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Today’s guest blog post is by AAA President Leith Mullings.
As an anthropologist and President of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), I was especially gratified to hear President Barack Obama acknowledge the discipline of anthropology and support its scientific integrity. In a speech at the 150th Anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences, President Obama said:
And it’s not just resources. I mean, one of the things that I’ve tried to do over these last four years and will continue to do over the next four years is to make sure that we are promoting the integrity of our scientific process; that not just in the physical and life sciences, but also in fields like psychology and anthropology and economics and political science — all of which are sciences because scholars develop and test hypotheses and subject them to peer review — but in all the sciences, we’ve got to make sure that we are supporting the idea that they’re not subject to politics, that they’re not skewed by an agenda, that, as I said before, we make sure that we go where the evidence leads us. And that’s why we’ve got to keep investing in these sciences.
Nearly 100 anthropologists are members of the National Academy of Sciences, many of whom are among the 12,500 active members of the AAA. In an era in which some members of Congress are attempting to undermine the peer-review process and academic freedom in research, it is heartening to have the support of the President on these important issues.
I look forward to the President’s continued support for the critical contributions anthropologists make to the understanding of human kind in all of its aspects.
Have you seen the latest article by Robert R. Sauders on Anthropology News? It’s a powerful piece about the rise of solidarity activism in the aftermath of tragedy, entitled “We Run for Boston“. Below is an excerpt:
On April 15, 2013, the 117th running of the Boston Marathon commenced with a starter’s pistol for mobility-impaired entrants at 9:00am; yet, unlike previous years, the 2013 marathon ended at 2:50pm when two explosive devices were detonated within a few hundred yards of the finish line. The bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon left three people dead – 8 year-old Martin Richard, 23 year-old Lu Lingzi and 29 year-old Krystle Campbell – and wounded more than 175 people. Due to the design of the bombs, many of the victims suffered severe shrapnel wounds to their lower extremities, with some so injured that amputation was necessary.
In the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston, people from across the United States and around the world expressed their shock over the brutality of the bombings, their anger with those who would perpetrate such actions and their sympathy with those who suffered injury and trauma. As medical professionals treated the wounded and law enforcement began the arduous process of collecting evidence to identify those responsible for the bombings, hundreds and thousands of ordinary people began organizing solidarity and fundraising efforts through social media tools. Within only a few short hours after the bombs ripped through Boylston Street, small groups dedicated to standing united with the Boston Marathon victims as well as with the city of Boston began appearing on Facebook, Twitter, blog and websites.
Read Sauder’s entire article on Anthropology-News.org.
In response to the recent survey about sexual harassment in anthropology, reported by Kathryn Clancy (U Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Katie Hinde (Harvard), Robin Nelson (U California, Riverside), and Julienne Rutherford (U Illinois, Chicago) the American Anthropological Association has issued the following statement on behalf of its more than 11,000 members.
The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is shocked and dismayed to learn about the results of a recent survey reported at the April 2013 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Knoxville, TN. The AAA has zero tolerance for sexual harassment in academic, professional, fieldwork or any other settings where our members work. While the AAA does not have adjudicatory authority over these matters, our Statement on Ethics: Code of Professional Responsibility sets out our clear expectation that anthropologists “…have a responsibility to maintain respectful relationships with others. In mentoring students, interacting with colleagues, working with clients, acting as a reviewer or evaluator, or supervising staff, anthropologists should comport themselves in ways that promote an equitable, supportive and sustainable workplace environment.”
We deplore the reported incidents of sexual harassment, and expect employers and institutions of higher education to enforce the law as well as their specific anti-harassment policies for implementing the law. While sexual harassment is an issue that affects men and women alike, women bear the greatest burden of these incidents by far. The AAA has a long-term commitment to monitoring the status of women in anthropology through the Committee on the Status of Women in Anthropology, renamed in 2011 the Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology. We encourage harassment victims who do not feel that adequate protections are available through their employer or home institution to contact the Association’s Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology confidentially for advice.
