from a left wing Brazilian family and this directly influenced my academic choices. Social Sciences was the course I chose to enhance my knowledge for a career in politics that I had planned (in Brazil anthropology belongs to social sciences; it does not integrate the 4 fields). In the first year of college, I received a scholarship to be a junior researcher in a project in urban anthropology. This engagement with anthropology changed the course of my life. I then focused on my academic life and distanced myself from political career. I was increasingly incorporating ethnography and anthropological theory as a way of perceiving the world.

Pinheiro-Machado on her way to the field in Shenzhen, China

The choice of my research object was affected by the Marxist education I had received since childhood. In my 20’s I was interested in the study of labor, class inequalities, and the informal economy in Brazil. I then began to do ethnography among a group of street vendors who trade fake goods and/or cheap goods “made in China”. I carried out ethnography in this context for many years; not only in the street markets, but also following the trades on their trips to Paraguay, from where they smuggled their goods. So I began to follow a long thread, which would lead me to follow the commodity chain from Brazil to China, through Paraguay. This task took almost ten years; and it was not therefore only a research project, but equally a life commitment.

 

What role did Wenner-Gren play in your success as an Anthropologist?

I studied in a public school in Brazil, meaning I received one of the worst education possible, suffering from a shortage of teachers, among other problems. I left the school with learning gaps. After some time, however, I was enrolled in one of the best public universities in Brazil (UFRGS), where I received a top training in social anthropology. At both undergraduate and graduate level I received the grade suma cum laude, which allowed me receiving scholarships from the Brazilian government. This support was fundamental, but only enough for my livelihood. It was not enough to boost my project. I needed to expand my research internationally and track commodities globally: from a street vendor’s stall in Brazil to its factory in China. It required studying languages, importing expensive books on China and, mainly, travelling from west to east in the world. Thus, I had to fulfill not only my personal gaps, but also the lack of a field of Chinese study in Brazil. I started to compile information on China all by myself, from scratch, groping blindly in the dark.

Street market in Brazil

In 2006, when I received the grant, I was in my mid-20s. I still remember the precise moment when the award letter arrived in my place. It was one of the happiest moments in my life because it was not only a matter of money, but freedom. At that time, I could barely speak English, let alone Mandarin. With the grant, I spent a year in Paraguay studying the Chinese migrants who import goods from their hometown, and another year in China. In those places, I studied both Mandarin and English. An international world opened up for me! With my budget, I could equally import dozens of books on China, and then I created my own library (which will be donated to a research center in Brazil). Wenner-Gren played a decisive role in my career. Objectively, the grant provided me resources to put in practice a long, ambitious and expensive project. I think I didn’t receive only funds: I received encouragement and a good dose of self-esteem.

Beyond the grant itself, I counted on the integral support of Professor Ruben Oliven: my supervisor, a prominent Brazilian anthropologist who inspired me and propelled me forward. I would add the role of the British anthropologist, Professor Daniel Miller, who generously received me in his department in 2008 and gave me all encouragement while I was writing up the dissertation. My success as an anthropologist is a result of people and institutions that supported my path.

How has your work been received in Brazil?

The reaction to my research has been extremely positive. However, I think there is a huge difference between a positive reception and an effective policy of retaining promising scientists in the country.

launching "Made in China" in Brazil

My work was honored by many very prestigious Brazilian institutions: The Human Rights Prize (Ford Foundation and Brazilian Anthropological Association), the best PhD dissertation in Social Sciences (Brazilian Association of Social Sciences), the best dissertation in Anthropology/Archeology (Ministry of Education) and finally the Grand Prize, the best PhD dissertation in Brazil (Ministry of Education) in which my work competed with thousands of dissertations produced in Brazil in 2009 in 23 fields of knowledge. This recognition resulted in the book Made in China published in Brazil in 2011. I was also awarded a grant by the Brazilian government to do research abroad, which allowed me to spend a year as a visiting scholar in the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard (2012/13). Such recognition of my work is a result of an important moment of Brazilian anthropology and its internationalization process, as well as the interest there is for China in Brazil today.

On the other hand, even though there is a rising interest in China, this debate on China in the anthropological field is relatively insignificant. Due to the Brazilian nation-building, Africa, for example, is a region that attracts more anthropologists than Asia, whose bilateral ties are just beginning. I intend to remain committed to the field of Chinese studies in Brazil, analyzing the relations between Brazil and China as emerging countries in the international system. However, it will have to be done initially from outside, where I found better work opportunities.

