Tag Archive for Anthropology

Weiss Pens Book on Indigenous Peoples’ Futures on Canadian Islands

Joseph Weiss, assistant professor of anthropology, is the author of Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life beyond Settler Colonialism, published by the University of British Columbia Press in September 2018.

Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii shows how an indigenous nation in British Columbia not only continues to have a future but is at work building many different futures—for themselves and for their non-indigenous neighbors. The project emerges from an almost decade-long relationship between Weiss and the citizens of the Haida Nation of Haida Gwaii, a series of islands off the west coast of Canada.

Weiss explores these possible futures in detail, demonstrating how Haida ways of thinking about time, mobility, and political leadership are at the heart of contemporary strategies for addressing the dilemmas that come with life under settler colonialism.

Too often, Weiss explains, indigenous peoples have been portrayed as being without a future, destined either to disappear or assimilate into settler society. This book asserts the opposite: Indigenous peoples are not in any sense “out of time” in our contemporary world.

“This work was in large part about trying to respond to dominant assumptions—both in the academy and in North American society—about the ways that indigenous peoples experience settler colonialism,” Weiss said. “I sought to shift the narrative from one that emphasizes domination and constraint towards telling stories about how Haida citizens and communities are building all sorts of different futures, claiming their right to decide for themselves what should come next and what should not.”

From the threat of ecological crisis to the assertion of sovereign rights and authority, Weiss shows that the Haida people consistently turn towards their possible futures, desirable and undesirable, in order to work out how to live in and transform the present. His book breaks new ground in the exploration of the relationship between time and colonialism as experienced in the day-to-day lives of an indigenous community.

Weiss first started visiting Haida Gwaii in 2010 through ties of friendship and a deep admiration for and interest in the work of the Haida Nation in fighting for Haida rights to their sovereign territories and to self-determination. In 2013, he moved to the Haida community of Old Massett to begin a two-and-a-half-year period of full-time fieldwork, focusing on exploring communities’ experiences and understandings around political and social change. While there, he worked as a classroom assistant and occasional school play director for the community’s primary school, the Chief Matthews School.

Weiss’s work was and remains an attempt to engage in respectful anthropological research grounded in dialogue with and accountability to the community of Old Massett and the Haida Nation. This extended both to the kinds of questions that were asked and to the ways interviews were conducted and then approved by Weiss’s Haida friends and colleagues.

“Shaping the Future is as much the result of building relationships and this commitment to respect as it is an academic text,” Weiss said.

This book will appeal to scholars and students of indigenous studies, particularly in anthropology, political science, sociology, and history. Researchers planning to work with communities will learn from the author’s reflections on conducting ethnographic fieldwork with First Nations.

 

Tyner ’13 Named Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellow

William Tyner ’13 is headed to Romania on a year-long Fulbright National Geographic Fellowship. He will create an immersive film documenting the civic-tech group, Code for Romania.

William Tyner ’13 was awarded a Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship —one of only five of such grants awarded each year

The fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society and is a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and storytelling on a globally significant theme.

Tyner, who majored in anthropology at Wesleyan and enjoyed courses in the College of Film and the Moving Image, will be working with Code for Romania. He’ll be creating a documentary series that will explore Romania’s civic technology community.

“’Civic tech’ is a nascent field in which local ‘hacktivists’ use technology to deepen democracy and increase civic engagement,” he explained in his application.

Tyner notes that he has been affiliated with Codes for America, an organization that focuses on technology as a pathway to modernize government, make it more accessible—but he wanted “to observe civic tech as a social movement, from a sociological perspective.”

Romania, he says, will be the perfect place for his lens: “Their civic tech community is emerging within a historically unique anti-corruption movement. I’m going to chronicle a story of people taking action and control in their community.”

Ulysse Commissioned to Create Work for British Museum

Gina Athena Ulysse.(Photo by Lucy Guiliano)

Gina Athena Ulysse. (Photo by Lucy Guiliano)

In response to an exhibit focusing on the Haitian Revolution of 1791, Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, presented a commissioned work on March 16 at the British Museum.

