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Heritage Distancing

Have you read Douglas Reeser and Claire Novotny’s recent Anthropology News article on heritage distancing? The article, Destroying Nohmul, describes the destruction of an ancient Maya site in Belize. Read the entire article on the Anthropology News website, below is an excerpt:

A work crew excavating the Nohmul site to be hauled away as road-fill.Photo courtesy of  CTV3 Belize News.

A work crew excavating the Nohmul site to be hauled away as road-fill.Photo courtesy of CTV3 Belize News.

The bulldozing and destruction of the ancient Maya site at Nohmul, in the Orange Walk district of northern Belize, has recently received widespread international attention. The largest structure of the ancient ceremonial center was reduced to rubble for use as road-fill by a local contracting company, a widely condemned act that will likely result in minimal consequences for the perpetrators.  This incident, and others like it, are examples of the vulnerability of major historical sites, demonstrates the importance of the archaeological landscape for communities, and brings up issues of cultural heritage and engaged anthropology.

Nohmul was a medium-sized city founded in the Middle Preclassic period (650 BC – 350 BC). Interestingly, its fortunes waned during the Early Classic period (AD 100 – 250), when it was all but abandoned, only to be re-occupied during the Terminal Classic (AD 900 – 1000), when ties to the Yucatan peninsula are evident in its architecture and ceramic assemblage. Nohmul is one example of Maya longevity, memory, and re-use of important sites. When they re-occupied it in the Terminal Classic is was already an ancient place – at least 1000 years old. Nohmul has been a marker of place, history, and ancestral heritage for more than 2,000 years (see Hammond et al.).

Though a small nation, the Belizean landscape is blanketed with ancestral remains of the ancient Maya, from densely populated cities like Caracol to villages such as Chan in the Belize River Valley, as well as countless unnamed hamlets throughout the country. As the Director of the Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Jaime Awe, pointed out in a recent interview with Belize’s Channel 7 News, the size of the Institute of Archaeology is miniscule compared with the archaeological resources they are tasked to manage, and Awe’s frustration over the events at Nohmul is palpable in the interviews he has given to the press. This is not to minimize their significant efforts  – last year archaeologists from the IA successfully and efficiently excavated late Preclassic period archaeological remains encountered during road construction in downtown San Ignacio. They also actively oversee and grant permits to numerous archaeological research projects taking place throughout the country.

We Run For Boston

BostonHave you seen the latest article by Robert R. Sauders on Anthropology News? It’s a powerful piece about the rise of solidarity activism in the aftermath of tragedy, entitled “We Run for Boston“. Below is an excerpt:

On April 15, 2013, the 117th running of the Boston Marathon commenced with a starter’s pistol for mobility-impaired entrants at 9:00am; yet, unlike previous years, the 2013 marathon ended at 2:50pm when two explosive devices were detonated within a few hundred yards of the finish line. The bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon left three people dead – 8 year-old Martin Richard, 23 year-old Lu Lingzi and 29 year-old Krystle Campbell – and wounded more than 175 people. Due to the design of the bombs, many of the victims suffered severe shrapnel wounds to their lower extremities, with some so injured that amputation was necessary.

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston, people from across the United States and around the world expressed their shock over the brutality of the bombings, their anger with those who would perpetrate such actions and their sympathy with those who suffered injury and trauma. As medical professionals treated the wounded and law enforcement began the arduous process of collecting evidence to identify those responsible for the bombings, hundreds and thousands of ordinary people began organizing solidarity and fundraising efforts through social media tools. Within only a few short hours after the bombs ripped through Boylston Street, small groups dedicated to standing united with the Boston Marathon victims as well as with the city of Boston began appearing on Facebook, Twitter, blog and websites.

Read Sauder’s entire article on Anthropology-News.org.

A San Francisco Treat

Throughout the month of October, we’ll be giving readers gear for the Annual Meeting. Each day will be a different trivia question, so check back in daily for your chance to win. To answer the trivia question, you will need to leave your answer as a comment here on this blog. All the comments will be held for moderation until the end of the day. A commenter to answer the question correctly will be chosen at random to win an item of Annual Meeting gear. There will be one prize-winner each day. Once you win, you will be ineligible to win again during this blog series.