 

How has it been adjusting to life at Oxford?

a Chinese migrant's store in Paraguay

Outside Brazil, I applied unpretentiously for some jobs at some of the most prestigious universities in the world. I was surprised to have been shortlisted for all posts for which I applied. This was very important to me in order to measure if I had reached a desirable level of international excellence. When I saw the post for lectureship in Anthropology of Development in the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), I prepared with body and soul. The competition was enormous, but I think that there was a natural encountering of mutual expectation. For the Department’s scope, and its focus on developing countries, one of the critical points of my work is to problematize the human costs of being an emergent nation as well as its intrinsic contradictions. Working with international development, somehow, takes me back to my own roots and political interests. In Academia, I found my way of doing politics. It is researching and teaching that I found means to pursue a more balanced world. After all, this was the means through which I changed my own world.

Now, Oxford is hiring a Brazilian anthropologist who had all her training in Brazil. This is not an isolated case, but a result of a wider process in the international system as whole, whose boundaries between the Global North and South are blurring little by little.

 

What are you working on right now?

getting a mototaxi to cross the bridge between Paraguay and Brazil

I am concluding the English version of my book in which I describe how the post-BRICS/TRIPS* era is drastically impacting the global commodity chain I had originally studied in my PhD dissertation. The global enforcement policy against piracy and Brazil’s eagerness to be a powerful player in the international system are fragmenting that chain. I am also working on a paper in which I compare the development model of Brazil and China based on the importance assigned to the informal economy and intellectual property in both countries. In addition to my research outcomes, I am involved right now in an online debate on Cultural Anthropology Journal (Hot Spot session) about the Brazilian Protests of June. My main goal in the next five years is to keep publishing in English and then spreading my work for a broader audience, contributing to the understanding of Brazilian and Chinese development models from an anthropological point of view.

 

*Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa/ The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights

NYAS @ WGF: Kuru Sorcery Revisited

It seems like just last week that the New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Section Lecture Series began its 2013-14 season with Marshall Sahlins at CUNY Grad Center. This Thursday, October 10th, we welcome a panel of discussants to the Wenner-Gren offices to discuss Shirley Lindenbaum’s landmark work Kuru Sorcery: Disease and Danger in the New Guinea Highlands on the occasion of the release of a new and updated edition. Come join us for a reception at 6:00 PM, followed by an exploration of the impact of this influential study on medical anthropology, epidemiology and the anthropological studies of Melanesia.

There is no cost to attend this event, but registration with NYAS is required.

Upcoming October-November Conferences & Workshops

The Origins of Recycling: A Paleolithic Perspective

October 7-10, 2013

Tel Aviv University

In recent years a growing body of evidence regarding human recycling, reusing and resharpening activities in Paleolithic times has accumulated, and there is a growing awareness among scholars towards these aspects of research in Paleolithic studies. It is our intention to gather together scholars in the new field of Paleolithic Recycling and establish, for the first time, coherent lines of inquiry, data analyses and interpretation of recycling behavior in prehistory. The workshop will be focused on presenting new data regarding stone recycling and bone reusing from Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic sites from the Old World, as well as relevant case studies from contemporary pre-industrial societies. The publication resulting from the workshop is intended to demonstrate the scale, intensity and characteristics of Paleolithic recycling; provide a methodology for studying evidence for recycling and reusing activities and discuss the adaptive role of recycling and reusing in Paleolithic times.

 

Proto-Globalization in the Indian Ocean World: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

