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Liebow Signs Letter to Support Title VIII

AAA Executive Director, Dr. Ed Liebow, signs collaborative letter to U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, in support of restoring funding to the Title VIII program. Most research on Eastern Europe and Eurasia in the last 30 years was funded by Title VIII, which supported programs through SSRC, ACLS, IREX, Woodrow Wilson Center, the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, and some universities.

For the region of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, the Department of State has for thirty years trained future leaders and scholars through the Research and Training for Eastern Europe and the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union Act (PL 90-164, Title VIII). Title VIII has played a significant part in the education of many prominent American policymakers and specialists in the region, including former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice, and US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. We are writing to you today to urge you to restore funding for the Title VIII program and to include funding for the Title VIII program as part of your fiscal year 2015 budget request.

The funding over the years supported many social scientists, historians and language programs.

At stake are programs that support policy-relevant research, advanced language training, and a specialized information clearing house and reference service related to countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus, Russia and Eastern Europe. A remarkably high percentage of US university faculty who teach about Eastern Europe and Eurasia, State Department specialists on the region, and think tank analysts who advice policymakers have conducted their field work and research obtained advanced language proficiency thanks to programs funded by Title VIII.

To read the entire letter, click here.

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.

Insects-as-food Survey

AAA member, Julie Lesnik at the University of Illinois-Chicago is conducting a survey regarding insects-as-food. This survey is open to all researchers who may have observed the practice of eating insects by either a human population or nonhuman primate population. The goal of the survey is to 1) identify general global patterns, and 2) initiate the development of a global database of standardized scientific identifications and nutritional values.

Please go to http://www.entomoanthro.org/survey.html for more information and a link to the survey, or email Julie Lesnik at jlesnik{at}uic{dot}edu.

Join the This is Anthropology Team at the Annual Meeting!

Over 390 anthropologists have joined the AAA’s new public outreach website, www.thisisanthropology.org since it launched in November 2012! Thanks to all of you who already contributed photos and profiles to the website. This is Anthropology is always a work in progress and it is not too late to join. The development team for This Is Anthropology will be at the annual meeting in Chicago with even more new ways for you to participate. We hope you’ll join us at the events below:

Opening Reception

Join us at our booth during the Opening Reception in the Exhibit Hall on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 from 6:15-7:30 PM. In addition to the food and fun of the reception, we will be on hand with This is Anthropology swag (while supplies last!) and we’ll have our cameras rolling to capture some impromptu video interviews.

This is Anthropology Booth

Even if you can’t join us at the reception, stop by our booth in the Exhibit Hall to learn more about the website and how you can be a part of This is Anthropology. It’s never too late to create a profile on the site or to share TIA in your community.

Reaching A Broader Public: The “This Is Anthropology” Project Roundtable

Join Jason Miller and Charlotte Noble on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 from 12:15-1:30 PM in Hilton Conference Room 4M for a roundtable about the This is Anthropology project. After a brief discussion of the origin and goals of the site, we will open the floor for comments, feedback and a brainstorming of ideas for how to disseminate anthropology to a broader public.

Video Project

Finally, be on the look out for our roving camera crew during the meeting. We’re looking for anthropologists to answer one of five questions about anthropology on camera. The footage will be used to create short videos about what anthropology is, anthropological skills and careers and how to become an anthropologist.

Have further questions? Contact the TIA team at thisisanthropology@aaanet.org or participate in our conversations at #thisisanthro on Twitter!

November is Native American Heritage Month

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA Member, Guven Peter Witteveen.

We Still Live here

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, PBS will stream We Still Live Here for free throughout November. The film is especially relevant now, as it features members of the Wampanoag Tribes of Massachusetts, descendants of the people we celebrate every Thanksgiving for the help they gave the “Pilgrims.” We Still Live Here tells the near miraculous story of present-day Wampanoags reclaiming their language and rediscovering their culture. Click here to stream for free at PBS.org, or buy the DVD on their site Here.

Oppose devastating cuts to the National Endowment for the Humanities!

Now that the government shutdown is over and Congress is beginning new budget negotiations, the proposed 49 percent cut to the National Endowment for the Humanities is back on the table. Just last week, one of the budget negotiators invoked the cut as he questioned the appropriateness of NEH grants. You can make sure that his are not the last words that our elected officials hear on the value of NEH by sending a message today.