Today’s trivia question:

Anthropology News recently joined Twitter. What handle do you need to follow to stay up-to-date on the latest news in anthropology?

The AAA Annual Meeting will be held this year in San Francisco from November 14-18. If you have not done so already, be sure to book your hotel. You only have 5 days left to book your hotel at the discounted rate – don’t delay, book today!

New Language and Culture Series on Anthropology News

Anthropology News has a new series that is launching this week on language and culture. Check out the latest piece from Jonathan D. Rosa, entitled Contesting Representations of Immigration. This piece is the first in a series of four pieces on the vital issue of immigration from the perspective of linguistic anthropology that will appear over the course of the next week.  It is also the inauguration of a new set of formalized discussions on specific issues related to language and culture.

Here is an excerpt from Rosa’s article:

Ongoing debates about U.S. immigration reform have sparked calls for the media and the public to refrain from using terms like “illegals,” “illegal immigrants,” “illegal aliens,” etc. to refer to unauthorized migrants. As scholars who study the ways that language constitutes culture and vice versa, it is intellectually and ethically imperative for linguistic anthropologists to contribute to this discussion.

Much of the current debate surrounding this issue focuses on whether the term “illegal” is a truthful characterization of certain people’s migration status. For example, in the explanation that accompanied a 2011 update to the Associated Press Stylebook, widely regarded as the U.S. news media industry standard, Deputy Standards Editor David Minthorn suggested that “illegal immigrant” should be the preferred term because it is “accurate and neutral for news stories.” In contrast, organizations such as the Society of Professional Journalists have described “illegal immigrant” as a “politically charged” phrase that should be reevaluated for its potential violation of the widely embraced journalistic practice of assuming innocence until guilt is proven. Others have made the related case that “illegal” is at best a misleading generalization, at worst a slur. A person diagnosed with cancer is not described as cancerous; however, “illegal” becomes a way of characterizing not just one’s migration status, but also one’s entire person. This perspective has galvanized a campaign to “Drop the I-Word.”

The “Drop the I-Word” campaign resonates with a central tenet of linguistic anthropology: language is a not merely a passive way of referring to or describing things in the world, but a crucial form of social action. Thus we need to ask: What forms of social action take place in and through popular representations of immigration?

Read the entire article on Anthropology News.

Balancing Print and Online: More Anthropology News in 2013

*The following also appears in the October 2012 (53.8) issue of Anthropology News.

Before the internet, AN was instrumental in communicating deadlines and details, as well as discussing issues through commentaries and letters to the editor. However, the web’s accelerated pace of communication has made print AN content regarding upcoming events out-of-date by the time it gets in our readers’ hands. We also see that some of the most passionate discussions about anthropology occur online, where almost anyone can join the fray. A persistent question in the AN office for several years has been: how can AN remain a relevant resource and member benefit?

In 2011, we launched anthropology-news.org to provide faster publishing and more interactivity with AN essays. In spring 2012, AN conducted its regular readership survey. The previous one was conducted in 2008. In addition to our standard questions about reader satisfaction, we wanted to hear feedback about the best balance between AN in print and anthropology-news.org. We used those responses, as well as AN -related responses from other recent AAA surveys to guide us in moving forward.

2012 Survey Highlights

As in past surveys, members continue to highly value AN. The common refrain was that it helped members stay connected to anthropology overall by seeing what’s going on throughout the discipline. At the same time, many respondents struggled with what the AN editorial office also struggles with: a love of print but an understanding of its high cost for printing and distribution.

Anthropology-news.org is one year old, but we have to improve our communication about its availability, as only 38% of survey respondents had accessed the site at all in the four months before the survey. Numerous comments indicated a willingness to go to the website if they had known about it. Efforts to better communicate anthropology-news.org have begun with AN ’s Twitter feed that launched in May (@news4anthros), share buttons with each online essay, and monthly email alerts about content.

