Tag Archive for Anthropology
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.
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
Wesleyan 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.
by Olivia Drake •
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.
by Frederic Wills '19 •
Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, recently contributed to the #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus, a new project by The Anthropoliteia, an online anthropology journal. Ulysse also is professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.
One of the main goals of the project is to “mobilize anthropological work as a pedagogical exercise addressing the confluence of race, policing, and justice.” In this vein, Ulysse uses her entries to analyze the film series “Race: The Power of Illusion.” As part of the Race: Are We So Different? Project created by the American Anthropological Association, the film serves as a teaching tool for Ulysse in her own classroom at Wesleyan. Ulysse enters with the aim of unpacking the notion of “race is a social construct,” by paying attention to “1) the making of this narrative and the rise of academic disciplines; 2) changes in social structure and the language of racial classifications in relation to power; and 3) the multiple meanings/ significations of racial difference concomitant to capital signs.”
Throughout her entry, Ulysse talks of the importance of filling in the partial truths of the U.S. and its relations that students have been taught in history classes for their entire lives. She recounts the numerous times she has heard the exclamations, “I had no idea”; “This wasn’t even a sidebar in my textbook”; “Never thought of all these connections. Oh my God! It is all one big story.” For Ulysse, after years of teaching, she is “only too aware of what it means to make this intervention in their thinking given the body of students that she is in.”
Ulysse’s entry is online here.
by Olivia Drake •
On Oct. 1, Wesleyan students will publicly present their research from the American studies course, Anarchy in America: From Haymarket Riot to Occupy Wall Street, taught by J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, chair and professor of American studies, professor of anthropology. The course focused on anarchism as a political philosophy and practice — a little known, aspect of American culture and society.
Students examined select aspects of anarchist political thought and praxis in the United States and the ways that anarchism has been represented positively, vilified or dismissed. The course explored a range of diverse political traditions including: individualist anarchism, socialist anarchism, anarcha-feminism, black anarchism, queer anarchism, indigenous influences and critiques, and other schools of thought. These presentations – by self-selected students from the class — are based on the final assignment for the course, a research-based political pamphlet. Kauanui will moderate two panels:
10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Historical Genealogies & Radical Analysis
“Free Love, Motherhood, and Spiritism: Reading Anarchy Through the Writings of Luisa Capetillo,” Iryelis López ’17
“Love as Prefigurative Politics,” Sarah Lurie ’17
“Black Feminist Resonances: The Overlaps and Intersections With Anarchist Principles,” Kaiyana Cervera ’19
Noon to 1:30 p.m. Community Resistance and Diverse Forms of Direct Action
“Encrypted But Not Cryptic: An Intro to Crypto Anarchy and Practical Resistance of the Modern Surveillance State,” Kate Pappas ’18
“Threads of Anarchism: A Look at Flint Community Action Amidst a State Crime,” Aura Ochoa ’17
“Power to the People! Energy Democracy and the Socialization of our Energy Infrastructure,” Joshua Nodiff ’19
The presentations will take place at Russell Library, 123 Broad Street, Middletown, CT 06457.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
In a July 11 Roth on Wesleyan blog, President Michael Roth responds to two recent killings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the murders of five police officers in Texas. In the blog, titled, “On What Matters” Roth shares his own thoughts and the reflections of others that he found meaningful. He writes:
Too often I have written blog posts about tragedies, violence, injustice. From attacks in other parts of the world to devastation right here in the USA, I have expressed sorrow, anger—and often a feeling of solidarity with those who have suffered, are suffering. Readers have pointed out that my compassion, like other forms of attention, is selective. There are plenty of injustices that have gone unremarked in this space, either because of my own ignorance or my judgments about what I should be writing about in this Roth on Wesleyan blog.
I have followed the news reports and commentaries closely over the last week. What horror unfolds before us! The brutal killings by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana and the vicious murders of police officers in Dallas that followed have underscored how violence can destroy individual lives while shaking communities to the core.
In her latest piece in The Huffington Post, Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, responds to the recent killings of black men.
My optimism wanes and my patience continues to be tried with each new extra judicial killing, each exoneration. Each one is more confirmation of the deep rootedness of our inequality. We bear the weight of history so unequally. It is written on our bodies and etched in the color of our skin. Human chattel. Property. Slaves. That is the undue burden, the inequity we live with, that simply cannot be undone unconsciously. Its transformation, if that (I am not naïve), requires so much more than will. To bring about a modicum of change we must not only intentionally attempt, but also be determined, to shift. It will not happen par hazard. Because history has seen to it that the exchange, use, and sign value ascribed to Black lives remains unequal to that of Whites. We are differentially positioned and invested.
What story do you tell yourself to assuage the comfort you find in the social luxury of being in an unmarked body. Your silence is your complicity. Where is your outrage as we all bear witness to this moment?
