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AAA Encourages U.S. House Representative to Terminate Human Terrain System

In a letter, AAA’s new President, Dr. Monica Heller encourages and supports the efforts by U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter to terminate the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS). AAA has been a long-time opponent to HTS. The program embeds social scientists with combat units.

We are especially encouraged to see it more widely acknowledged by Members of Congress that the HTS Program’s shortcomings are not simply ones of poor execution, but of misguided mission, inappropriate staffing, and lack of recognized need. It is impossible to do high-quality, professionally responsible social science research at gunpoint, and reports submitted to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) suggest that the program does not make a significant contribution to the counterinsurgency effort.

As the AAA has pointed out for several years, military leaders ought to have been the first to acknowledge that you cannot expect people to tell complete strangers anything resembling the “truth” in times of conflict. And social scientists have a professional responsibility to point this out. Social scientists also have the professional responsibility to do no harm to the persons and communities involved in their studies, and to give informed consent, without coercion, to those who participate in their studies. The circumstances under which the HTS Program operates compromise the quality and integrity of the research it purports to carry out, and work at cross-purposes with the overall mission to reduce armed conflict.

The AAA, with more than 12,000 members, is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the human condition, and to applying this knowledge to tackling the world’s most pressing problems. We feel a responsibility to help improve US government policies through fact-finding, dialogue, and deliberation. More important than the legion of problems HTS has encountered in its planning and execution, it is fundamentally flawed. It is well past time that the HTS program be de-authorized, and we applaud your efforts to end this unproductive, irresponsible activity.

Read the letter and learn more about AAA’s efforts opposing the program.

#AAA 2013 – Public Education Initiative on Migration and Displacement

The AAA’s new Public Education Initiative, focused on Migration and Displacement, seeks to bring an anthropological perspective to bear on important discussions occurring within and beyond the academy. As we begin to work on this national project, we are bringing together anthropologists to discuss key aspects of the theme. During this year’s annual conference, two roundtables will focus their attention on migration; those present will help to shed light on issues that merit serious attention. We ask you to participate in these roundtable events…help us as we begin to structure the content and general direction of what promises to be another important national project.
Friday Nov 22, 12:15-1:30pm (Chicago Hilton, Williford A): Society for Linguistic Anthropology Presidential Conversation on “Language and Mobility: Rethinking the Populations, Practices, and Places of ‘Migration.’”
panelists include Hilary Dick, Adrienne Shiu-Ming Lo, Jonathan Rosa, Alejandro Paz, Rosina Marquez Reiter, Monica Heller, Bonnie McElhinny, Shalini Shankar, Jan Blommaert, Susan Gal.
Saturday Nov.23, 12:15-1:30pm (Chicago Hilton, Astoria Room): PEI Special Events Panel on Anthropology and Migration
panelists include Leo Chavez, Anna Rios, Daina Sanchez, Pat Zavella, Lynn Stephen, Jonathan Xavier Inda.

Anthropology Added to Appendix of C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards

C3 Framework for Social StudiesThe National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has released its C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards, which includes as appendices companion documents for anthropology, sociology, and psychology. The AAA Education Task Force and Ad Hoc Anthropology Companion Document Review Committee prepared the Anthropology Companion Document for the C3 Framework, Appendix D (page 77) in the C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards (PDF).

This companion document provides an Introduction to the Disciplinary Concepts and Skills of Anthropology, four concepts of the discipline and provides connections to the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards.

According to NCSS:

The C3 Framework was purposefully designed to offer guidance for state social studies standards, not to outline specific content to be delivered. For states utilizing the C3 Framework, the ten themes of the 2010 NCSS National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies:
A Framework for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment will be useful for the process of identifying specific content to be delivered and concepts to be acquired. The four dimensions of the inquiry arc in the C3 Framework correspond well with four sets of learning expectations presented in the National Curriculum
Standards for Social Studies

  • Questions for Exploration
  • Knowledge: what learners need to understand
  • Processes: what learners will be capable of doing
  • Products: how learners demonstrate understanding

Three days, two rooms, one house

Today’s guest blog post is by Shirley J. Fiske (Chair of AAA Global Climate Change Task Force*).

Photograph by William Geogheghan. Front row from left: Lisa Lucero, Sarah Strauss, Heather Lazrus. Second row: Carole L. Crumley, Kathleen Galvin, Richard Wilk. Third row: Susan Crate. Fourth row: Shirley J. Fiske, Ben Orlove, Anthony Oliver-Smith. Photo by Bill Geoghegan. Photo courtesy School for Advanced Research GCCTF member, George Luber was not able to attend due to the government shutdown.

