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Americans and Gun Culture

Today’s guest blog post is by Jessica Cunningham. Ms. Cunningham is a Social Anthropology undergraduate student from Queen’s University Belfast, Ireland. This past summer she has done field research, based in Austin, Texas, on American gun-owners and their attachment to their guns.

Jessica CunninghamA few years ago, I set off with two others on a coast-to-coast road trip across North America. Like all such trips, we were exposed to countless new experiences, yet for me one particular experience stands out. A fairly casual afternoon spent shooting tin cans with some friends in Santa Fe had a surprising effect on me which I can only describe now as visceral. Aware of the widespread use of guns in America, (although growing up my cultural exposure to guns was limited to gangsters and cowboys as seen on TV),  my unexpected reaction to using a gun for the first time, left me wondering just what it is about the gun that holds such sway for so many.

Since then this interest has continued and grown, as has the media coverage surrounding the issue. Now as a social anthropology undergraduate, going into my final year at Queen’s University Belfast with the opportunity to undertake my first fieldwork project as part of my dissertation, it seemed the obvious subject for my research.

Accordingly, this summer I spent two months in Austin, Texas. As an undergraduate this was a completely new challenge for me, particularly since it is also a largely uncharted area within anthropology, so I went in blind so to speak. I wanted to explore and measure the social value of firearms. By using a universally understood value reference, namely money, I asked each participant ‘If I gave you $1 million, would you in return give up your gun rights?’ In almost every case the answer was ‘No’. To what then do these rights equate?

Not having the knowledge to be overly selective, I talked to anyone and everyone in the area connected in any way with guns; including ammunition dealers, skeet, trap  and IDPA shooters (International Defensive Pistol Association), instructors and concealed handgun licensing (CHL) teachers, ranchers, hunters, students and the police, not to mention your average Joe and Josephine doing it for fun. I was completely dependent on people’s good will and openness which I can say I found in abundance. I believe that one factor which played a significant role throughout my research was my apparent ‘otherness’ to the context that I found myself in. I feel that being a relatively young girl from the UK, placed me outside of the lived experience of the gun debate. I was able to present myself as impartial, but willing to learn.

However, I soon realized that not only was I completely ignorant of the ‘gun language’, the technical terminology and even basic types and uses of firearms, but I had also not fully grasped the complex and multifaceted nature of the ‘culture of guns’, namely who uses them and why. Because of this and my obvious time limits, my stay in Texas felt far more akin to a ‘reccy’-style, preliminary research as opposed to a more conclusive academic piece of work.

However, one forcible aspect did emerge from my research, that is the way in which gun ownership is often regarded as being a right as unalienable as free speech or religious freedom. Although I approached the subject under the assumption that gun attachment held deeper implications than is commonly realized, I was surprised by the degree to which some really did hold guns in almost sacred esteem and feel sure that this warrants further attention and research.

Calling All Anthropologists – We Need You for Back To School

Today’s guest blog post is by the 2013 AAA Annual Meeting Program Chairs, Dr. Dana-Ain Davis and Dr. Alaka Wali. Share your passion with the local community through the Back to School program this November!

Dear Colleagues,

We hope you will sign up to participate in the first Anthropologists Back to School event, to be held at the beginning of the 2013 AAA Annual Meeting on Tuesday, November 20 from 9am-12pm. The Program Co-Chairs and the Executive Program Committee have organized this special initiative to provide a way for all of us attending the Annual Meeting to give back to the city of Chicago. Through this program, we will inspire young people and their teachers to pursue anthropological forms of inquiry.

Photo Courtesy of The Huffington Post

Photo Courtesy of The Huffington Post

Undergraduate and Graduate students are encouraged to participate. Registration for the AAA Annual Meeting is not required to participate in Anthropologist Back to School. Sign up today!

Currently there are several exciting Anthropologists Back to School programs under development. Here is a sneak peek:

Elizabeth Chin is going to create a display on the story of Jefferson-Hemmings connections, using Barbie dolls at the South Side Community Arts Center.

Dvera Saxton will present on school district struggles against pesticide contamination at the Casa Michoacan.

Rosa Cabrera will present the amazing story of a mural at the Latino Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Gina Perez will also be there sharing her work on the award winning ethnography “The Near Northwest Side Story: Migration, Displacement, and Puerto Rican Families,” which focuses on Puerto Rican Life in Chicago and San Sebastian, Puerto Rico.

Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole and Dr. Kamela Heyward-Rotimi will be joined by Malcolm London, a Chicago resident, poet and activist at the Field Museum. They will be addressing stereotypes and myths about Africa and its 54 African nations, in addition to its diverse and dynamic people and cultures.

Come help showcase your work in anthropology to the wider public! We need you. Please sign-up now.