Filed under: Advocacy, Anthro in the Media, Association Business, Commentary, Ethics, Resources | Tagged: Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology, ethics code, Julienne Rutherford, Kathryn Clancy, Katie Hinde, Robin Nelson, sexual harassment in anthropology, Statement on Ethics: Coode of Professional Responsibility | 6 Comments »
AAA member, C. Timothy McKeown wrote an article yesterday for Indian Country Today. The article You Can’t Convey What You Don’t Have discusses yet another auction of significant artifacts to be held at the end of this week in Paris, France. Below is an excerpt:
On Friday, April 12, Néret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou in Paris is scheduled to auction 70 Native American masks dating between 1880 and 1940. The auction catalogue describes each mask, provides a photograph, details the materials used in its construction, and identifies the tribe that used the mask in its religious ceremonies. There are one or more masks from Acoma, Jemez, Zuni and Navajo, but the majority are from Hopi. The proposed sale has unleashed a global discussion on the propriety of the trade in communally owned cultural items and the need for transparency in provenance documentation.
We know little about the collector for whose benefit the auction will be conducted, identified in the catalogue only by the initials “L.S.” and described as “a connoisseur with peerless taste” who lived and collected in the US for 30 years. The French press describes him as a Frenchman who worked in the American film industry and occasionally stayed with the tribe. Requests from the Hopi Tribe for information on the provenance of the collection have been ignored, and last Thursday the US Embassy in Paris reportedly weighed in with an email asking the auction house to respond to the Hopi request. In a statement to the press, an unnamed representative of the auction house claimed that the collector “legally bought the items in the United States at sales and auctions.” Auctioneer Gilles Néret-Minet has dismissed Hopi claims because “they rely on an article of the Hopi constitution which is not recognized in France because it is not a State.”
Monsieur Néret-Minet might be interested in knowing that a number of US Federal laws may also be implicated in the proposed sale. Taking the auction house representative’s statement that the items were “legally” bought in the US on its face, we can assume that none of the masks – many of which have been identified by the Hopi Tribe as objects of ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the tribe and which could not be alienated, appropriated, or conveyed by any individual – were obtained after 1990 from tribal lands or from a museum receiving Federal funds. Section 4 of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) made the sale, purchase, use for profit, or transport for sale or profit of any such cultural items a criminal offense. To date, 13 individuals have been convicted of trafficking items similar to those being offered at the Paris auction. Most were fined and the cultural items confiscated and repatriated. Several were also imprisoned. The list of convicted criminals includes mostly tribal members, intermediaries, and dealers in the American Southwest. Missing are the collectors who fuel the market, though several have stepped forward, including one reportedly connected to the Hollywood community, to aid the law enforcement and avoid prosecution themselves.
Click here to read McKeown’s entire article.
Readers may recall a letter sent by AAA President Leith Mullings last month about the Barbier-Mueller Collection of pre-Colombian art that was auctioned by Sotheby’s Paris. What do you think it is about Paris to be a hub for such auctions?
The U.S. President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently released a policy memorandum directing each Federal agency with over $100 million annually in research expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to federally funded research results. The American Anthropological Association applauds the OSTP’s collaboration-based approach to increasing access by working with the federal research funding agencies, and by encouraging these agencies to embrace the challenges and public interests that are unique to each field. The American Anthropological Association believes that when it comes to increasing access, it is highly appropriate to take into account the knowledge cycle, researchers who are not funded by the Federal Government, and the need to protect sensitive cultural data. Our members look forward to providing meaningful input over the next six months to the agencies’ plans to contribute to innovative breakthroughs through access to scientific data and research findings.