Continuous Online, Bimonthly Print

The challenge for planning AN in 2013 and beyond revolves around the critical need to balance the print-online relationship and develop AN ’s value for members without requiring a larger subsidy from membership. One way to maintain and increase AN ’s value for our members, supported by the survey, is to adjust it to be more visible, more timely, and more interactive than other AAA publications. We are already set up to do this online. When asked about AN print frequency options to help with costs, the most respondents (30%) supported eliminating print AN entirely. The second strongest response was 28% supporting AN in print six times a year. Regarding the current frequency, only 9% indicated support for keeping it at nine times a year.

Starting in January 2013, AN will publish essays and reports online first—and continually—on anthropology-news.org. AN staff will produce twelve thematic series and issues instead of nine. By publishing online first, the site will publish more short thematic series as well and be able to address more timely topics.

The AN print editions will feature the best of these anthropological contributions from the website and matters of record for the association. The print issue will have a bimonthly publishing cycle that runs throughout the calendar year, rather than a generally monthly one with a three-month summer hiatus. This change can also help AAA reach out to our members who work outside of the academy. The six print issues will be published at the beginning of January, March, May, July, September and November.

By flipping the model—online first, print second—we can publish more rich anthropological content in a more timely way with more voices, and then share in print the anthropology essays that turn out the best, spark the most conversation, or are shared the most by readers. This will enhance the AN website as a location for ongoing coverage with an increase in essays and discussions. All content will continue to be archived in AnthroSource.

The print issue will continue to include traditional newsletter content, remaining a conduit for association information. Some content may be published on anthropology-news.org and in print, such as the president’s column, association reports and death notices. These are items that generally do not appear on the AAA website or blog. Other content may be included just in print as part of the AAA historical record: election results, board minutes, donor recognition.

New AN

With this shift in AN’s publishing schedule, I’m also implementing a few editorial changes.

First, AN will increase to 12 issues per year at anthropology-news.org and on AnthroSource. Each issue will include all the main content (calendar and items from the right-hand sidebar omitted) published on anthropology-news.org in that calendar month. Essays (whether Opinion or In Focus pieces) will be selected for the print based on web metrics regarding usage, user feedback via online ratings and shares, pingbacks, discussion, and overall quality and length of the piece.

Content on anthropology-news.org will continue to be publically available, open access to all. To accommodate the flipped publishing schedule and to conserve server space, online content will be open for approximately four months, rather than the current two months.

For annual meeting information, AN will continue to inform members about the annual meeting city, deadlines, major events, and the call for proposals. However, some information, such as time and locations of specific sessions, benefits from more accurate and up-to-date information by being available only online. We have already been encouraging section and committee editors to disseminate such details through their online AN columns and listservs to limit out-of-date information in print AN.

Section News will also change. Section editors will contribute columns online at anthropology-news.org, and may do so as often as any individual contributing editor would like. As with the other essays, those columns with a focus on anthropological work, commentary or analysis may be selected for any print issue. AN is also setting aside space for Section News three times a year specifically in print: in the March, July and November print issues. The survey indicates that members do not find print AN the primary way to advertise upcoming events or to remain in touch with their sections. Furthermore, 67% of respondents indicated strong support for having section columns online only. The primary means of communication for section meeting details should be through listservs and other online communication.

In addition to being able to publish at any time on anthropology-news.org, contributing editors and columnists will be given a higher word count for their regular columns. Each column can be up to 1,000 words, as opposed to the strict current limit of 700 words for print columns. Any column pulled from the website for print publication may be up to 1,000. And each of the three print columns Sections have per year may also be up to 1,000 words.

This new publishing schedule will help allow AN to reach out to more people, in a more timely, relevant way. We developed anthropology-news.org to facilitate the publication and sharing of essays about all facets of anthropology with anthropologists, and help raise the profile of anthropology among potential anthropologists, media and the general public.

As I write this, AN has a new essay on the website by Harjant Gill called “Unthreatening the Sikh Turban.” The lead-in is about the shootings at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin on August 5. The essay shares insight only an anthropologist (or possibly a folklorist) could articulate. There will be more breaking news stories that could use the anthropological lens. AN is here to help you share that with members and the public.

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