November 7-10, 2013

Jesus College, University of Oxford

The Indian Ocean has emerged as a major topic of interest amongst scholars across a range of disciplines in recent years.  Researchers in fields as diverse as archaeology, genetics, history, linguistics and palaeoenvironmental studies have all explored evidence for precociously early coastal and transoceanic movements of goods, people, ideas, plants and animals in the region.  The ‘Proto-globalisation in the Indian Ocean world’ conference provides an opportunity for these scholars to gather and to critically evaluate the evidence for and implications of long-distance contacts and exchanges in the pre-1000 CE Indian Ocean.  It will consider the goods, technologies and ideas that moved across the ocean in this period, evaluating the possible existence of early globalized commodities, exploring object biographies, and considering the role of cosmopolitan Indian Ocean contacts in transforming societies on the littoral and beyond.  It will look at how cultural transfers were intertwined with extensive movements of plant and animals species both domestic and wild, considering the ecological, agricultural and disease impacts of species translocations, and their implications for the contemporary world in terms of biodiversity and food security.  Finally, it will explore the axes, processes and agents of early Indian Ocean interactions, critically rethinking in particular traditional notions about the drivers and agents of early exchanges and commerce, and drawing attention to the important role of smaller, less centralized and/or more mobile societies in the early Indian Ocean.  The gathering of scholars from a broad range of regions, disciplines and projects will enable discussion, debate and the exploration of synergies, as well as consideration of larger questions about the degree to which the Indian Ocean represented a globalized space in the pre-1000 CE period, the role of data from earlier periods in transforming Eurocentric notions of globalization and the ways that studies of the past might inform our understanding of contemporary globalization.

NYAS @ WGF: Marshall Sahlins and “The Alterity of Value and Vice Versa”

Monday evening marked the first event in the New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Section Lecture Series for the 2013-14 academic year, as the Wenner-Gren Foundation and CUNY Graduate Center welcomed Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Sahlins, an eminent scholar in the field and author of such works as Culture and Practical Reason (1976) and Islands of History (1985), presented his paper “The Alterity of Value and Vice Versa”:

On the external origin of riches. Money (“magical property”) as the means rather than the antithesis of extended kinship. Scarcity as a function of value rather than value of scarcity. And other such contradictions of the deceived wisdom.

The Alterity of Value and Vice Versa (MP3)

(apologies for the hum appearing throughout the recording; due to logistical constraints, we were unable to secure a better recording.)

A list of upcoming installments of this lecture series.

Interview: Tom Widger and The Youth Suicide Epidemic in Sri Lanka

Tom Widger is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Anthropology at the University of Sussex. In 2005, while a student at the London School of Economics, he received a dissertation fieldwork grant to aid research on ‘The Youth Suicide Epidemic in Sri Lanka: Causes, Meanings, Prevention Strategies,’ supervised by Dr. Jonathan Parry. Coming off recent publication of his research in South Asian Studies, we asked Dr. Widger about his project and his experience with the Wenner-Gren grant.

 

How did you first become interested in questions surrounding suicide, and what drew you to look at Sri Lanka specifically?

Well actually I was drawn to anthropology first, then to Sri Lanka and finally to the study of suicide. During my undergraduate degree in archaeology I’d taken a course in archaeology and anthropology, and read Jean Briggs’s Never in Anger: Portrait of an Eskimo Family, which simply fascinated me. Then I read a very different book, Anthropology, Development and the Post-Modern Challenge, by Katy Gardner and David Lewis. Both books together showed how long-term ethnographic fieldwork can produce extremely detailed descriptions of day to day life while still offering a rigorous method for addressing real-world problems – and it’s that approach I’ve tried to use in my own work.

After graduating in 2000 I applied to the MSc course in social anthropology at the London School of Economics. At the same time I joined a youth development programme run by Voluntary Services Overseas, a British charity. They’d partnered up with national youth organisations in Sri Lanka, Thailand and South Africa, and I just happened to be posted to Sri Lanka. I lived with a family in a village 70 kilometers north of the capital, Colombo, and worked alongside social workers. One of the issues they engaged with was youth suicide. What struck me at the time was not just the sheer prevalence of suicide in the local community but the ways in which it was so taken for granted. Having only read a bit of Durkheim by that stage I knew very little about social scientific, much less anthropological, theories of the problem. My acceptance letter for the LSE came through during this time and from that point I pretty much decided what my MSc dissertation would be about, as well as subject for a PhD!

 

» Read more..

WGF Symposium #148 – Politics of the Urban Poor

The 148th Wenner-Gren Foundation International Symposium is about to be underway in Pasiano di Pordenone, Friuli–Venezia Giulia, Italy. Read the organizers statement from Veena Das (Johns Hopkins University) and Shalini Randeria (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva) below.