-Dana and Alaka
2013 AAA Annual Meeting Program Co-Chairs

AAA Director of Meetings Named National Top 40 Under 40

40under40

Jason G. Watkins. CMP

Jason G. Watkins, CMP

Jason G. Watkins, Director of Meetings and Conferences has been honored in the nation’s Top Forty under 40 by the Association Forum of Chicagoland and USAE weekly newspaper. In this inaugural award, Jason was selected from nearly 150 applicants who work for associations and nonprofits across the country. Applicants were judged on their roles that have contributed to and continue to aid the future of the association and nonprofit community, and their leadership skills and potential. Congratulations Jason!

Statement by AAU Executive Committee on Support for the Social and Behavioral Sciences

Following is a newly released statement by the Executive Committee of the Association of American Universities on the importance of the federal investment in research in the social and behavioral sciences. The Association of American Universities is an association of 60 U.S. and two Canadian research universities organized to develop and implement effective national and institutional policies supporting research and scholarship, graduate and professional education, undergraduate education, and public service in research universities.

AAU logoOn behalf of the 62 leading research universities that make up the Association of American Universities, the AAU Executive Committee wishes to express its unequivocal support for federal funding of the social and behavioral sciences.

We make this statement now because of a number of disturbing actions indicating that some in Congress seek to relegate such research to a second-class status in federal research funding by imposing restrictions on it, or worse, barring federal funding of such research entirely.

These actions include a provision in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-6) that puts new conditions on the funding of political science studies by the National Science Foundation (NSF), a provision proposed in a House subcommittee but not included in P.L. 113-6 that would have barred economic health research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and recent communications from Members of Congress which have questioned the value of social science research grants awarded by the NSF and other federal research agencies.

We understand that there are significant constraints on the discretionary funds that support research and education, and we strongly believe that taxpayer dollars used to fund research should be spent wisely.  Indeed, AAU has long supported merit-based allocation of federal research funds as the surest means of supporting the best science.

Even in the context of federal budget constraints, we believe that actions by Congress to defund or stigmatize entire disciplines of research would severely cripple, in principle and practice, the federal government’s historically productive commitment to the funding of basic research across all disciplines.  The social and behavioral sciences – anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, linguistics, sociology, among others – have been funded by NSF, NIH, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies to directly support their missions by advancing fundamental new understanding of business and the economy, of human development and behavior, of groups and organizations, of other nations and cultures, and of our democracy and how it can be strengthened.  This research has been important to addressing the nation’s most pressing challenges in areas such as national security, education, commerce, health, energy, crime and public safety, and transportation.

For example, NSF-funded social sciences research has strengthened public safety by helping governments at all levels to prepare for and respond to natural disasters; made possible the development of life-saving kidney transplant exchanges; provided the Federal Communications Commission market-based auction tools for selling the electromagnetic spectrum to communications companies, maximizing both government revenue and economic use of the airwaves; provided the nation’s military with tools for educating personnel on nonverbal communication that is critical for troops working with non-English speaking citizens overseas, and compiled enormously useful longitudinal data in such areas as science, innovation, income and other economic indicators, political participation, health, violence, and social networks.

Insights and innovations from the social and behavioral sciences are no less valuable than discoveries in the physical and life sciences.  Moreover, interdisciplinary research engaging the social and behavioral sciences is producing new knowledge and understanding that would not have emerged from research within single disciplines.  In fact, many innovations and new technologies, such as touch screen tablets and mobile phones, rely upon knowledge and discoveries from the physical and life sciences combined with insights from the social and behavioral sciences.

The extraordinary success of federal research agencies such as NSF and NIH over the decades has been a result, in significant measure, of Congress providing strong funding of fundamental research across all disciplines based on proven merit-review processes and refraining from a political process of picking winners and losers among grants or disciplines. We urge Congress and the Administration to provide robust funding for federal research agencies without inappropriate restrictions, so that they can continue to fulfill their missions of supporting the full range of scientific research across all disciplines.

2014 Building Future Faculty Program Announcement

North Carolina State University will offer the 2014 Building Future Faculty Program on April 2-5, 2014. This is an all-expenses paid workshop for diverse graduate students and post-docs who are preparing for a faculty career. It is targeted to students who are currently about one year away from beginning a faculty job search. The workshop provides information about what to expect as a faculty member, the kinds of resources available to faculty for teaching, and the type of research productivity that is expected of faculty. During the workshop, participants spend time with faculty and department heads in their discipline discussing how to best prepare for this type of work, what the life of a faculty member is like, and receiving personal tips and feedback. The program aims to increase faculty diversity and inclusion.

Click here for more information about the 2014 Building Future Faculty Program is available at  along with the application form. Applications are due by November 10, 2013. For more information, contact Marcia Gumpertz (gumpertz@ncsu.edu).