The exhibit, titled “A revolutionary legacy: Haiti and Toussaint Louverture,” featured a selection of objects, artworks, and poetry from the 18th century to the present. Objects explored the legacy of the Haitian Revolution and its leader Toussaint Louverture. Louverture was one of the leading figures in the Haitian Revolution, which began in 1791 as an uprising of enslaved men and women in what was then a French sugar colony. It culminated with the outlawing of slavery there and the establishment of the Republic of Haiti.

Ulysse, a Haitian-born artist-anthropologist, presented a multivocal remix of words (archival and oral history, poetry, personal narrative) titled “Remixed ode to rebel’s spirit: lyrical meditations on Haiti and Toussaint Louverture.” Her response is online here.

Ulysse’s audio accompaniment also includes a contemporary juxtaposition of Vodou chant with words of anti-imperial protest. While the U.S. occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934, a religion practiced by people in the African diaspora was suppressed. During the Haitian Revolution of 1791, Vodou helped unite communities and helped enslaved people to organize themselves against injustice.

Kauanui Delivers Keynote Focused on U.S. Militarism and Hawaiian Decolonization

Attached is a photograph of Kauanui with two scholars who attended the gathering, Rebekah Garrison (a doctoral student in American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California) and Tiara R. Na'puti (Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder).

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, center, gathers with two other scholars who attended the “Archipelagos and Aquapelagos” conference. At left is Rebekah Garrison, a doctoral student from the University of Southern California, and Tiara R. Na’puti, assistant professor of communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, chair and professor of American studies, professor of anthropology, and director of the Center for the Americas, delivered one of two keynotes at a conference on “Archipelagos and Aquapelagos—Conceptualizing Islands and Marine Spaces.”

The gathering, hosted by the Global South Center at The Pratt Institute on March 30—April 1, focused on the need to reinvestigate and reconceptualize the nature of the aggregations of islands commonly referred to as “archipelagos” in order to produce more sophisticated understandings of them, along with the environmental, social, and transnational issues and impacts involved.

As the organizers of the conference, May Joseph, Luka Lucic, and Macarena Gómez-Barris—all based at Pratt’s new Global South Center—explained in the mission, “Archipelagos have become increasingly prominent in geo-political contexts with regard to national territorial boundaries, global migrancy and disputes over fisheries.”

Kauanui’s keynote, “Decolonizing Indigeneity: Hawaiian Sovereignty, U.S. Occupation and the Politics of Settler Colonialism,” focused on U.S. militarism and Hawaiian decolonization. As she explained, “since the purpose of the conference is to explore the interface of land and water ontologies and epistemologies facing vulnerable populations across different small island nation ecologies, looking at the Pacific Islands is instructive for understanding multi-dimensions of U.S. imperialism and settler colonialism, as well as persistent questions of decolonization.” Keeping this U.S. military expansion in mind, her talk explored decolonization in the Hawaiian context.

The other keynote was delivered by Philip Hayward, editor of online journal Shima, from the University of Technology Sydney.

Students Learn about New Technologies Being Used to Study the Past

On March 28, the Archaeology Program and the Department of Classical Studies invited Ian Roy of Brandeis University to Wesleyan to discuss ways new technologies are used to study the past. Roy is the founding head of Brandeis MakerLab and director for research technology and innovation at Brandeis University’s library.

Object from the Wesleyan Anthropology Archeology Collections

Students learned how to use a portable Artec 3-D scanner to scan a vessel from the Wesleyan University Archaeology and Anthropology Collections.

Roy first visited the Archaeometry: How to Science the Heck out of Archaeology class taught by Andrew Koh, visiting assistant professor of archaeology. There, he demonstrated how to scan objects in 3-D using an Artec Space Spyder, a tool that uses structured light to capture incredibly high-resolution scans of objects. The class produced multiple models of artifacts, including a vessel that has since been posted to Sketchfab.

“What’s so amazing is that these are just quick versions made in only 15 minutes, without any post-processing and touch-ups,” said Kate Birney, assistant professor of classical studies, archaeology, and art history.