We need you, your friends, and your colleagues to send messages in support of renewed investments in the humanities. Thousands of messages from advocates helped to put the proposed cuts on hold this summer, and by sending this new message, you can oppose the cuts and help restore NEH’s critical support for the humanities.

Lend your name to the effort by sending a message to your elected representatives.

Click  here to send a message.


In its FY 2014 budget resolution, the House of Representatives Budget Committee called for the complete elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities, writing that the programs funded by NEH “…go beyond the core mission of the federal government, and they are generally enjoyed by people of higher-income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.” The House subcommittee that oversees the NEH’s appropriation has followed through on the spirit of this resolution by approving a 49 percent cut to the agency’s budget.

Funding for NEH is already at just 29 percent of its peak and 62 percent of its average.

After years of deep cuts, the Obama Administration has proposed restoring some of NEH’s capacity with a 12 percent increase in funding.  

Click  here to send a message.

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Susan Hyatt: An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is written by Dr. Susan B. Hyatt.  Dr. Hyatt is currently an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). During the 1980s, she spent 8 years working as a community organizer in South Chicago, which is where she first developed her interest in  community collaborative projects. Dr. Hyatt has volunteered to lead a program in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative. Her program will take place at The Field Museum. This new initiative seeks volunteers to lead and assist programs at various host sites throughout Chicago on Wednesday, November 20 from 9am to12pm. Share your passion of anthropology while giving back to this year’s host city – Chicago. Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

Photo courtesy IUPUI

Photo courtesy IUPUI

I am looking forward to participating in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative at the Field Museum in Chicago on November 19th.  My workshop will be based on a collaborative ethnographic project I carried out in Indianapolis, which brought together university students, a synagogue, a community center and a Black Baptist Church in an endeavor we called, “The Neighborhood of Saturdays.”

In 2010, Anthropology students from my institution, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) began conducting oral history interviews with former residents of what had once been one of the most multi-ethnic neighborhoods in Indianapolis—the near Southside.  We focused on two groups who had occupied that space between 1920-1960— the children of Jewish immigrants whose families hailed from cities formerly located in the Ottoman Empire in the early years of the 20th century, and African Americans whose families arrived from the south during the Great Migration.  During the 1950s, many of the Jewish families began moving to the more affluent northside neighborhoods where many of the Jewish communal institutions had already relocated.  Ten years later, the remaining African American community was displaced by the construction of an interstate highway that bisected the old neighborhood, destroying both residential properties and a once-vibrant commercial strip.

Photos courtesy of Angela Herrmann

Photos courtesy of Angela Herrmann

Former African-American and Jewish neighbors largely lost contact with one another after the highway came through.  Once a year, however, the African-American former southsiders continued to gather in a small park in the old neighborhood for a reunion picnic, held on the first Saturday in August.  I learned about the reunion picnics and began attending them in 2008 with the idea that students enrolled in my Ethnographic Methods class would collect life histories about the old Southside and about the reunions, which were then in their 35th year. I had assumed that the neighborhood had long been primarily African-American, however in my interviews at that first picnic, several folks shared with me their recollections of how special they felt it had been to grow up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood, especially in that earlier historical era, and they reminisced in particular about their former Jewish neighbors and about the many Jewish-owned businesses that had once thronged the main thoroughfare, Meridian St.

Through a chance encounter, I met later met a member of one of those Southside Jewish families and she put me in touch with others.  Both communities were excited and enthusiastic about coming back together to work with the students toward the goal of writing a book about their community.  We changed the name of the project from “First Saturday in August” to “The Neighborhood of Saturdays,” which incorporated references to both the picnic and to the Jewish observance of the Sabbath on Saturdays.