Read more here.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
In its recent meeting, the Board of Trustees conferred tenure on four faculty members. They are Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, Professor of African American Studies Kali Gross, Associate Professor of English and American Studies Amy Tang, and Associate Professor of Chemistry Erika Taylor. They join eight other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.
One faculty member, Louise Neary, was promoted to adjunct associate professor of Spanish.
In addition, six faculty members are being promoted to full professor:
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, professor of American Studies and anthropology
Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology
Cecilia Miller, professor of history
Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, professor of theater
Andrea Patalano, professor of psychology
Michael Singer, professor of biology
Brief descriptions of their research and teaching appear below:
Associate Professor Fowler specializes in political communication and directs the Wesleyan Media project, which tracks and analyzes all political ads aired on broadcast television in real-time during elections. Her work on local coverage of politics and policy has been published in political science, communication, law/policy, and medical journals. Most recently, she co-authored Political Advertising in the United States (Westview Press, 2016). Professor Fowler teaches courses on American Government and Politics; Media and Politics; Campaigns and Elections; and Polls, Politics and Public Opinion.
Professor Gross is a scholar of African American history whose research concentrates on black women’s experiences in the United States criminal justice system between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her book, Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores a crime and trial in 1887 against broader evidence of biased police treatment of black suspects as well as violence within the black community. Professor Gross will offer courses on race, gender and justice and Black Women’s Studies.
Professor Kauanui’s research lies in the fields of comparative colonialisms, indigenous politics, critical racial studies, and anarchist studies. Her book, The Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty (Duke University Press, due in 2017), explores the cultural and legal politics of the contemporary Hawaiian nationalist movement in relation to land, gender, and sexuality. Professor Kauanui teaches courses on Colonialism and Its Consequences; Race and Citizenship; United States in the Pacific Islands; Hawai’i: Myths and Realities; Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown; and Anarchy in America: From Haymarket to Occupy Wall Street.
Professor Kurtz’s research seeks to clarify the cognitive and social impairments associated with schizophrenia, to develop and assess behavioral treatments for these impairments, and to critically evaluate the history and current status of ideas regarding treatment of the severely mentally ill. He has received significant grant support from the NIH, and has received a Fulbright-Nehru U.S. Scholar Award for Academic and Professional Excellence. He offers courses on Schizophrenia and Its Treatment, Clinical Neuropsychology, Statistics, and Behavioral Neurobiology.
Professor Miller is a European intellectual historian with a focus on the long eighteenth century. Her recent book, Enlightenment and Political Fiction: The Everyday Intellectual (Routledge, 2016), examines five works of fiction to argue that the accessibility of political fiction in the eighteenth century made it possible for any reader to enter into the intellectual debates of the time and that ideas attributed to philosophers and political and economic theorists of the Enlightenment actually appeared first in works of fiction. She offers courses on European Intellectual History, Political Fiction, Theories of Society, and Contemporary Europe.
Professor Tatinge Nascimento is a theater artist and scholar with a special interest in experimental performance and Brazilian contemporary theater. She has performed and published internationally, and most recently is the author of a book manuscript, The Contemporary Performances of Brazil’s Post-Dictatorship Generation, under review with Palgrave Macmillan for the series Contemporary Performance InterActions. At Wesleyan she directs main stage productions and teaches courses on acting, theory, and performance studies.
Adjunct Associate Professor Neary teaches beginning and intermediate Spanish. She is currently collaborating with a colleague on an online Spanish course for the general public, titled Wespañol, and with McGraw Hill on a test bank project for an elementary Spanish language textbook. She has served as head of Spanish, has chaired the Romance Languages and Literatures Honors Committee, and has served on the Language Resources Center Faculty Committee.
Professor Patalano is a cognitive scientist whose research focuses on mental and neural processes involved in human reasoning, judgment, and decision making. Her lines of research address indecisiveness and decision deferral, clinical and neural correlates of discounting, numeracy and choice behavior, and the role of categories in thought. She teaches courses on Cognitive Psychology, Psychological Statistics, Decision Making, and Concepts and Categories.
Professor Singer is an evolutionary ecologist whose research focuses on the plant-feeding habits of caterpillars in the context of threats from predators and parasites of caterpillars. He uses this research focus to inform issues of broad biological interest, such as animal medication, dietary specialization, dynamics of ecological networks, and evolutionary diversification. He teaches courses on Ecology, Conservation Biology, Evolutionary Biology, and Plant-Animal Interactions.
Professor Tang’s research focuses on the relationship between aesthetic form and politics in Asian American literature and theory. Her first book, Repetition and Race: Asian American Literature After Multiculturalism (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores how Asian American writers use structures of repetition to register, and creatively inhabit, the impasses generated by multiculturalism’s politics of identity and recognition. She teaches courses on Asian American Literature, Afro-Asian Intersections, and Literary and Cultural Theory.