We propose a symposium on the modalities of politics in the lives of the poor with specific reference to the urban form. The literature on the urban poor has been strongly shaped by and connected to public policy interventions that generated such internal divisions as those between the deserving and the undeserving poor, or between the proletariat seen as the engine of history and the lumpen proletariat, who are seen as those who are unable to engage in politics at all.  Concepts like social capital moved from academic theorizing to the policy world in the context of framing of policies to help the poor move out of what was called the “poverty trap”.  One of the consequences of this way of seeing the poor is that while agency is given to some kinds of poor, others are seen in policy discourses as populations to be managed through both policing and paternalistic interventions by the state. Though theoretical interventions such as subaltern studies did much to reclaim collective agency on behalf of those who are defined as subordinate, there was a concentration on moments of rebellion. As far as everyday life is concerned, there seems an implicit agreement with Hannah Arendt’s position that the poor are so caught in ensuring basic survival that they cannot exercise the freedom necessary for collective action that she calls the domain of politics. Thus following this kind of a conceptualization problems relating to the poor are seen confined to studies of administration. However, we also do not wish to romanticize the poor but rather in recognizing that poverty might corrode the capacity for collective or individual action, we are interested in more realistic accounts of the functioning of politics in the everyday lives of the poor.

We propose a symposium on the politics of the poor in which both categories – that of the poor and that of politics – are put under pressure conceptually and ethnographically. Inviting anthropologists and scholars from related fields who have who used ethnography in their own research on the urban poor in South Asia, Africa, Middle East and Latin America, we pose the following questions in order to generate comparative ethnographies that can foreground the relation between urban transformations, poverty, and modalities of democratic politics.

First, what is the relation between governmentality and politics in relation to basic amenities such as water, sanitation, electricity, and housing? Can we speak of a politics of need contra Arendt and many others who assume that need belongs to the realm of administration and not politics?

Second, what lines of solidarity and antagonism run within the communities of the poor defined by locality, kinship, and work?  Instead of posing a dualism between the poor seen as unitary collective subjects and another subject (state, market), which stands out and is marked as the oppressor, we might ask how differences internal to the poor are implicated in the forging of political action?

Third, are there forms of inaction that might also count as politics, especially if life has been experienced as continually marked by violence? What kind of theory of action do we need to account, for instance, for political subjectivities that have emerged after civil wars, riots or experiences of displacement? How does decay urban decay and the complete corrosion of institutions, lead to either a negation of politics or forms of collective action (protests, gang violence) that become ends in themselves?

Finally, what kinds of traces are left in the languages that circulate in communities engaged in the kinds of politics that are assumed in the first three questions? How do material traces link with linguistic traces? We want to go beyond such issues as politics of representation and instead ask what kind of affective geographies of communication and expression can we discern in the everyday life of the poor. We are interested in asking whether regional histories and geographies as well as the diversity of intellectual traditions, leads to important differences in the very conceptualization of these issues? In what way do conceptual and political commitments as well as the artifacts through which facts are made visible shape the questions we ask, what questions get asked and what issues get eclipsed? Do regional comparisons generate new questions? We are not committed beforehand to establish that the poor exercise agency or that the lines of conflict are clearly drawn between state and community; or that democracy has failed; or that the poor are so caught up in survival that the only forms of politics available to them are forms of clientelism. These are open questions and we hope that the symposium will show many pathways through which such issues can be addressed with innovations in how we collect empirical data and how conceptual innovations might be made in relation to the pressure of the conjoining of facts and values. Since the ethnographic method is now used across disciplines, the symposium would also give us an opportunity to reflect on potential contribution as well as the limitations of this method.

Paper Titles

AL-MOHAMMAD  Poverty beyond Disaster in Postinvasion Iraq:  Ethics and the ‘Rough Ground’ of the Everyday

 

AMARASURIYA   “With That, Discipline Will Also Come to Them”:  The Politics of the Urban Poor in

& SPENCER          Postwar Colombo

 

AUYERO               The Politics of Interpersonal Violence at the Urban Margins

 

BAYAT                   Plebeians of the Arab Spring

 

CALDEIRA            Social Movements, Cultural Production, and Protests:  São Paulo’s Shifting Political            Landscape

                                    

CAMMETT             Sectarianism and the Ambiguities of Welfare in Lebanon

 

DAS & WALTON     Political Leadership and the Urban Poor:  Local Histories

 

DE BOECK            “Poverty” and the Politics of Syncopation.  Urban Examples from Congo-Kinshasa.

