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Anthropology in The Miami Herald

Yesterday writer Mary Jo Melone wrote an op-ed piece in The Miami Herald in response, or lack there of, by Governor Rick Scott of Florida and the recent findings by forensic anthropologists at the Dozier School for Boys. The piece, entitled Gov. Scott, anthropology and Dozier School for Boys is below:

When it comes to bad news, the truth is always inconvenient. And so it was last week, when forensic anthropologists from the University of South Florida reported on the expanding horrors at the now-shuttered Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, where, in the state’s name, boys in trouble were sent for over a century.

The anthropologists found that 96 children and two adults died, including two 6-year-olds. Fifty graves have been found on the property, not the 31 that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reported two years ago. Nothing remarkable about its number, FDLE said then.

Hooey, said the men who still bear the scars of being there.

Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam has asked the FDLE to review the anthropologists’ claims and report to the governor and the Cabinet.

Although the Juvenile Justice Department has said it will cooperate further with the University of South Florida researchers — who suspect the existence of a second burial ground at Dozier — the current occupant of the governor’s mansion has been silent as a stone on the subject.

It may be that Gov. Rick Scott still doesn’t understand that much of a governor’s most important work is symbolic, and that it is vital that the man who represents the state represent its highest moral standards in both action and speech.

Or it could be that Gov. Scott knows that if he speaks about the University of South Florida investigators’ findings about Dozier, he’ll get tongue-tied when it’s time to utter the word anthropology.

Last year, the governor complained about how useless the subject was. He was talking about his desire to shift state university spending away from the liberal arts and put the money into science, technology, engineering and math — the so-called STEM fields — because that’s where he believes all the jobs are.

“Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” Scott asked. “I don’t think so.”

There has been much speculation that the governor singled out anthropology because his daughter holds an undergraduate degree in the field. Perhaps he disapproved and extended his ideas of being a dad and of pleasing a dad to state policy.

Whatever it was, Scott earned the wrath of the American Anthropological Association and anthropology faculty across the state.

Moreover, what came off as his disdain for the liberal arts in general created fear over the future of liberal arts.

Those are the so-called mushy fields, like history, English and psychology, in which people reflect on who we are and what and where we’ve been — on other words, on the human condition.

It’s a subject that also affects the governor, who sometimes needs to be reminded of his own humanity. (Remember testing welfare recipients for drugs?)

Now the University of South Florida department website includes a video response to the governor, in which numerous graduate students detail the kind of work they do in all kinds of fields: healthcare for veterans and farm workers, attendance at state parks, homicide investigations, consumer use of technology, and, the grad students said, the development of statistics he has used to support his argument on behalf of STEM education.

With the Dozier investigation, you could also argue that anthropologists peer into the darkest corners of the human experience and Florida history.

Gov. Scott probably won’t send anthropologists any more money. However, given the work the anthropologists did at Dozier, at least he should send the researchers at the University of South Florida a thank-you note.

Mary Jo Melone, a former columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, is a writer in Tampa.

To read the original article, visit The Miami Herald.

Experienced Meeting Goer Provides Presentation Tips To Newbies

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA member, Kirsten Bell. Bell discusses how to present a paper at an anthropology conference.

How to deliver a paper at an anthropology conference

By Kirsten Bell

Academic conferences, as several observers have noted, are a singularly understudied phenomenon.  One of the more profound insights on this topic is to be found in an article by Jacobs and McFarlane published in, of all places, the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.  They note that conferences are sites where inexperienced neophytes learn how to become professionals – how to (quite literally) walk the walk and talk the talk.   While we learn from the practices and attributes of our individual teachers, it is only at our discipline’s most cherished events that we get to see The Anthropologist as a larger species of academic in all of his or her glory.  Thus, more than any other academic pursuit, be it fieldwork, writing or teaching, it’s at conferences that we learn how to inhabit an anthropological habitus.

At some level, we’re all aware of this.  Certainly, for those budding anthropologists who have never previously presented at an academic conference, they can be a nerve-wracking affair.   If not careful, one can become the academic equivalent of a gauche guest at a dinner party, or the Nigel-No-Friends on the playground ignored by other students and picked last for team sports.

I learnt this lesson the hard way at the Australian Anthropological Society conference in 1997, where I presented my first paper.   Having never previously attended a conference, much less presented at one, I turned to my older sister, a geologist, for advice.  Amongst her several pearls of wisdom were the instructions to ‘use PowerPoint. Everyone’s doing it’.[1]  She then gave me her own personalized template (blue background with yellow writing, fashionable amongst scientists in the mid 1990s and heartily despised by the time it finally went out of fashion a decade later) and I diligently made up my slides, paid to get them transferred onto actual slides[2] and took the slide box with me to the conference.

The conference paper was an abysmal failure.  While my unfortunate mispronunciation of the word ‘cacophany’[3] didn’t help matters, I blame the PowerPoint slides for the paper’s poor reception.  Afterwards, the academic who chaired the session politely informed me that while the use of PowerPoint might be de rigueur in scientific circles, it wasn’t at all the thing amongst anthropologists, as our complex and abstract ideas didn’t lend themselves well to bullet points on a slide.  Clearly, my fatal error was asking a geologist for advice on how to communicate at an anthropology conference, which, as it turned out, was rather like asking an ice hockey player what strategies suit competitive netball.