Front row from left: Lisa Lucero, Sarah Strauss, Heather Lazrus. Second row: Carole L. Crumley, Kathleen Galvin, Richard Wilk. Third row: Susan Crate. Fourth row: Shirley J. Fiske, Ben Orlove, Anthony Oliver-Smith.
Photo by Bill Geoghegan.
Photo courtesy School for Advanced Research.

Looking back at the end of the week, we want to capture the feeling and substance of the three-day short seminar of the AAA’s Global Climate Change Task Force (GCCTF) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A compressed time period with intense discussion, seamlessly flowing between the two main rooms in the School for Advanced Research (SAR) Douglas Schwartz Seminar House—the dining area and the adjacent seminar room. The GCCTF was hosted by the School for Advanced Research to work out the approaches, complexities and details for the task force report on anthropological perspectives on climate change to the AAA, due in 2014.

Over the past year, the task force prepared white papers on the issues where anthropology connects to climate change and climate change policy—e.g., adaptation, resilience, vulnerability, lessons from our collective ancestors, the drivers and impacts of climate change. Papers were presented, discussed and critiqued. Ideas challenged. Assumptions laid bare. Intensity exemplifies our interaction. These discussions feed into our review of climate change anthropology and provide guidance for the future report.

Concentration. Challenge in finding common ground. Across our different perspectives we debated the key messages and common themes to anthropological studies of climate change—the primacy of context, the value of diversity, the importance of scales—geospatial and temporal—community and holism. We looked for key messages, themes, foundations, and Eureka moments. Comparability. Iterative drafts. These are all phrases and thoughts that members expressed at the end of the final day.

Release. Thanks to the expertise of our members we had yoga, stretching, and self-reflection. We got rain (much needed in Santa Fe). We had humor, from folk rap to folk tales to punctuate our day. Totally spontaneous. We rotated the facilitators each day and provided opportunity for multiple leadership.

“Talk sleep eat—sleep—eat—talk—eat—sleep.” New Mexican red chili. The sun, and rain, in the interior courtyard of the adobe Seminar House. The setting in the Seminar House at SAR channels our predecessors – Margaret Mead, Lewis Binford, Richard Fox, and Gordon Wiley, among many others. The photographs in previous seminars at SAR line the hallways.

We came to a mutual agreement on next steps, massive revisions, key messages and themes. We will keep the momentum going, expand our outreach, and encourage our colleagues in anthropology and other disciplines to recognize that cultures are always changing and to focus on the environmental justice aspects of the phenomena of climate change. The SAR seminar allowed us to develop the guiding document that we are tasked with producing in a more robust and deliberative manner, reflecting perspectives drawn from across the discipline and profession of anthropology.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the School for Advanced Research, the Atlantic Philanthropies, and the AAA, which made the seminar possible.

*The members of the AAA Global Climate Change Task Force are: Shirley J Fiske (Chair), Carole Crumley, Susan Crate, Kathleen Galvin, Heather Lazrus, George Luber (unable to participate at SAR due to the federal government shutdown), Lisa Lucero, Anthony Oliver-Smith, Ben Orlove, Sarah Strauss, and Richard Wilk.

Congress Targets National Science Foundation Grants

In a recent USA Today editorial/opinion column, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith target grants awarded by the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate of the the National Science Foundation as examples of government waste and a misuse of taxpayer resources.

This isn’t the first time that the NSF has been the target of increased Congressional scrutiny. Last year, the agency’s political science grants were targeted and AAA responded quickly. Earlier this year, in response to draft legislation (the so-called “High Quality Research Act”) that would have required the Director of the NSF to certify that prior to making any grant award the research project be “in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity of welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science,” the AAA wrote a letter stating our objection to the proposal.

Certain Members of Congress have been asking the public to present ideas and identify areas where federal government waste and fraud are present. YouCut, launched by Majority Leader Cantor in May of 2010, is a website where visitors can submit their ideas for cost-cutting measures, and view videos of selected submissions being discussed while Congress is in session. Recently, the Majority Leader launched a new initiative designed to identify and target cuts to the NSF. Sadly, the new website asks citizens to search the NSF grants database to highlight grants to be questioned, and suggests keywords such as “success, culture, social norm, museum and stimulus” to identify them.

The AAA has been working with our partners in the humanities and social science communities, visiting Congressional legislators and their staff,  making the case that social science research is critical to not only American, but world scholarship. While it is important to give the American taxpayer value for their research investment, Congress should not hamper the ability or the autonomy of federal agencies to award grants to those researchers whose projects have been peer-reviewed and deemed worthy of further study. With legislation re-authorizing the NSF scheduled to be considered in the upcoming months, it is important to let Capitol Hill know the value of social science, behavioral and economic research.