ENGLUND             Poetic Justice and the Proletariat that Never Was

FORMENT             Plebeian Neoliberalism and the Political Practices of the Ungoverned: Buenos         Aires’s La Salada and Emergent Forms of Subaltern Democratic Life

LEIBNER               HaTikva Encampment – The Ambiguous Agency of the Marginalized                                   

                       

PERDIGON            On Making Poverty Sensible. Three Sketches from the Palestinian Refugee Camps of Lebanon

PROCUPEZ           The Need for Patience – Or – (The Politics of Overcoming Housing Emergency in Buenos Aires)

ROSS                     Residing/Resisting?:  Raw Life and the Politics of the Urban Poor

SIMONE                 The Urban Poor and Their Ambivalent Exceptionalities:  Some Notes from Jakarta

Engaged Anthropology Grant: Joshua Samuels and “‘Patrimonio S. Pietro’: The Heritage of Agricultural Reform in Western Sicily”

Joshua Samuels earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and received a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in 2010 to aid research on ‘Reclamation: The Archaeology of Agricultural Reform in Fascist Sicily,’ supervised by Dr. Lynn Meskell. This year, he was awarded the Engaged Anthropology Grant to enable him to return to his field site in Western Sicily, where he explored how Sicilian farmers negotiated Fascist land reforms and building programs of the 1930s and early 1940s, to share his research results with the community that hosted him.

I first visited Borgo Bonsignore in 2006 when I began my dissertation research investigating land reform in Sicily under Fascism. In Italian “borgo” literally means village, but under Fascism the term was used to describe service centers, built from scratch, that were designed to serve the civic and social needs of farmers being resettled in newly built farmhouses in the countryside. In the 1930s and early 1940s, borghi and farmhouses were constructed all over Italy as part of a Fascist ruralization campaign that aimed to increase agricultural production and, in the process, encourage fecundity and allegiance to the Fascist regime.

My dissertation research had two goals: to reconstruct the agricultural landscapes of borghi and farmhouses that developed under Fascism, and to understand the process through which these buildings and landscapes have today been re-used and re-contextualized as heritage resources. I pursued the first goal in a 20 square kilometer area around Borgo Fazio, an abandoned village in middle of Sicily’s northwestern corner. For my second goal I turned to Borgo Bonsignore, located on Sicily’s southwestern coast, where I spent the summer of 2010 conducting ethnographic research. After several waves of abandonment and re-use, the borgo is now a popular seasonal destination for families from the nearby city of Ribera, who have either built second homes there or occupied the empty municipal buildings. Families generally arrive in June and spend several months enjoying the beach and nature preserve located just down the road. They also avail themselves of a series of outdoor events that take place in the main piazza, organized since 1997 by Ribera’s tourism board and the Associazione Pro-Borgo.

With the support of the Wenner-Gren Engaged Anthropology Grant, I returned to Borgo Bonsignore in August of 2013 to organize a public heritage event in the main piazza. My goal was to appropriately contextualize the borgo’s existence within the Fascist agricultural, demographic and colonial policies which engendered its construction, but without denying its subsequent development and the affectionate feelings its seasonal residents have for it today.

I had originally intended to stage the event at the end of July, but the president of the Associazione Pro-Borgo thought it would be most appropriate to include it as part of the local Saint’s Day celebrations held during the third weekend of August. In collaboration with a local historian from Ribera and a university student whose family summers at the borgo, I prepared a series of poster exhibits providing basic contextual information relating to pre-20th century Sicilian agriculture, Fascist colonial-agricultural policy, and Borgo Bonsignore’s specific development. In every poster I attempted to balance an appreciation for what was achieved in the area with a recognition of its underlying totalitarian logic. The posters were affixed to light poles around the central piazza, allowing participants to browse them casually without interrupting the weekend’s religious events.

I designed the event to be interactive and collaborative. Many of the posters encouraged readers to add notes of their own, and two weeks prior to the event I posted fliers asking residents if they would be willing to share photographs, personal objects, stories, or ideas. We also strung a clothes line near the center of the piazza and asked participants to reflect on what the Borgo meant to them; they wrote their responses on notecards that were then affixed to the line. About half of the cards were contributed by children, allowing them to engage the material in a creative and meaningful manner. The following are translation from among the dozens of responses posted:

  • “The borgo means love and happiness”
  • “Borgo means getting to know new friends”
  • “Borgo Bonsignore is the place where I spent my happy and lighthearted adolescence. It preserves my soul!”
  • “Borgo means history, life, and knowledge”
  • “Borgo means a return to roots, to families, to UNITY”
  • “The borgo means…past and future”
  • “The borgo means…a point of reference with history and the past”
  • “For me it means a desire to eat gelatos and pizzas”
  • “Borgo means peace, serenity, love and serenity. I love you Borgo”

The event began on Saturday, August 24th and continued until the following Monday. The piazza was full during the evenings because of the Saints’ Day celebrations, allowing me to easily mingle with people viewing the exhibits. We discussed the research I had carried out, and asked each other questions about the materials presented. Most of the participants were seasonal residents, but a handful of the people with whom I spoke were passing tourists with no prior knowledge of the borgo’s unusual history.