In light of the upcoming AAA Meeting in San Francisco, and in the spirit of offering collegial advice to a new generation of anthropologists forced to navigate the shark-infested waters that constitute the typical academic conference, I’ve compiled a list of how to present papers at anthropology conferences.  However, before I outline these tips there’s one fundamental piece of advice I need to impart.  You must disabuse yourself of any naïve notion that conferences are about disseminating knowledge and sharing intellectual ideas.  It’s precisely these sorts of pie-in-the-sky fantasies that will get you into trouble.  As Erving Goffman pointed out in Forms of Talk, if one’s goal is merely to transmit information, an academic talk is an extraordinarily ineffective way to do it.  We don’t attend talks to actually learn something new but to imbibe the essence of the speaker’s identity. To quote Goffman, “To the degree that the speaker is a significant figure in some relevant world or other, to that degree this access has a ritual character, in the… sense of affording supplicants preferential contact with an entity held to be of value” (p. 187). Continue reading

Anthropology and Middle Class Working Families: A Research Agenda

Did you know that AAA’s Online Store offers a variety of works and books on anthropology?

Anthropology and Middle Class Working Families: A Research Agenda is a guide for anthropologists researching the topic. Edited by Mary Margaret Overbey and Kathryn Marie Dudley, this work is described in the preface:

The Research Agenda marks the final step of a project spearheaded by the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to stimulate interest and inquiry among anthropologists in middle class working families and to strengthen this area of research within anthropology. The ending of project we see as a new beginning and resurgence of anthropological studies on the conditions and concerns of middle class working families.

To review the table of contents and place your order, click here.

The Anthropology and Middle Class Working Families: A Research Agenda is available for purchase at a special rate of $5.00 for AAA members. Order your copy, today!

For The Love of Anthropology

Valentine’s Day is one of those tricky holidays that people either love or love to hate. Which ever camp you side with, one thing is certain – your love for anthropology. What is it about anthropology that drew you to the field?

Were you one of those students who started college as an Anthropology major? Or did you have a professor that shared their contagious passion for anthropology with you? Perhaps you now are teaching the next generation of anthropologists or a practitioner leaving your anthropological mark in the most unusual place.

Whatever your love story may be, we want to hear it. Jot down your lines of love for anthropology in the comment section. On Friday, we’ll re-post the compiled love stories here on the AAA blog.

Call for Papers: Association for Feminist Anthropology Sessions

The Association for Feminist Anthropology welcomes sessions to be considered for inclusion in AFA’s programming for the 111th AAA Annual Meeting, to be held November 14-18, 2012 in San Francisco. The AAA meeting theme this year is “Borders,” so AFA particularly welcomes panels that take up “borders” from a feminist anthropological perspective. Various approaches to the theme include papers and sessions that might explore:

  • Borders/collaborations/intersections between feminist anthropology and other scholarly spaces from within and beyond anthropology: critical race studies, queer studies, and/or women’s studies; linguistics and genetics; political science, geography, environmental, and/or policy studies; migration and immigration studies and/or economics and archaeology and/or ethnography; biology/history/cultural studies; masculinity and/or gender studies; educational psychologies and social work; etc., etc., etc.
  • Existing or potential conversations/alliances/engagements between scholarly anthropology and everyday activism
  • Geographical, political, and ecological borders and the people who move across and re-define them: histories/archaeologies/economies of trade, trafficking, and/or transnationalism; refugees, resettlements, and asylum seekers; multiple and multiplying citizenships; migration, immigration, and diasporas; etc.
  • “Borders” and “borderlands” in terms of identities: liminal; queer; mestizaje; mixed-race; transgender
  • The “in between” scholar working across/between/among disciplines; conducting research and participating within communities; “insider anthropology”; Lorde’s concept and Harrison’s theorizing of the “outsider within”

We are especially interested in sessions that take advantage of the meeting site of San Francisco by involving local activists, practitioners, and policy makers, whether they are anthropologists or not. If you have questions about the details of registration for non-anthropologists, please let us know.

Also, if submitting for AFA invited or sponsored status, please consider whether your panel could be co-sponsored by AFA and either one or multiple other sections of the AAA. This allows AFA to maximize its presence in the program, gain a potentially greater audience for your panel, and cross the “borders” among AAA sections.

Deadlines:

February 1: Online abstract submission system opens on AAA website
March 15:
Deadline for submitting proposed sessions for section invited status consideration and public policy forums via www.aaanet.org
April 4:
Results of section invited session proposals announced by section program committee chairs
April 15:

  1. Proposal deadline for volunteered sessions, individual paper and poster presentations, media submissions and special events via www.aaanet.org
  2. Participants must be registered for the meeting by this date for inclusion in 2012 AAA Annual Meeting program

April 16-May 31: Section program co-chairs review and rank paper and session proposals
July 1-15:
Program decisions emailed to applicants

For more information, and to submit a proposed session, please contact 2012 Program Chairs: Susan Harper (sharperbisso@twu.edu) and Jennifer Patico (jpatico@gsu.edu).