Dr. Nancy Scheper-Hughes Named First AAA Public Policy Award Winner

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is pleased to announce that its Committee on Public Policy has selected medical anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes as the first recipient of the new Anthropology in Public Policy Award. Dr. Scheper- Hughes is a nationally-recognized expert on several important health issues, including hunger, illness and organ trafficking.

Photo Courtesy of UC Berkeley

Photo Courtesy of UC Berkeley

The Anthropology in Public Policy Award (AiPP) was established in 2012 by the Committee on Public Policy (COPP) to honor anthropologists whose work has had a significant, positive influence on the course of government decision-making and action. Dr. Scheper-Hughes’ body of work and research, especially in the area of organ trafficking, has shaped how governments and international bodies address the issues of illegal transplantation.

In 1999, Scheper-Hughes helped found the Berkeley Organs Watch Project, an organization dedicated to research on human organ traffic worldwide, including examining the transnational networks that connect patients, transplant surgeons, brokers, medical facilities and so-called “live donors.” Almost ten years later, in 2008, her investigation of an international group of organ sellers based in the East Coast of the United States and Israel led to multiple arrests by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In recent years, she has served as an advisor or consultant to the European Union; the United Nations, Division of Law Enforcement, Organized Crime and Anti-Laundering Office on Drugs and Crime, and the Human Trafficking Office of the World Health Organization in Vienna. She has also testified as an expert before the US Congress, the Council of Europe and the British House of Lords.

“We are pleased and honored to make Dr. Scheper-Hughes the winner of the first AiPP Award,” COPP chair Dr. Suzanne Heurtin-Roberts announced in a statement today. “Her work and research offer powerful examples of the contribution our discipline can make to larger public policy debates.  By recognizing her as thefirst recipient of the award, we are making a strong statement about the power and effectiveness our discipline can have with regulators and legislators worldwide. ”

COPP will honor Dr. Scheper-Hughes on during the 112th AAA Annual Meeting. The meeting is open to the public, registration is required.

Dr. Scheper-Hughes is a professor of anthropology and Director of the Medical Anthropology Program at the University of California at Berkeley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have You Met Donna A. Auston?

Donna A. Auston

Meet Donna. She is the third anthropologist to be interviewed in AAA’s newest podcast series – Anthropologists in the Field.

Donna A. Auston is a graduate student in the cultural anthropology program at Rutgers University. She is conducting preliminary research on Muslim communities in the San Francisco Bay area. While there, she is studying local Muslim institutions, including the first Muslim liberal arts college in the United States. She is also studying the activities artists, activists, and intellectuals from the local Muslim community. Her current field work is concerned with the intersection of race, religious practice, and the production of American Muslim identity, which will serve as a prelude to and preparation for a longer field study in the future.

Click here to hear about Donna’s work.

ACLS Fellowship Competitions Are Now Open

Today’s post is an excerpt from the ACLS newsletter. Please direct any questions to Nicole A. Stahlmann, Director of Fellowship Programs via e-mail at fellowships@acls.org.

ACLS LogoThe American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is pleased to announce that the 2013-14 ACLS fellowship competitions are now open. ACLS offers 13 fellowship programs that promote the full spectrum of humanities and humanistic social sciences research and support scholars at the advanced graduate student level through all stages of the academic career. Comprehensive information and eligibility criteria for all programs can be found at www.acls.org/programs/comps.

Application deadlines vary by program:
September 26, 2013
ACLS Fellowships (the central program)
ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowships
ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowships
Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships
Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars

October 23, 2013
Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art
Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships

November 1, 2013
African Humanities Program

November 5, 2013
Ho Family Foundation/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies (New in 2013)
Ho Family Foundation/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowships in Buddhist Studies (New in 2013)
Ho Family Foundation/ACLS Collaborative Research Grants in Buddhist Studies (New in 2013)

November 12, 2013
Luce/ACLS Program in China Studies

November 19, 2013
Comparative Perspectives on Chinese Culture and Society

December 1, 2013
Program in East Europe Studies

January 15, 2014
Ho Family Foundation/ACLS Visiting Professorships in Buddhist Studies (New in 2013)

The American Council of Learned Societies is the leading private institution supporting scholars in the humanities. In the 2012-13 competition year, ACLS awarded over $15 million to more than 300 scholars worldwide. Recent fellows’ profiles and research abstracts are available here. The 2013-14 season promises to be equally successful!

AAA Back-In-Print Program

In response to member demand for out-of-print AAA works, the AAA Publishing Department is pleased to announce that it has inventory of the following titles:

Order your books through the AAA online store to purchase your books at the discounted AAA member rate.  Stay tuned for upcoming releases on the Back-In-Print Program webpage.

Not a member? Join today!

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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