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Anthropologists Uncover Harrowing Statistics On Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

A majority of researchers have knowledge of, been victimized by, or have observed sexual harassment while conducting fieldwork, based on an online survey sample of 666 respondents just published in PLOS One by Kathryn B.H. Clancy (U Illinois-Urbana-Champaign), Robin G. Nelson (Skidmore College), Julienne N. Rutherford (U Illinois-Chicago), Katie Hinde (Harvard U) (Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault).

The study revealed that the majority of those targeted for harassment and assault were undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers. In fact, “women trainees were disproportionately targeted for abuse, with women more often targeted by someone superior to them in the field site hierarchy. We worry this is at least one mechanism driving women from science,” said Dr. Clancy. Dr. Rutherford points out that “previous work by other researchers has shown that being targeted by one’s superior in the workplace has a more severe impact on psychological well-being and job performance than when the perpetrator is a peer, suggesting that women may be even more burdened than men by the phenomenon of workplace sexual aggression.”

In response to the team’s preliminary report at the April 2013 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) issued a statement declaring 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 of 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.” Dr. Nelson added, “In many instances, our participants reported a lack of knowledge regarding institutional policies or appropriate reporting channels when misconduct occurs. These results suggested that, in effect, many researchers were ill-equipped to advocate for themselves or others in cases of harassment or assault.”

The AAA has a long-term commitment to improving the status of women in anthropology, and maintains a standing Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology. The Committee is currently developing an educational initiative to better serve members, “Addressing Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment in Anthropology.” Committee Chair, Dr. Jennifer Wies, Associate Professor at Eastern Kentucky University, is leading this initiative. “Anthropologists have been researching and responding to sexual violence and sexual harassment in the field and at home for decades. The continued emphasis on this issue reminds us of the importance of proactive and effective prevention efforts and intervention strategies,” said Wies in an interview earlier today. Dr. Hinde concludes, “The discussion that emerges from the results published in PLOS One today provides an opportunity for our professional communities to come together and effect solutions to improve the experiences of our trainees and colleagues.”

 

 

 

 

Denver Museum to Return Totems to Kenyan Museum

Have you read the article featuring AAA members, Chip Colwell-Chanhaphonh (Denver Museum of Nature and Science), Linda Giles (Illinois Wesleyan U), Stephen Nash (Denver Museum of Nature and Science) and Monica Udvardy (U Kentucky), regarding the return of the totems to the National Museums of Kenya?

Here’s an excerpt:

Now, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science says it has devised a way to return the 30 vigango it received as donations in 1990 from two Hollywood collectors, the actor Gene Hackman and the film producer Art Linson. The approach, museum officials say, balances the institution’s need to safeguard its collection and meet its fiduciary duties to benefactors and the public with the growing imperative to give sanctified objects back to tribal people.

“The process is often complicated, expensive and never straightforward,” said Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, the museum’s curator of anthropology. “But just because a museum is not legally required to return cultural property does not mean it lacks an ethical obligation to do so.”

The museum this month will deliver its 30 vigango (pronounced vee-GON-go; the singular form is kigango) to the National Museums of Kenya. Officials there will choose whether to display the objects, hunt through the nation’s hinterlands for their true owners and original sites, or allow them to decay slowly and ceremoniously, as was intended by their consecrators. Whatever they opt to do, Kenyan officials say, sovereignty over the objects should be theirs and not in the hands of foreign museums.  (The details of the transfer are still being negotiated.)

But repatriating them takes far more than addressing a parcel. No federal or international laws prevent Americans from owning the totems, while Kenyan law does not forbid their sale. And the Kenyan government says that finding which village or family consecrated a specific kigango is arduous, given that many were taken more than 30 years ago and that agricultural smallholders in Kenya are often nomadic.

Some 20 institutions in the United States own about 400 of the totems, according to Monica L. Udvardy, a professor of anthropology at the University of Kentucky and an expert on Kenyan culture who has studied and tracked vigango for 30 years. She said that Kenyans believe that vigango are invested with divine powers and should never have been removed from their sites and treated as global art commodities. Kenyan officials have made constant pleas to have the objects sent back.

Read the entire article at The New York Times.

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.

RFP – Small Grants for Developing Ethics Curricular Materials

The AAA Small Grants Program seeks to foster the development and use of curricular materials for the teaching and communication of ethics and ethical practice across the discipline of anthropology. Administered by the AAA Committee on Ethics, this small grant program encourages the awareness of and innovation in ethics curricular materials used in introductory, undergraduate, and graduate classes. Proposals for the development of curricular materials in a variety of forms are welcome, including texts, films, blogs, websites, exhibits, and other innovative media forms.  The grant recipient(s) will have ten months to complete these new curricular materials, the results of which will be featured in the “Ethical Currents” column of the December issue of Anthropology News as well as on the AAA ethics blog, and highlighted at the Annual Meeting.

The deadline for proposals is November 8, 2013.