Please also consider student-focused workshop ideas for AFA sponsorship. To learn more, or submit a proposal, contact Sophie Bjork-James, at (sbjorkjames@gmail.com).

What Anthropologists Do, and What They Do Wrong in Business

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA member, Ashkuff. Read more posts on Ashkuff’s blog: http://www.ashkuff.com

Put simply? Sociocultural anthropologists specialize in describing one group of people, to other groups of people. Obviously, with such a broad yet elegant specialization, sociocultural anthropologists should find themselves awash in more political, business, and consultancy opportunities. So why don’t we?

We sometimes get lost in communicating with our research subjects, and forget how to communicate with our audiences. Unsurprisingly, research creates little opportunity, if nobody understands it. Take, for example, the communication habits of American sociocultural anthropologists (abbr. “anthropologists”) versus mainstream American businesspeople (abbr. “businesspeople”).

Anthropologists communicate via thick description and comprehensive ethnographies, based on extended field research. By contrast, businesspeople communicate concisely, in terms of deliverability and value generation (i.e. “the bottom line.”) Although businesspeople certainly need “other” groups explained to them — foreign labor forces, new market segments, multiculturalism within their own workspaces, et cetera — businesspeople usually cannot process what anthropologists have to say about those other groups. Therefore, it’s on us job-seeking anthropologists to understand businesspeople just as deeply as we understand our own research subjects, and communicate our research accordingly.

Remember, of course, communication breakdowns between anthropologists and businesspeople are only one example. Anthropologists also communicate with politicians, lawyers, jurors, grantors, activists, home viewers and readers. I urge anthropologists to prioritize communication with any audience, just as they prioritize communicating with their research subjects.

— Ashkuff | www.ashkuff.com | How to venture out of “armchair” scholarship and into action? One anthropologist tackles business, occultism and violence! He gets spooked and roughed up a lot.

NEW! Anthropology News website

The Anthropology News website launched today!

Bookmark www.anthropology-news.org into your favorites.

Check in with the Anthropology News website often for exclusive online news, resources and commentary that compliments the print Anthropology News you already enjoy.

This month, in honor of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the website features memorials and memorialization. Essays will be available at the Anthropology News website through October.

AAA Member Elected President of American Institute of Pakistan Studies

Congratulations to AAA member, Kamran Asdar Ali in the recent presidential election for the American Institute of Pakistan Studies. He will begin presidency of the American Institute of Pakistan Studies this fall.

Ali is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin.

AAA Member, Johnnetta Betsch Cole Receives the 2011 Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award at Smithsonian Event

Photo by: Frank Khoury

The Smithsonian Associates and the Creativity Foundation have named Johnnetta Betsch Cole, anthropologist, author and educator, the recipient of the 10th annual Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award. Cole will discuss the role of creativity in her life and work with philanthropist, educator and documentary producer Camille Cosby Friday, April 8, at 7 p.m. in Ring Auditorium in the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum.

The Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award honors and celebrates the world’s most creative thinkers and innovators in the arts, sciences and humanities, in both traditional and emerging disciplines. Previous recipients were Yo-Yo Ma, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Eric Kandel, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Jules Feiffer, Ted Turner, Meryl Streep, Lisa Randall and Greg Mortenson. Tickets for the award ceremony and interview are $25 for general admission and $15 for Associate members. For tickets and information call (202) 633-3030 or visit www.smithsonianassociates.org.

Cole is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, the only national museum in the United States dedicated to the collection, exhibition, conservation and study of the arts of Africa. Cole is also the board chair of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute, founded at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. The mission of the nonprofit institute is to create, communicate and continuously support the case for diversity and inclusion in the workplace through education, training, research and publications.

Cole gained national prominence in 1987 as the first African American woman president of Spelman College, which became the number-one ranked liberal arts college in the South under her leadership. Cole’s work in academia and anthropology, and her published work span more than four decades and reflect a deep and abiding commitment to racial and gender equality that is rooted in her upbringing. Cole will receive the Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award for her richness of ideas and originality of thinking.

New PhD Program at George Washington University

In contrast to our recent post about schools closing anthropological programs, we are pleased to find the Anthropology department at George Washington University to be flourishing to the point that they need to expand to a PhD program in Anthropology.

George Washington’s Anthropology Department was established in 1892. Faculty train students in the fields of Sociocultural Anthropology, Archaeology, Linguistic Anthropology and Biological Anthropology.

The department’s long-standing partnership with the Smithsonian and access to Washington, DC’s archival collections and influential policy-making institutions encourage intellectual creativity, effective communication and vigorous scholarship.

The department is seeking candidates with a strong background in anthropology or related disciplines. Contact Professor Richard Grinker or visit the website for more information. Applications will be accepted in the Fall of 2011.

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