For the third time in three years, The New York Times has published an article by Nicholas Wade (12/20/10, 12/13/10, and again on February 18, 2013) that includes misrepresentations of the American Anthropological Association’s views on science, ethics, and the role of debate in the advancement of knowledge. Some have found their way into the recent article by Emily Eakin in The New York Times Magazine Section (2/17/13). In light of these misrepresentations, we present for the record the exact wording of core guiding documents of the Association.
The American Anthropological Association’s Statement of Purpose (Mission Statement) last amended in 1983 reads as follows: “The purposes of the Association shall be to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects, through archeological, biological, ethnological and linguistic research; and to further the professional interests of American anthropologists, including the dissemination of anthropological knowledge and its use to solve human problems.”
The AAA’s Long Range Plan, revised April 22, 2011, states: “The American Anthropological Association will support the growth, advancement and application of anthropological science and interpretation through research, publication, and dissemination within a broad range of educational and research institutions as well as to the society at large.”
Furthermore, while AAA does not take sides in intellectual disputes among individual members, the Association remains committed to ethical practice and to robust debate about disciplinary ethics. The Long Range Plan states: “The AAA will reinforce and promote the values associated with the acquisition of anthropological knowledge, expertise, and interpretation. This includes a commitment to the AAA Code of Ethics.” The new version of that code, now entitled AAA Statement on Ethics: Principles of Professional Responsibility, was released in 2012. The Statement reflects the multiyear efforts of two different working groups and an Association-wide discussion of draft versions. The final version was adopted by vote of the membership in 2012.
Finally, the Association continues to view lively debate as key to knowledge production. Disagreements about what is good science and what is bad science do not translate into an attack on science.
Filed under: Advocacy, Anthro in the Media, Association Business, Commentary, Ethics, Public Affairs | Tagged: #AAAFail, AAA Statement on Ethics: Principles of Professional Responsibility, anthropology as science, ethics, Leith Mullings, Long Range Plan, Nicolas Wade, Science debate, statement on ethics, The New York Times | Comments Off
Looking Back on Today
By Richard Wilk
How are we going to be remembered in a century, in two hundred or five hundred years? Not as individuals – even the most famous people will be long forgotten. But what about our civilization and our way of life? As a trained archaeologist, I ask whether our time will be called a golden age, an epoch of art, learning and enlightenment, or a dark and troubled era of wastefulness, decline and division.
Archaeologists have tried to purge the more obvious value judgments from their snapshots of past times. They no longer call epochs “decadent” or “formative” though terms like “classic” and “high civilization” are still used for the times when a culture hit its peak of power, built its most magnificent cities, made the most beautiful and elaborate arts and crafts, or conquered neighbors and welded them into a vast empire.
And they can also point to genuine examples of decline and failure. The Norse, for example, successfully colonized Greenland in 986 AD, and grew to 16 parishes led by a Catholic bishop in 1350. But when their trade with Europe was cut off by the Black Plague a hundred years later, and colder climate cut down on their pastures, the colonies failed and everyone sailed back to Iceland and Norway (see Stull 1990). The people of the American Southwest, in Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon and a series of other cultural centers settled there for centuries, yet suffered a painful decline and dispersal between 1100 and the 1400 with continual raiding, warfare, migration and ultimately abandonment of sequential regional areas.
So what about our era, the rise of Western capitalism and its diffusion in the form of globalized trade and material aspirations? Pundits and preachers tell us we are at the edge of the cliff, about to fall into oblivion. Others claim just as certainly that we are entering a new period of growth and prosperity, as democracy and freedom spread and we transition into a sustainable economy based on green technology.
For a moment let’s just step back and look at one thing we have built our civilization upon – oil. The amount we use is so large that the numbers are meaningless to most of us. Artist Chris Jordan uses huge canvases to help us really feel what 28,000 42-gallon barrels–the amount consumed in the USA every two minutes– looks like. As he says, it is “equal to the flow of a medium sized river” running 24 hours a day.
