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The Anthropologist’s Guide to the Government Shutdown

Is the government shutdown affecting anthropologists? Absolutely.

Many anthropologists work for federal agencies like the the Department of Agriculture, the National Park Service and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These agencies, as well as others, rely on members of our discipline to study, research and provide perspective on how  agency policy affects US citizens in real time. Unfortunately, with the shutdown, many of their activities may be considered “non-essential” and they will be furloughed. Alternatively, they may be considered “essential” and asked to work without pay.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has provided a list of agency contingency plans so that citizens can see how each agency plans to approach the shutdown, including a description of which employees and employee activities are considered essential to Federal government operations. We encourage members to review these lists, and contact their member of Congress to let them know that not only should the current budget impasse be resolved quickly, but also that anthropologists provide an essential role in our government.

If you are a government employee, we’d love to hear your stories about how the shutdown is affecting you so we can communicate your stories to Congress.  We promise to keep your identity private. Send your messages to ddozier@aaanet.org.

The African Diaspora: Integrating Culture Genomics and History Symposium

African Diaspora

The African Diaspora: Integrating Culture Genomics and History Symposium will be held at Baird auditorium, National Museum of Natural History on Thursday September 12, 2013, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.  It is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Museum of Natural History, in partnership with the National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health.

The day-long symposium brings together health care professionals, geneticists, anthropologists, historians, researchers, artists, museum curators and directors, genetic testing industry representatives, among others to discuss what we can learn about the interplay between culture, genomics and history as it relates to the African Diaspora and identity.

An evening public event, Searching  for Your Roots, follows. The symposium and evening program are free; space is limited however, so an online registration is required.

Please visit www.strategicresults.com/africandiaspora  for the agenda and to register.

 For further information on this message, contact Mary Jo Arnoldi, Anthropology, NMNH, x3-1937 (VoIP) or 202-633-1937 (non-VoIP), arnoldim@si.edu

100 most downloaded articles from AnthroSource

I am often asked about the most read articles. Looking at just the AnthroSource platform (which sits on Wiley Online Library), it’s amazing that at the top of the list is the 1956 American AnthropologistBody Ritual of the Nacerima”– downloaded 11,413 times in 2012 alone. Which article is number 2? Check out AAA Top 100 Articles of 2012(PDF version). All the articles listed will be ungated through the summer.

And the answer to the poll will be posted on the 25th.

YouTeach: Films in the Anthropology Classroom

The right film with the right conversation can transform a classroom by illustrating for students what words alone cannot animate. As the fall semester gets underway, I thought I’d round up some of the best lists about teaching anthropological concepts with videos.

As S. Elizabeth Bird and Jonathan Godwin compellingly illustrate in their study (AAA members can access the article for free through AnthroSource by first logging in and then going to Anthropology & Education Quarterly Vol 37, No. 3: p. 285), good visual material needs context and clear connections to the concepts being taught in class, or else a professor may inadvertently reinforce ethnocentric stereotypes.

The following three recent lists include video that is used by your anthropological colleagues, but also provide some context for the types of conversations that might be
catalyzed:

  1. The Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges details films used by its members
  2. The blog Somatosphere has a post detailing films used in medical anthropology classes
  3. The Royal Anthropological Institute created lists by thematic topic (scroll down to section “Using Ethnographic Films”)

In addition to these tried and true filmographies, the AAA’s Teaching Materials Exchange includes more than 100 syllabus. Many, many classes use fascinating visual materials to teach about gender, religion, and human rights. Here are some specific materials you might search out to see how the professor is using film:

  • Jason Antrosio’s ENVIRONMENTAL ANTHROPOLOGY SYLLABUS
  • David Ayers’ MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
  • Eriberto Lozada’s INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOCULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY
  • Amy Margaris’ INTRODUCTION TO ARCHAEOLOGY
  • Ann Ross’ INTRODUCTION TO FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGY
  • Lois Stanford INTRODUCTION TO WORLD CULTURES

What is Earth Day Now?

This special Earth Day post is by the Chair of the AAA Task Force of Global Climate Change, Shirley Fiske.

The annual tradition of honoring Planet Earth is coming up again on April 22nd.  Even though the founders of Earth Day claim international reach and support, it seems to me its essence is quintessentially American.  Earth Day as a custom embodies the Western world view of the environment as the “other.”  On Earth Day we tend to objectify and celebrate our Environment Earth and do green things for a day, like recycling.  One of you (us anthropologists) out there has probably done a study of it Earth Day in its cultural context.

Knowing that I was going to do a blog spot on Earth Day for the AAA, I found myself musing about what Earth Day means to us with my friend Fani – also an anthropologist.  Nowadays musing over coffee really means Skyping, because she is in Georgia.  But we mused nonetheless.

We discovered that neither of us has ever been to an Earth Day event, even though they are ubiquitous over the years.  I worked for the federal government, and every single agency has special events and activities devoted to Earth Day – of course in concert with their mission, whether it’s housing or clean oceans.  Why haven’t we been to any Earth Day celebrations and how broad is that experience?