Kauanui Presents “Politics of Occupy Wall Street” Research in Qatar

J. Kehaulani Kauanui

J. Kehaulani Kauanui in Qatar.

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, professor of American studies and anthropology, chair of American studies and director of the Center of the Americas, spent part of winter break in Qatar. She was there to present her research on “Settler Colonialism and the Politics of Occupy Wall Street: Indigeneity and the ‘Other’ 1%” for a panel on “Against Exceptionalism.”

Kauanui joined a global roster of leading scholars in American studies, Middle Eastern studies and other closely related fields who were invited to speak as part of a conference held Jan. 8–11 at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies with support from the Qatar National Research Fund.

The conference, titled “From Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park: The Arab Spring and the De-Centering of American Studies,” was co-organized by Eid Mohamed, assistant professor of American studies and comparative literature at the Doha Institute, and Melani McAlister, associate professor of American studies and international affairs at George Washington University. Its aim was to “internationalize the study of America to enable critical consideration of where and what is America—particularly in relation to the Arab uprisings and developments in the global map of power.”

Presentations from the conference are slated to be included in an edited volume available in late 2018.

For more information on the conference program and participants, visit https://de-centeringamericanstudies.weebly.com.

 

Political Anthropologist Vine ’97 Speaks to Campus Community about Military Overseas under Trump

On Nov. 9, political anthropologist David Vine '97, associate professor of anthropology at American University, returned to campus to speak on ""What Are We Getting Out of This?": U.S. Empire and the Military Overseas under Trump." Vine is the author of Base Nation: How US Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World and Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. His other writings have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Guardian, and Mother Jones.

On Nov. 9, political anthropologist David Vine ’97, associate professor of anthropology at American University, returned to campus to speak on “What Are We Getting Out of This?”: U.S. Empire and the Military Overseas under Trump.” The U.S. has 800 military bases in places from Germany and Japan to South Korea and Saudi Arabia and nearly 80 other countries.

Kauanui Presents Lectures, Workshop in Australia on Indigenous Sovereignty

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, professor and chair of American studies, professor of anthropology, director of the Center for the Americas, delivered three academic presentations in Victoria, Australia in September 2017.

On Sept. 18, Kauanui delivered a lecture titled, “A New Tribe? Hawaiian Sovereignty and the Politics of Federal Recognition,” to the Melbourne Feminist History Group. The talk emerged from her forthcoming book, Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty, which is a critical study of statist Hawaiian nationalism and the implications of its attendant disavowal of indigeneity for the questions of land, gender, and sexual politics. The talk focused on the contestation over indigeneity in both the controversy over a state driven proposal for federal recognition and the sector of the independence movement that aims to restore the Hawaiian Kingdom.

On Sept. 19, she led a workshop for graduate students on “Indigenous Sovereignty and Practicing Decolonization” at the La Trobe University, Bundoora. “The graduate students who attended were from a range of areas, including Pacific studies, history, anthropology – all with a keen interest in Indigenous studies and sovereignty,” Kauanui said.

On Sept. 21, Kauanui delivered a keynote address titled, “Mobilizing Indigeneity: The Politics of Occupation in Settler Colonialism,” for a conference on Space, Sovereignty and Mobility in Settler Colonialism Studies at the La Trobe Art Institute. Conference attendees explored the histories of mobility, space, and transnational, global and local networks, both imperial and Indigenous; and furthered their understanding of connections between sovereignty, survivance and occupation of place.

Kauanui’s travels were sponsored by the Centre for the Study of the Inland at La Trobe University and the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne.

At Wesleyan, Kauanui teaches Indigenous Middletown, Race/Indigeneity and Citizenship, and Global Indigeneities.

French Students Offer a Glimpse of Wesleyan’s History

Students from Wesleyan’s French 325 class Museums, Objects and Empire, recently presented a pop-up exhibition on the history that surrounds Wesleyan’s former museum that once occupied Judd Hall from 1871 to 1957.

Students from Wesleyan’s French 325 class Museums, Objects and Empire, recently presented an exhibit on the history that surrounds Wesleyan’s former museum that once occupied Judd Hall from 1871 to 1957. Included was information on the Wesleyan’s missionary past; history on Javanese gamelan and ethnomusicology at Wesleyan; and a mummy, acquired by Wesleyan in the 1880s.