Maybe in 50 years but certainly in a century, free oil from the ground is going to be very scarce and a lot more precious. There will be expensive substitutes from natural gas, algae, genetically modified palm trees and the like, but the idea that you could once pump oil and sell it for $100 a barrel is going to sound ridiculous. So looking back on today, from the distant future, the idea that people would burn the precious stuff just to drive around ‘sightseeing’ or on holiday, in a private vehicle, for fun, seems somewhat short-sighted. A lot of the time these cars are not even full.
And why were their towns and cities spread out across the land, so people had to burn oil just to go to work or buy groceries? I have tried to explain this to European visitors several times, with little success. I somehow doubt that people in 100 years are going to have more sympathy. They are just going to think we were crazed, insane, and unbelievably wasteful; and that we were unable to understand what our own scientists were telling us.
At least the ancient Romans had an excuse when they poisoned themselves with lead in their water, food and wine. They had no idea that lead was responsible for their declining intelligence, miscarriages, memory loss and bad digestion. But look at all the poisons we ingest every day in our air, water, food and drink, despite dire warnings. How can we explain that in rational terms?
I just hope that none of our distant descendants ever runs across a catalog from Skymall or Hammacher-Schlemmer. Like our giant yachts, trophy mansions and vanity museums, these catalogs demonstrate a rococo form of consumerism that has no pretense of being for or about anything, beyond the tiniest quantum of health or comfort. Are you ready to justify spending resources on an “indoor flameless marshmallow roaster” to your great-great grandchildren, who are living in a world where oceans have risen to inundate most coastal cities, because of the fossil fuels we burned?
If these things were exceptional, my argument would be trivial. But our entire consumer culture has spun into a kind of ‘babes in toyland’ phase, that feels like one last big blow-out party where we try to recapture the innocent joy of a time when we didn’t know that our fun was wrecking the place. The only difference is that in this case, it is the kids, not the parents, who are going to be asking, “What were you possibly thinking to leave us such a huge mess?”
Bloggers, political pundits, and social scientists have noted that the hallmark of the Anthropocene is that it is the only geological epoch where the active force in creating change (us, that is) consciously know that we are affecting the planet; the question is whether humans have the interest and political will to do anything about it (Palsson et al 2012). So far we have not heard any serious proposals to limit or control the wildest and most wasteful kinds of consumerism.
Palsson, G., et al., Reconceptualizing the ‘Anthropos’ in the Anthropocene: Integrating the social sciences and humanities in global environmental change research. Environ. Sci. Policy (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2012.11.004 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2012.11.004
Stull, Scott 1990 Colonization in a Marginal Zone: The Norse in Greenland. Crosscurrents 4:1-15. http://www.academia.edu/637940/Colonization_in_a_Marginal_Zone_the_Norse_in_Greenland
Chris Jordan: http://www.chrisjordan.com/gallery/rtn/#oil-barrels
Filed under: Advocacy, Anthro in the Media, Commentary | Tagged: archaeologists, climate change, Global Climate Change Task Force, Indiana University, natural resources, oil, Richard Wilk | Comments Off
Mark your calendars!
Connect with a growing network of humanities leaders
Communicate the value of the humanities to Members of Congress
Become a year-round advocate for the humanities
Sessions and events will be held at the One Washington Circle Hotel, George Washington University, and Capitol Hill.
Please contact Damon Dozier if you are interested in registering. AAA does provide free registration to a limited number of interested members. Damon can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or via telephone: 703/528-1902.
A block of rooms has been reserved at the One Washington Circle Hotel at discounted rates: $159/night on Saturday, March 16, and $239/night for March 17 – 19. To make a reservation, call (202) 872-1680 and ask for the “National Humanities Alliance” block rate no later than February 13, 2013. Availability limited.
Please note when making your travel arrangements that the meeting will begin with an introductory reception and session on Sunday, March 17, at 6 p.m., at the One Washington Circle Hotel.
Filed under: Advocacy, Events and Exhibits | Tagged: advocacy, National Humanities Alliance Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day, NHA | Comments Off