After all, Earth Day will be celebrating its 42nd anniversary this year, the first one being April 22, 1970.  On its web site, Earth Day organizers link the event to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.  In fact the 1970’s were marked by bipartisan support for far-reaching environmental laws, in part due to Rachel Carson’s book The Silent Spring but also growing awareness of human’s impact on our streams, rivers, and air. 1970 marked the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  A whole raft of environmental management laws were passed in the 1970s.  The National Environmental Policy Act was passed in 1969, the Clean Air Act in 1970, the Coastal Zone Management Act and the original Clean Water Act in 1972, the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act 1976, and 1976 the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act for solid waste management.

Arguably the 1970s were the last time we were able to agree as a civic society and body politic on the importance of the environment in multifaceted and sweeping way.  Certainly the attempt to deal with climate change policy—another opportunity to affect sweeping environmental changes—ended in a dismal failure (but how that happened in the topic of my next blog).

Why haven’t we been engaged?  My friend Fani opined that she never felt motivated to go to Earth Day events.  She grew up absorbing all this stuff.  She and her progressive parents were already “there” living in an earth-friendly way.  I grew up in a conservation-minded household in California where water was more valuable than gold and all God’s creatures had a place in our homestead ecology.

So we mused about whether Earth Day has been effective and reaches out to people who don’t ordinarily think about things like renewable fuels, waste, wastewater, and solid waste disposal. We suspect that it does reach people at some level – it works as environmental education, in a way, especially for children in schools where teachers can package Earth Day with other earth science topics and get kids outside to experience Earth.  There are more kids nowadays that don’t get outside than ever before – that don’t experience the environment.  The “no child left inside” movement is evidence of this.

Perhaps, we thought, it’s a generational thing – and that now there’s a generation of people who grew up with it.  Is it still relevant now?  Do we need a wholly different concept to re-direct peoples’ attention to the complex of phenomena that cause climate change?  As the Chair of the newly formed AAA Task Force on Global Climate Change, I am constantly musing with friends and task force members about the phenomenon of climate change and all its human dimensions and impacts.  It is the next environmental and humanitarian crisis, it’s not limited to the U.S., and it’s happening now across the globe.   Earth Day came from a time in our social history when we had bipartisan support and social momentum for widespread environmental change within the U.S..  We are now at a different point in our social history with highly polarized views on climate change and the environment.  We need now a fundamentally different way of thinking about ourselves as part of the environment rather than the environment being “out there” where we can “fix” the problems with technology.  It is fundamentally more complex than the problems of the 1970s, which could be regulated in (for then) typical top-down, command and control regulatory policy. New ways of envisioning ourselves as part of the climate machinery are needed for the future.   I invite you to follow and comment on these blog postings surrounding this Earth Day.

A Champion of the Poor to Lead the World Bank

The following is a guest post submitted by Mark Schuller, Assistant Professor, African American Studies and Anthropology Department of Social Sciences York College, City University of New York. The piece is written by Philippe Bourgois, Richard Perry University Professor of Anthropology and Family & Community Medicine, University of Pennsylvania and Luke Messac, MD/PhD student, University of Pennsylvania

For many European and American citizens the World Bank is a peripheral institution, rarely felt and barely understood. But in impoverished developing countries, the Bank has exerted a tremendous influence over national budgets profoundly altering the survival strategies and basic life chances of the poor majorities of those nations.  As a hegemonic voice in development economics, the World Bank is a felt–and often feared– presence in the lives of the world’s most destitute.  Too often, this well-heeled international lender’s imposition of “structural adjustment reforms” has backfired, harming more than helping the poor.  This month’s election of a new World Bank President is an unparalleled opportunity to refashion the Bank into the effective instrument to eradicate global poverty it was meant to be. No one is better equipped to lead this mammoth undertaking than Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President Obama’s nominee to lead the World Bank. Continue reading

Committee for the Future of Print and Electronic Publishing invites conversation

Anthropological publishing is undergoing rapid change as digital technologies, new forms of presentation, and an increasing desire to move to the free distribution of knowledge unfold. Whether existing models of publishing can be sustained is questionable. The AAA is currently assessing its own publication program and seeking to understand how that articulates with the wider realm of anthropological publishing. We need to understand current and emerging trends in the dissemination of knowledge so we can position the AAA to support its members in their intellectual activities.

In Montreal, the Committee for the Future of Print and Electronic Publishing and the Committee on Practicing, Applied, and Public Interest Anthropology co-sponsored sessions to expand the conversation about the future of the AAA publishing program. The first set of speakers discussed the services of the program and a second set of speakers spoke to the future directions and sustainability. Some speakers did not sign releases and so we did not record their papers.

We invite anyone who could not come to Montreal or who could not come to the sessions to view these papers, to look at earlier blog posts (October 18, October 25, and November 9), and to join us in thinking about the long-term options and opportunities.

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