Click here for eligibility, proposal format and submission details.

RFP – Small Grants for Developing Ethics Curricular Materials

The AAA Small Grants Program seeks to foster the development and use of curricular materials for the teaching and communication of ethics and ethical practice across the discipline of anthropology. Administered by the AAA Committee on Ethics, this small grant program encourages the awareness of and innovation in ethics curricular materials used in introductory, undergraduate, and graduate classes. Proposals for the development of curricular materials in a variety of forms are welcome, including texts, films, blogs, websites, exhibits, and other innovative media forms.  The grant recipient(s) will have ten months to complete these new curricular materials, the results of which will be featured in the “Ethical Currents” column of the December issue of Anthropology News as well as on the AAA ethics blog, and highlighted at the Annual Meeting.

The deadline for proposals is November 8, 2013.

Click here for eligibility, proposal format and submission details.

Not So Picture Perfect

Image

What if I told you that a photograph was worth a thousand words? But what words? What if the words were “unethical” and “fiction”?

Though many would deny this claim, for the indigenous Maya people of Yucatán, it’s far from falsehood. What may have seemed like a typical act of journalism has in actuality created a slew of questions and concerns about the ethical validity in which photography plays in cultural perception.

For the Maya people, capturing suicide through photography isn’t the issue at hand but the way in which the photographs and reports are being presented to the public audience. Through images and articles “red” journalism has influenced the illusion that “Maya people have a cultural predisposition to suicide.” In The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean article “He Followed the Funereal Steps of Ixtab: The Pleasurable Aesthetics of Suicide in Newspaper Journalism in Yucat´an, Mexico ” By Beatriz Reyes-Foster, the issue of cultural misconception through media is addressed.

Though photography may portray images that allow room for misinterpretation, images also encourage us to engage in cultural aesthetics while also stimulating intellectual thinking and dialogue. A thousand words may not all perfectly fit into the “box” labeled “positive” but the conscious questioning and analyzing of these words is what drives progression towards ethical media.

Zero Tolerance for Sexual Harassment

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.

Scientists Respond to The New York Times

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.

Indiana Jones is to Anthropology as Fred Flintstone is to Neolithic Life

Below is a copy of the Letter to the Editor of the New York Times Magazine by President Mullings in response to the recent article by Emily Eakin.

To the Editor,

While we recognize that the figure of Indiana Jones is attractive, it is about as useful for understanding anthropology as Fred Flintstone is for understanding life in the Neolithic. Your article perpetuates an outdated and narrow stereotype of our profession. The 11,000 members of the American Anthropological Association alone actually spend their time doing a vast array of things. Today’s anthropologists can be found in such diverse endeavors as leading the World Bank, designing health care for areas devastated by disaster, or researching  the causes of the 2008 recession or the deaths of 100 boys in a defunct reform school in Florida. The  representation of a field paralyzed by  debates about  ‘science, ’ vs. ‘advocacy ’ is similarly inaccurate, given the non-polarized ways most anthropologists today understand ‘science’, ‘advocacy’ and the nature of the field. The article also misses one of Napoleon Chagnon’s lasting legacies to our field: the reminder to engage in constant reflection about anthropological ethics. The American Anthropological Association recently did just that, releasing its new Statement on Ethics: Principles of Professional Responsibility in October 2012. Finally, we consider lively debate neither dangerous nor self-serving: it is a key to knowledge.

Leith Mullings
President
American Anthropological Association
Distinguished Professor
Graduate Center, City University of New York

Small Grant Award for Developing Ethics Curricular Materials Announced

On behalf of the American Anthropological Association, the Committee on Ethics (COE) is pleased to announce the Small Grant Award for Developing Ethics Curricular Materials has been made to Elisa J. Gordon, PhD MPH and her collaborator, David Perlman, PhD for their project, Research Ethics Learning Modules for Medical Anthropology and Ethnography.

Elisa J Gordon

Elisa J. Gordon, PhD MPH
Photo courtesy of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

The curriculum project will produce a series of self-paced, voice-over video slide shows in HTML5 with a Creative Commons copyright, making the learning modules free to the public. The modules will be hosted on the web, including Bioethics 2.0™ and Project Phobos™ websites. An instructor’s guide will provide additional guidance for incorporating the modules into existing curricula, with a bibliography of additional resources. The investigators have prior experience in bioethics education and developed a broad dissemination plan through professional association meetings and multiple internet venues.

David Perlman, PhD.Photo courtesy Penn Medical Center for Bioethics

David Perlman, PhD.
Photo courtesy Penn Medical Center for Bioethics

Drs. Gordon and Perlman will report on their work in the “Ethical Currents” column of the Anthropology News in the coming year.

The COE applauds this collaborative application for its attention to practical issues of research ethics, the conduct of anthropological research and mechanisms of regulatory oversight.

The COE is a standing committee of the AAA charged with advancing the theory and application of ethics to anthropological research and practice across the discipline.

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