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Sabiyha Prince, An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by Sabiyha Prince (Coppin State U). Dr. Prince 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!

S. Prince

I am an adjunct professor at Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland and a researcher and qualitative data analyst for the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum of Washington, D.C. which is currently closed due to the government shutdown.  As a cultural anthropologist I have been interested in the unfolding elements of race, class, and other aspects of status and identity as these overlap to shape the conditions and experiences of African Americans in cities. This is a focus that has led me to look at socioeconomic diversity among Blacks in the U .S. and to explore the continued legacy of racial inequality in the contemporary period.  Most recently my research and writing have resulted in my second book, African Americans and Gentrification in Washington, D.C. Race, Class and Social Justice in the Nation’s Capital (2014).

This forthcoming book uses qualitative data to explore the experiences and ideas of African Americans as they confront and construct gentrification in Washington, D.C.  It contextualizes Black Washingtonians’ perspectives on belonging and attachment during a marked period of urban transformation and demographic change and attends to the impact of hierarchies and standpoints over time.  I present oral history and ethnographic data on current and former African American residents of D.C. and combine these with analyses from institutional, statistical, and scholarly reports on wealth inequality, shortages in affordable housing, and rates of unemployment in Washington, D.C.  Completing this project led me to glossed-over histories of a people and a place too often narrowly construed within adherence to an inside or outside the beltway conceptual dichotomy.  Among my most central findings is the conclusion that gentrification seizes upon and fosters uneven development, vulnerability and alienation in affected communities.  While proponents deploy the language of multiculturalism and diversity in support of gentrification I noted heightened forms class and race-based tension in areas that have experienced this type of urban restructuring.

I am also a longtime proponent of an engaged anthropology and, as such, have worked with grassroots organizers in Washington, D.C. and anti-war, environmental justice and anti-apartheid social movements in D.C. and New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Back to School program appealed to me on a number of levels although I will admit to mildly panicking after coming on board because I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to share.  I have volunteered to work at The Field Museum site but when I was told Power Point presentations would not be possible I began to fear I would bore the pants off of the students in my attempt to support such an important initiative.  This all changed after I read Julie Lesnik’s guest blog posting and became inspired.  As I began ruminating on strategies for incorporating my own research into the process my mind turned to urban change and rested on the D.C. residents without whose cooperation I would have had absolutely nothing to write about in my book.  Certain the students I would come to meet in Chicago would have folks in their lives with stories in need of recording, I decided to lead mini-workshops designed to empower young people around using anthropology to explore their neighborhoods and/or surrounding areas.

The details of my plan are coming together but my goal is to imbue students with (or reinforce in them) a sense of how valuable their own communities are – even those in which residents are experiencing challenges.  I will provide handouts with listings of community assets – broadly considered – and questions students can ask of potential participants in their self-constructed projects.  I intend to encourage those who visit me at the museum to either interview select neighbors or members of their social networks and/or engage in small acts of ethnographic observation within their communities.  It is my hope that this project will inspire students to look at their communities through fresh eyes and encourage them to consider the value of anthropological inquiry.  It is also possible students can use some of the suggestions I will share to complete homework assignments or school projects.

Lisa Gonzalez, An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by Lisa Gonzalez (Wayne State U). Gonzalez is a doctoral student in the Business and Organizational Anthropology Department. She 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!

Lisa GonzalezI became interested in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative due to my passion of introducing young people to anthropology early on in their academic studies. I have followed the success of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s A-level Anthropology Program and had hoped to some day participate in a similar U.S. based program, whenever one is developed. I am pleased that AAA is taking the lead with this concept and look forward to many more opportunities to increase the awareness of Anthropology as a career to young people in the U.S.

During the Anthropologists Back to School initiative, I will lead a program on Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific at The Field Museum. I plan to discuss my interests in the culture and daily lives of Native Hawaiian people living in the Pacific today. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a cross-cultural exchange activity with Hawaiian youth while at the same time learning “what” anthropologists do and “how” they go about collecting research data.

Introducing young people in primary and secondary schools to Anthropology will increase their thinking about other cultures. Through their engagement with this program, they will develop a deeper understanding of themselves and how they fit into the world.

Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

Cynthia Fowler, An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by Cynthia (Cissy) Fowler. Dr. Fowler is an Associate Professor at Wofford College, Secretary of the Society of Ethnobiology, and co-Editor of Ethnobiology Letters.  She conducts transdisciplinary research on society and nature. In her fieldwork in Eastern Indonesia’s dry monsoonal tropics, she studies the materialization of fire — fire as a creative expression of social relations and ecological perceptions.

Dr. Fowler 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!

Cissy FowlerThe Anthropologists Back to School initiative caught my attention because it is an outlet for connecting with and contributing to the community beyond the meeting rooms and conference hotel during the AAA Annual Meeting. I selected the Field Museum host site with colleagues Isabella Abuchaibe and Natalie Bump. The Anthropologists Back to School initiative provides an unusual opportunity to experience the Field Museum in potentially meaningful ways, where we can be both observers and interpreters of the exhibits. It also provides an opportunity to support the teaching mission of Wofford College, where I work. Other Wofford faculty inspire me with their publications, grants, and continuing education related to teaching excellence and service through education.

I hope to share my fascination with the diverse, colorful, sometimes inspiring and sometimes troubling character of human-environment interactions. In my life-long pursuit of inspiration, I have witnessed many beautiful places and encountered many amazing creatures.  Along the way, I have met inspiring people who have sustainable (and other) lifeways and compelling (and humdrum) beliefs.  Anthropology provides the most amazing tools for understanding those people relative to Earth’s ecosystems.

During the program, we will guide school children through interactive experiences as they move through the “Restoring Earth” exhibit hall.  “Restoring Earth” already operates as an interactive exhibit, thus it will be easy for us to play off of that set up.  We will spotlight the Field Museum’s ongoing conservation-related projects with indigenous peoples in Amazonia, Peru, the Philippines, and other places/communities where their scholars work.  As an anthropologist, I’d like to infuse the exhibit with lessons about how anthropologists determine the role people have had through time in maintaining, creating, destroying, and/or conserving biodiversity.  We will discuss biocultural diversity during which we will emphasize the association between megabiodiverse regions and cultural/linguistic diversity. We will also point to the importance of considering the presence or absence of people in conservation areas and the implications of those alternatives for diversity.

Writing and delivering our presentation will be a collaborative effort between Isabella, Natalie, and myself.  Isabella’s special interest is in American food industries.  Natalie will share her special interest on the restoration of nature in the Chicago area drawing from her research on the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. And my special interest is in social justice and global change. The umbrella theme for our three segments will be the value of anthropology for understanding Earth’s processes and resolving the problems the Earth and its people face in ways that are socially just and ecological sound.

The children’s greatest take home message will be a recognition that culture has a major influence on people’s perceptions of environments and the ways people manage landscapes.  The children will take away with them the knowledge that anthropology is a science that asks especially fascinating questions about biological and cultural diversity and has powerful techniques for answering those questions as well as brilliant insights on achieving conservation. so that the school children will gain an appreciation for the value of anthropology.  The 6th-12th graders who attend the AAA Back to School initiative at the “Restoring Earth” exhibit will learn the message that the world consists of diverse cultures living in diverse environments, and will learn to not only value biocultural diversity but also to think critically about it.

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!

Julie Lesnik, An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by Julie Lesnik (U Illinois at Chicago). Dr. Lesnik 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!

Julie LesnikI moved to Chicago from Ann Arbor, MI in 2011.  I was very active in community outreach in Ann Arbor, especially regarding science education for young girls.  I have not had a chance to get involved with a program yet here in Chicago, so the Anthropologists Back to School initiative is especially appealing to me.

I have spent the last two summers working on an archaeological project and field school in highland Peru. Working in Peru is a new endeavor for me, and I found the prehistoric cultures of the region absolutely fascinating.  I am excited to co-chair the Ancient Americas program at the Field Museum this November and bring what I have learned about the dynamic history of this region to students of the Chicago Public Schools.

My research focus is on bioarchaeology; the analysis of human skeletal remains in archaeological contexts.  One activity that students will be able to take part in includes taking measurements on replicas of skeletal materials and estimating the height of individuals.  I will use this exercise to describe how growing up at high altitude affects the human body, not only through shorter statures, but also through adaptations to breathing effectively in low atmospheric pressures.  I hope that students will walk away from this experience with a better understanding of human variation and adaptation.

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