Photo courtesy of Angela Herrmann

Photo courtesy of Angela Herrmann

Over a two-year period, Jewish and African-American Southsiders gathered regularly with the students to record their life stories and to talk about the on-going research and plan the book.  In addition to carrying out the oral history interviews, students also engaged in archival research about the neighborhood and they organized several events we called “scan-a-thons.”  The scan-a-thons were held at a community center, at the synagogue and at the Black church, where we invited people to bring old photographs, church bulletins, newspaper articles and other memorabilia about the neighborhood which we scanned using laptops and portable scanners.  All of that material was organized and catalogued by our university library’s Digital Scholarship team and it is now available on a library web site, along with some of the publicity that the project garnered, including an article from the New York Times and a recent story on our local NPR affiliate.

Last February, we self-published the book, The Neighborhood of Saturdays: Memories of a Multi-Ethnic Neighborhood on Indianapolis’ Southside.  Elders who were involved in the project have continued to organize events around the city to share their memories of growing up together and to reflect on their experiences reuniting after more than 50 years to work on the book.

Photo courtesy of Angela Herrmann

Photo courtesy of Angela Herrmann

The students and I were surprised to learn that during an era when Jim Crow was a de facto aspect of life in Indianapolis, in the “neighborhood of Saturdays,” people had once come together across racial and religious boundaries to forge friendships that were revived by our research project. For my Back to School workshop, I plan to share some stories about this project and to perhaps show the students some short videos of our elders talking about the old neighborhood.  I hope to help them think about how urban neighborhoods change through time, and to understand how we can use strategies like mapping, interviewing and scanning old photographs to discover stories that might surprise us today. Like Sabiyha Prince, I also hope that some of them will think about working on their own neighborhood history projects, and about perhaps organizing their own story-telling sessions and even scan-a-thons with their family elders and neighbors.   If nothing else, hopefully they will learn that the communities where they live now and that they take for granted in their current incarnations may once have looked very different, and that they can use some of the strategies we used to uncover their own neighborhood’s “hidden history.”

The Second Issue of Open Anthropology is Here!

Open Anthropology 150x150Violence is the theme of the second issue of Open Anthropology. The collection “On Violence” offers information, revelations, historical facts, descriptions of context and portraits of situations over time and place, a sampling of anthropological findings on the subject. Ten articles, two book reviews, and “The Editor’s Note” comprise this anthology written by anthropologists across time, sub-discipline, and journal title culled from the full AAA collection. 

“Taken as a whole, this collection deepens understanding and draws attention to the critical ingredients in the making of violence, a phenomenon ubiquitous in the contemporary world,” notes editor Alisse Waterston (John Jay College, CUNY). Synthesizing major anthropological viewpoints on the topic, Dr. Waterston identifies a key feature of violence and raises central questions that anthropologists answer:  “Domination is a critical element. In what specific way is the playing field of social life uneven? Who uses violence, of what types, and to what ends?”

Content in Open Anthropology is selected from the full archive of AAA publications, curated into issues, and freely available on the internet for a minimum of six months, permitting any user to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles. Each issue is dedicated to topics of interest to the general public, and that may have direct or indirect public policy implications.

Popular Anthropology: Buttering Up Humanity

Today’s guest blog post is by Erin B. Taylor (ICS-UL) of PopAnth.

Some years ago, when I was working at The University of Sydney, a colleague of mine stopped me in the corridor to complain. “Nobody listens to anthropologists,” she lamented, “We have so many interesting things to say about the world, but people don’t pay any attention.”

I was puzzled. Not because I disagree on either count: I think she’s right that our voice gets subsumed to that of economists, political commentators, and publicists. I also agree that anthropologists can provide a historically-grounded, cross-culturally informed perspective on contemporary events that is of real social value.

My puzzlement, rather, was because to the best of my knowledge, this particular colleague never made any effort to be heard. She published exclusively in academic journals behind paywalls, didn’t do press releases, didn’t write for newspapers, didn’t even blog. Did she really expect that public servants, the media, and people at large would go to the effort of seeking out her and her opinions?

This encounter triggered a personal quest to find out more about the state of public anthropology. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only one. Thomas Hylland Eriksen, in his book Engaging Anthropology, writes that “Anthropology should have changed the world, yet the subject is almost invisible in the public sphere outside the academy” (2006:1). One of my favorite articles on the subject is by Greg Downey who, on his Neuroanthropology blog, argues that anthropology’s difficulties with engaging the public is at least partially a branding problem. He then presents a series of fascinating ideas on how to fix it.