I had hoped to display the event’s posters and other materials in a permanent exhibit housed in one of several spaces that were empty or underused when I originally conducted my fieldwork. Two obstacles conspired against this plan. First, all of the available spaces had become occupied in the intervening years; second, a sudden rainstorm on the evening of August 27th destroyed all the posters. However, the event generated a great deal of enthusiasm, and plans are already underway to stage another version next year. Since leaving Sicily I have been receiving a steady stream of old photographs and stories, and look forward to incorporating them into next summer’s event.

And what does the borgo mean to me? I will always find Borgo Bonsignore somehwhat unsettling, but it nonetheless serves as an example of how a difficult heritage can be re-qualified and used productively in the present.

 

NYAS Anthropology Lecture Series: 2013-14 Schedule

The Anthropology Section of the New York Academy of Sciences is the crossroads for four-field anthropology in the greater New York area. As in previous years, the Wenner-Gren Foundation offices will serve as the location for the section’s monthly lecture series. Below is a schedule of the talks that will occur over the coming academic year, subject to adjustment:

September 23: Marshall Sahlins (University of Chicago)“The Alterity of Value and Vice Versa” 5:00-6:30 PM @ CUNY Graduate Center

October 10: Kuru sorcery event with Shirley Lindenbaum (CUNY Graduate Center)

October 21: Barbara Rose Johnston (Center for Political Ecology, Santa Cruz, CA) with Melissa Checker (Queens College) as discussant

November 11: Herman Pontzer (Hunter College) with Susan Antón (New York University) as discussant

December 9: Shannon Dawdy (University of Chicago) with Zoe Crossland (Columbia University) as discussant

February 10: Becky Schulthies (Rutgers), with Sonia Neela Das (New York University) as discussant

March 24: The Brain Panel:  Rayna Rapp (New York University), Nicolas Langlitz (New School for Social Research), Daniel Lende (University of South Florida)

April 21: Audra Simpson (Columbia University)

Check back on our blog closer to the date of each talk to learn more about the speaker and get further information on the event arrangements!

Meet our New Wadsworth International Fellows: Xinyuan Wang

In this next installment of our series on 2013′s new cohort of Wadsworth International Fellows, we meet Xinyuan Wang of Hong Kong, a digital anthropologist who studies at University College London!

My research interest in Digital Anthropology developed during my master’s degree at UCL. UCL’s Digital Anthropology program is the world’s first program focusing on the use of digital media from an anthropological perspective. My master dissertation, which received a Distinction, analyzed particularly the usage and social impact of social media among Taiwanese in London.

My doctoral research pertains to a deeper examination of the use and social impact of digital media among Chinese rural migrants. Hitherto, anthropological research has only in very few instances taken on a specific inquiry of the welfare of Chinese rural migrants from a media usage perspective. Today, China has 130 million rural migrants. Under a system of rigid household registration, even today, rural migrants do not have the same rights or access to the same services (healthcare, education, housing, etc.) compared with their urban counterparts. One of the major problems rural migrants face is that they have been uprooted from their social networks back in their home villages, which has further deprived them from essential support. This study thus aims to lead to a comprehensive understanding of social consequences of social media among Chinese rural migrants.

My PhD supervisor Professor Daniel Miller is a leading anthropologist in the field of Material Culture and Digital Anthropology. My PhD research is integrated in his European Research Council project under the title Social Networking Sites and Social Science. This project is based on a comparative ethnographic study in seven different countries (www.gsmis.org). I am now doing my 15 months fieldwork at a small factory town in southeast China. Meanwhile, since 2012, I have undertaken the translation of the book Digital Anthropology (Heather & Miller 2012) into Chinese, which will be published by Chinese People’s publishing house, the most prestigious publishing house in China, later this year (2013).

Congratulations again to 2013′s other fellows introduced in this series so far, Daniel Perera Bahamón, Elisabeth Kago Nébié and Ana Majkic! All the best luck to you on your studies and continuing career in anthropology!