Associate Professor Taylor’s multidisciplinary research investigates problems at the intersection of biology and chemistry. Her work strives to advance medicine and environmental sustainability with two long-term goals – developing bacterial enzyme inhibitors and other small molecules with medicinal applications, and engineering microorganisms to improve the efficiency of biomass to biofuel conversion. Professor Taylor has received significant grant support from both the NIH and the Department of Energy, enabling numerous impactful publications in her field. She offers courses in Organic Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Biological Chemistry, and Biomedicinal Chemistry.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
The Hartford Courant reported on a study of the Wangunks, the indigenous people of Middletown and Portland, Conn., by members of a Wesleyan course taught by J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of environmental studies. Eleven students spent a semester in the archives of the Middlesex County Historical Society studying the Wangunks as part of a course on local Native Americans: “Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown: Native Histories of the Wangunk Indian People.” Four of those students presented their research at a March seminar at Russell Library.
According to the story:
The Wesleyan students made use of a number of sources to piece together a comprehensive history of the Wangunk peoples, from their contact in the mid-1600s with the first English settlers of Middletown to the tribe’s gradual disappearance.
Through [Gary] O’Neal — a descendant of Jonathan Palmer, a Wangunk Indian who lived in East Hampton in the early 1800s — the students were able to learn about the tribe’s persistence in the area.
“We wanted to understand who the Wangunk were and what happened to them,” said [Maia] Neumann-Moore [’18], who looked at Wangunk migration patterns after the settling of Mattabessett, or Middletown, by the English in 1650. “It was as if the Wangunk disappeared into the woods. But they were here all along.”
The students found that the settlers were increasingly casual in their references to these Native Americans over time, especially their actual numbers. They said the word Wangunk appears often in 17th century records but far less frequently a century later, when a small band was living across the river on a reservation in Portland, known as Wangunk meadows.
Read the full story here.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
In her latest essay on The Huffington Post, Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse takes on the matter of U.S. foreign food aid policy vis-a-vis Haiti, which she writes is undermining farmers in the Caribbean nation. She focuses on mamba, the Kreyòl word for peanut butter, which she fondly recalls being made by locals when she was growing up in Haiti.
“To me, mamba is as quintessentially Haitian as basketball is (North) American. Now, it faces risks as another charitable gift of food aid undermines Haitian autonomy by threatening to bench local farmers’ peanuts production, our cultural practices, and even our tastes,” she writes. “This is not our first time. Haiti has been tripped up by the U.S. before.”
Ulysse quotes retired Wesleyan Professor of Sociology Alex Dupuy, who puts this in historical context: “First, the U.S. destroys Haitian agriculture by compelling the then Aristide government to lower tariffs to a level lower than anywhere else in the Caribbean, and then exports its own subsidized agricultural goods (rice, cereals, chickens, etc.) to the country, as former President Clinton acknowledged with crocodile tears. Now, it is dumping its subsidized peanuts on Haiti and undermining the ability of Haitian farmers to increase peanut production. The hypocrisy never stops, and Haiti’s own sycophantic government officials are all too willing to abide them in their destructive policies for the crumbs they get in return.”
Ulysse concludes by urging President Barack Obama to “address this foul play” and “avoid another post-presidential apology that Haiti’s people and fragile economy can actually do without.”
Ulysse also is professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, writes an “Ode to Haiti’s Neo-Comedians” in The Huffington Post about Haiti’s recently cancelled election runoff. The title of her essay refers to Graham Greene’s The Comedians, a book whose description read: “Set in Haiti, amid an atmosphere of brutal force and terror-ridden love, three desperate people work out their strange destinies.”
Relevance of The Comedians is apparent in Haiti’s recently cancelled election runoff that was set for this past Sunday. Indeed, until then, the outgoing president Michel Martelly, a chap with dictatorial tendencies who leads the “Bald Headed Haitian Party”—insisted on proceeding with business as usual. His would-be successor, Jovonel Moïse the so-called leading candidate, is eager to turn Haiti into a “banana republic,” a discursive play on his plantain plantation commerce. The opposition, Jude Celestin, boycotted the event and penned an op-ed disavowing the impending masquerade as a total farce. The masses who continue to suffer were being forced once again to absorb this electoral crisis and participate in a “selection,” as they say in the local parlance. It is hard to discern which is more comic and/or tragic in these instances.
“Surely you jest,” I say to myself in a mocking tone as elders decry, “the country has lost its dignity,” knowing full well that my late grandmother would use expletives.
by Olivia Drake •
On Dec. 5, Wesleyan students, faculty and the local community gathered for a two-hour discussion on “Indigenous Middletown: Settler Colonial and Wangunk Tribal History.” The event was sponsored by the American Studies Department, the Center for the Americas, and the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of American studies, coordinated the event, which stemmed from her Service Learning course, Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown: Native Histories of the Wangunk Indian People. The class is in partnership with the Middlesex County Historical Society.