There are plenty of anthropologists who are doing something about it. Anthropologists globally are publishing their work in news venues such as the BBC, the Financial Times, and the Trinidad Guardian. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of us are blogging our thoughts on personal and collective websites, including The Huffington Post and The Conversation. Others are interviewed on radio shows or run community workshops. The California Series in Public Anthropology provides an incentive for authors to write about their engagements with communities and policies. Our brand is looking better since Eriksen published his book in 2006.

One thing I noticed, however, is a lack of ways for anthropologists who would like to write for the public to get started. This is partially because too few academics are aware of what the possibilities are, as the work of their more public-facing colleagues remains largely invisible. There are also relatively few venues in which people can experiment with this kind of writing. Personal blogs are a beginning, but a chronic lack of feedback means that it’s hard to know whether you’re on the right track. And without having a sense of how you’re doing, it can be daunting to submit an article to a newspaper.

PopAnthThis was a major reason why Gawain Lynch, John McCreery and I began the community website PopAnth: Hot Buttered Humanity. We began building the site in July last year, after an exhaustive search turned up exactly zero generalist anthropology websites that are truly written for a popular audience. There are many brilliant blogs out there, but they either focus on narrow topics, or include academic content such as jargon or calls for papers. We deliberately designed PopAnth to cover all branches of anthropology because we wanted to see what kinds of topics would prove popular.

In just over a year since launch, the site has grown surprisingly fast, and last month we had 90,000 unique visitors (bots largely edited out of our analytics). This is a pretty impressive feat for a non-profit website that relies on a small crew of committed editors. I’m particularly happy that authors have been courageous enough to send us off-beat stories that otherwise might never have seen the light of day. Our articles have covered topics as diverse as the history of Rastafarianism in Jamaica, land use rights among footballers in Trinidad, metal theft in the United Kingdom, drug markets in Colombia, consumer freedom in Germany, and angry tourists in Madagascar.

What makes PopAnth work? In my opinion, it’s the effort we put in to making popular anthropology visible. We don’t just promote ourselves, we use our website and social media to promote popular anthropology wherever it is published: newspapers, blogs, books, TED talks, and so on. This increases our audience base and helps make anthropology a household name.

Crucially, we provide a mentoring service to new public writers, helping them polish their articles for PopAnth and gain confidence to submit their work to other venues. We also act as a hub connecting new popular authors to old hands. Because we publish on merit, not qualifications, our authors are just as likely to be undergraduates as they are to have regular columns in The Huffington Post or Psychology Today. This means that up-and-coming authors who aren’t sure where to publish can gain inspiration from seeing what their colleagues are doing.

What’s the next step in getting public anthropology out there? My feeling is that cross-promotion will help us all build our audiences and contributor bases. To this end, I’ve begun talking with people people from other groups, such as Savage Minds, DANG, Ethnography Matters, the Society for Visual Anthropology, and others about how we can best work together to stay in communication and build collaborations. I’d like to invite everyone to join the conversation in the PopAnth group at the Open Anthropology Cooperative. And, of course, if you want to write for PopAnth, you can check out our Contributions page. The more we write for the public, the more the public will be able to listen.

An Opportunity to Experience the Mexican American Community in Chicago


Photo courtesy Stephen L. Schensul

On Friday, November 22 from 8:00-9:30 am, anthropologists Stephen L. Schensul and Gwen Stern and colleagues from Mujeres Latinas en Accion  will present the session, “Anthropological Involvement in Advocacy and Development in the Mexican American Community in Chicago: A Forty-Five Year (1968-present) Case Study.” Following this session, participants are invited for a guided visit to the Pilsen Mexican American community, four miles from the Chicago Hilton, accessible by public transportation or an inexpensive taxi ride. We will start the visit at Mujeres from 10:30 to 11:30 to learn more about current research and programs, visit the National Museum for Mexican Art (just five blocks from Mujeres) from 11:45-12:45 and have lunch at a community restaurant. There will also be opportunities to purchase pan dulce in the panderias, shop in La Casa del Pueblo for chile, spices and salsa and purchase the finest tortillas in North America at El Milagro Tortillaria.

Register to attend the 112th AAA Annual Meeting today!


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