Please contact your Member of Congress today and let them know that you support NSF and it’s peer review process. If you’d like more information about how to become involved, please send an email to ddozier@aaanet.org.

RACE Posters

RACE poster RACE: Are We So Different? posters now available on the AAA Online Store. Order yours today at the special AAA member price of $4.99.

RACE Posters

RACE poster RACE: Are We So Different? posters now available on the AAA Online Store. Order yours today at the special AAA member price of $4.99.

Anthropologists Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by the 2013 Executive Program Co-Chair, Alaka Wali.

We are looking forward to an exciting four days in Chicago and want to share with you a brand new initiative that will take place on the first morning of the meetings, Wednesday, November 20.

In keeping with the meeting theme of public engagement, the “Anthropologists Back to School” initiative offers meeting participants to directly engage with Chicago middle and high school students and teachers at local museums and university campus sites. The initiative is the brain-child of Johnnetta Cole, who challenged us to create an event that permitted the AAA to “give back” to the host city in a substantive way. The objective is to spark student and teacher awareness of our discipline and its diverse subject matters and perspectives.

We have worked in collaboration with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Social Science Department and the Education Department at The Field Museum to recruit teachers from the fifth grade to high school throughout Chicago. The teachers will register for the “field trips” to the host sites based on their interest in the subject matter. The CPS social science curriculum has a broad thematic approach, but currently does not include anthropology specifically. However, the CPS is making a major push to integrate “culture” into the current curriculum. Teachers will be interested in program that focus on such themes as: connections between past and present, the human-environment interface, human evolution, immigrant experiences, cultural diversity, language and culture, among others.

Here is how it will work:

  • Meeting participants will select and register for one of the host sites. We encourage you to work in teams, integrating across sub-disciplines if possible.
  • Participants can develop a program that is appropriate for their selected site and designed for students from fifth grade and up. At most sites, the program should be interactive rather than pedantic.
  • There will be logistical support at each site, but participants will be responsible for any instructional materials they wish to use and for their own travel to the host site. All the sites are within fairly close proximity to the meeting hotel.
  • The time frame for the program is about two-to-three hours (9 am–12 pm), but at most sites, about a half-hour program can be repeated as multiple student groups rotate through.
  • At the end of your program, we would like to have you report back on the experience.

The host sites are:

  • The Field Museum. There are seven anthropology exhibit halls where meeting participants can set up stations. Students will stop at the station and have the opportunity to interact with the anthropologists.
  • The Oriental Institute at The University of Chicago. There are four permanent halls and a temporary exhibition titled “Ancient Occupations, Modern Jobs.” Potentially there can be one-to-two stations in each of these halls. The permanent halls feature exhibits on Egypt, Assyria, Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia.
  • The Chinese-American Museum of Chicago in Chinatown. This museum has a large meeting room and internet/projector capacity. Additionally, the exhibit halls feature stories of the Chinese immigrant experience in Chicago.
  • The National Hellenic Museum in Greek town. The museum has a large meeting room and projector capacity. Its exhibits feature both the Greek Immigrant experience and aspects of ancient and modern cultures of Greece.
  • Casa Michoacan in Pilsen. This cultural center for Chicagoans from the State of Michoaacan, Mexico, has a small gallery.
  • The South Side Community Art Center, on South Michigan Avenue. The oldest African-American art center in the United States has a main exhibit gallery. Its permanent collection includes works by many well-known Chicago artists.
  • The Latino Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The center has a large auditorium space with a vibrant mural depicting the Latino experience in the United States.
  • The Anthropology Department at Loyola University. Professor Anne Grauer is designing a program focused on physical anthropology.
  • The Anthropology Museum at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. This site is about two hours from downtown Chicago, but has several interesting options.

Registration to participate in the Anthropologists Back to School program is limited. Register here.

Additionally, on Saturday, November 23, the Council on Anthropology and Education will hold multiple sessions and their annual award ceremony at The Field Museum. Local educators will be invited and will have the opportunity to interact with Council members.  We’d also like to note that the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges will establish a dialogue with Chicago Public Schools to develop pathways for high school students interested in pursuing anthropology in community colleges.

Dana-Ain Davis and Alaka Wali are the chairs of the 2013 AAA Annual Meeting. They may be contacted at 2013aaaprogramchairs@gmail.com

RACE Posters

RACE poster RACE: Are We So Different? posters now available on the AAA Online Store. Order yours today at the special AAA member price of $4.99.

Time to Connect ALL the Dots

Today’s guest blog post is written by AAA member, Dr. Melanie Bush. She is Associate Professor and Department Co-Chair for the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at Adelphi University.