Shankar ’94 Named 2017 Guggenheim Fellow

Shalini Shankar ’94

Shalini Shankar ’94

Anthropologist Shalini Shankar ’94 has been named one of 173 recipients of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship for 2017. Winners of the annual competition were chosen from a pool of 3,000 applicants that includes scholars, artists and scientists who are advanced professionals in their respective fields. She was chosen on the basis of prior achievement as a productive scholar who has published several works on teen and youth culture, as well as her exceptional promise to continue research in the social sciences.

Shankar, who studied anthropology in Wesleyan and received her PhD in the field from New York University, is a sociocultural and linguistic anthropologist. An associate professor of anthropology and Asian American studies at Northwestern University, she has conducted ethnographic research with South Asian American youth and communities, and is one of three Guggenheim Fellows of Indian origin this year.

Ulysse Authors Because When God is Too Busy

9780819577351Wesleyan Professor of Anthropology and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Gina Athena Ulysse’s newest publication, Because When God Is Too Busy: Haiti, Me, & The World, (Wesleyan University Press, April 2017), is a collection of poems, performance texts, and photographs that explores longing for a sacred and ancestral past—now entangled by Western and postcolonial inheritances. Both a lyrical and meditative work, the publisher calls it “a poetic journey through silence, rebellious rage, love, and the sacred.” In it, Ulysse blurs the lines between genre and medium, as well as the personal and geopolitical.

Edwidge Danticat, a former MacArthur Fellow and National Book Critics Circle Award recipient, lauds Ulysse as “a force of nature…Fierce, fearless, and passionate, she delights us, shakes us up, educates us, and after reading her poignant and powerful book, she becomes indispensable to us as her amazing work.”

Ulysse, an artist-anthropologist-activist originally from Pétion-Ville, Haïti, is a frequent blogger, a poet, and author of numerous essays and books, including, most recently, Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle (Wesleyan University Press, 2015). In 2008 she published Downtown Ladies: Informal Commercial Importers, a Haitian Anthropologist and Self-Making in Jamaica with the University of Chicago Press.

Ulysse’s artistic and academic practice also incorporates spokenword, performance art, and installation pieces. Her performance VooDooDoll Or What if Haïti were a Woman: On ti Travay sou 21 Pwen or An Alter(ed)native in Something Other than Fiction debuted at Encuentro in Montreal in 2014.

Östör Debuts New Film to International Audiences

Ákos Östör

Ákos Östör

Ákos Östör, professor of anthropology and film, emeritus, lectured and presented his latest film, In My Mother’s House, at more than a dozen universities in India, Turkey and throughout Europe in 2016.

On a random Thursday in 2005, Östör’s wife, Lina Fruzzetti, opened a a startling email that read, “If this is your father, we are cousins.”

In My Mother’s House follows a decade-long quest to learn more about Fruzzetti’s Italian father who died young in Italian-ruled Eritrea, and her Eritrean mother who does not dwell on the past. Above all, Fruzzetti strives to understand her far-flung African, European, and American family against the backdrop of colonial rule, worlds at war, migration, grief, diasporas, and the global world. Her life experiences and widely dispersed family are placed into the context of global events and changes.

“Filming on the run, not knowing what will happen next, in the cramped living rooms, crowded markets and villages of Eritrea and Italy, we went wherever the events took us,” Östör said. “The film attempts to sustain the spirit of discovery and tense anticipation we felt during the production process. After all, we were protagonists, as well as historians, ethnographers and filmmakers. The improvised, mostly handheld shots, without any opportunity to prepare, create an intimacy that brings the viewer along as if participating in events as they unfold.”

Östör has already shown clips of the film to a Wesleyan audience in 2015 when it was a work-in-progress.

Both Östör and Fruzzetti are anthropologists and filmmakers who have authored award-winning films and have written over a dozen books.
In My Mother’s House is their first, deeply personal film. Their previous films in India and Tanzania concern individual lives in small communities, in contexts ranging from sacred rituals and festivals in a town, to women scroll painters and singers in village West Bengal; from fish markets in Dar es Salaam, to a handicapped people’s cooperative in Zanzibar. All were shown at festivals around the world and won numerous awards.

Watch a trailer of In My Mother’s House.