In December 1951, a petition was presented to the United Nations entitled “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People.” In 1964 Malcolm X argued for taking the U.S to the world court and UN for human rights violations.  In 2008, the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination issued their findings on the U.S. with 46 substantive recommendations.

When we look at the state of affairs in US society today, with an unarmed 17 year old African American male followed and shot, and the killer set free; when courts decide that there is no longer need for monitoring voter rights despite undisputable evidence of Black disenfranchisement; when mass incarceration is the “new Jim Crow”  (Michelle Alexander), and when politicians unabashedly defend a program that terrorizes young black and brown youth through a stop and frisk program that not only finds 9 of 10 of those stopped completely innocent, it targets between 4-7 times the number of young people of color than white youth despite equal drug use; where on every possible social indicator, communities of color come up on the short end: foreclosuresincome, wealthhealth statushealth insuranceeducation,  etc.  isn’t it time to recognize the systemic nature of the racist hierarchy and do something drastic?

What is the climate in which this is acceptable?  As Malcolm X said, this is not a violation of civil rights; it is a violation of human rights. It is not a Negro problem it is a human problem.

I would further this argument by saying it is a WHITE problem.

Why?

Let’s get real.  As just one example, the Pew Research Center  recently released data showing sad but unsurprising divergent perspectives about the verdict.  Of African Americans, 78% report that the trial raises important issues about race that need to be discussed; 28% of whites say so. Public opinion surveys consistently demonstrate that whites believe that racial inequality is a thing of the past. Indeed a Tufts University study in 2011 found that whites now believe they are the primary victims of racial discrimination.  It’s true that younger whites tend to be more aware of the realities, but still minimally so.

So what does this have to do with white folks?

First of all, most brown and black folks understand, and recognize these realities.  They have to –they live it.

As white folks, we have the luxury and the privilege to ignore, deny, pretend, soften, moderate, believe that we are nice people who never do bad things so these systemic patterns have nothing to do with us, and we can be horrified but do nothing.  We can reap the privileges of a system that continuously provides us with benefits of the doubt, second chances, and be allowed to believe it’s all solely because of our individual effort.

It’s time for a change. We have the privilege of education, of access to people, to networks, to publishing, to institutions. With humility we can make a difference and we must.

This fight need be one that stands against a system that tolerated and continues to tolerate the murders of Emmett Tills, Vincent Chins, Manual Luceros, Shaima Al Awadis and countless others.

It is time to connect this struggle with the treatment of black and brown people all over the globe.  It is time for ALL of us to speak and act against drone strikes, war, imprisonment, the economic assault of global sweatshops.

We must unite with grassroots organizations that are fighting for change and get involved. At the very least, let us support their work; recognize that our future is intimately interconnected with theirs.

My heart and my mind were mute from grief, sadness and bewilderment.  But it is past time for us to take responsibility in every way we possibly can. How can we tolerate a world that is so unsafe, where young Black men are preyed upon?  If we do allow that to occur, what does that do to our own humanity?

As Robin DG Kelley said, this verdict was rendered not because the system failed, it happened because it worked.   For 500 years, the entire system has been firmly dedicated to an ideology in which the protection of white property rights was always sacrosanct; with predators and threats almost always black, brown and red. The very purpose of police power was to discipline, monitor and contain populations. Kelley continues:  “If we do not come to terms with this history we will continue to believe that the system just needs to be tweaked or that the fault lies with a fanatical gun culture or a wacky right wing fringe.”

ANYONE can act on this racist ideology and stand for this racial hierarchy.  It is more likely those who personally benefit however, for some who don’t, identifying with the dominant group provides a sense of superiority.

And anyone can stand up against it.

We must confront the notion that it’s just two ways of viewing a situation as if they are equal.  One validates the murder, incarceration, stop and frisking, impoverishment, of young black and brown men and increasingly women based on presumed criminality, cultural and intellectual deficit, and the other stands for humanity and dignity.

Anthropology as a discipline is not exempt – See President Mullings, Trayvon Martin, Race and Anthropology. Every one of us can do something about the issues she raises in this statement.  In our sections, in our classrooms, in our memberships.  Most particularly white members of AAA can take on responsibility for making change happen.

Isn’t it time?

Notes:
For information about racial justice work being done by whites see e.g: Catalyst ProjectShowing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)White Privilege Conference.

See also: Black Youth Project, Project South, Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence, Domestic Workers United, Dream Defenders, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, etc.

For commentaries: http://dubois.fas.harvard.edu/trayvon-martin-commentary,  YES Magazine, Ricardo Levins MoralesColorlines, Black Commentator.

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