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Dr. Mark Moberg, University of Southern Alabama
Dr. Mark Moberg, University of Southern Alabama

The Department of Anthropology was lucky to have several visitors who gave planned and extemporaneous talks in the spring 2014. On February 21, the Anthropology Club co-hosted a FABBL (Friday Afternoon Brown Bag Lunch) talk with Dr. Mark Moberg from the University of Southern Alabama entitled "How 'Fair' is Fair Trade: Contrasting Views of Economic Morality among Caribbean Banana Farmers." Dr. Moberg is the editor-in-chief of Human Organization, the research journal for the Society for Applied Anthropology. His work focuses on trade, globalization, and political economy in the Caribbean and Latin America.

As part of our Extemporaneous Talks series (ET #3), Dr. Jim Hall, formerly of UA's New College and now of Rochester Institute of Technology, gave a talk on February 24, 2014 about UA anthropologist Solon Kimball and the Talladega Study. Kimball, who was a founding member of the American Ethnological Association and Council on Anthropology and Education,  was instrumental in developing and administering the Talladega Study, which led to the establishment of the town's public health program. The Study highlighted a painful aspect of academia at that period time with regard to segregation. Dr. Hall spoke of how Kimball and his collaborators appear to have been anti-segregationists but could not convince the Talladega community to allow African-Americans, who constituted 1/3 of the town's population, to participate in the study. In 1978, Kimball helped establish the Zora Neale Hurston Fellowship Award Fund to honor outstanding African-American graduates in anthropology, and the Kimball Award is issued every other year by the American Anthropological Association to an anthropologist who effects change in public policy. Though Kimball's presence in our department is not part of the living memory of any current faculty members, Dr. Jim Knight, who grew up in the Talladega area, recalled taking an undergraduate course with Kimball when he had moved on from UA and was a professor at the University of Florida.

Fellow Mayanist Lisa LeCount poses with ET#5 speaker Elizabeth Paris (Photo by C. Lynn).
Fellow Mayanist Lisa LeCount poses with ET#5 speaker Elizabeth Paris (Photo by C. Lynn).

ET #4 was presented on March 9 by Dr. Deborah Keene, a Senior Fellow for the Blount Undergraduate Initiative, Assistant Professor in Geological Sciences, and an Adjunct Faculty member of the Department of Anthropology. Her talk, "How Should You Prepare Pro-Evolution Students for an Anti-Evolution Reality?" dealt with her experience with investigating anti-evolution rhetoric in teaching students to examine sources critically.

On March 7, 2014, the Department of Anthropology and Lambda Alpha hosted a guest lecture ""Joara and Fort San Juan: Eventful Archaeology at the Berry Site") and workshop ("Structure and the Problem with Macrosociality") with Dr. Robin Beck. Dr. Beck is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Assistant Curator of North American Archaeology at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. He has worked in the Andes and in eastern North America, including NSF-supported research along the Catawba River at the Berry site in North Carolina. Dr. Beck received his master's degree from UA in 1997 and his PhD from Northwestern University in 2004, both in anthropology.

Dr. Elizabeth Paris gave ET #5 on April 2 entitled "Form and Function in Small Maya Cities: A View from Highland Chiapas." Dr. Paris is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at St. Lawrence University and previously an Adjunct Instructor and Research Associate of Anthropology at the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Paris is a Mesoamerican archaeologist who talked about her work investigating smaller and less complex sites than those usually studied in the Maya region to distinguish between diversification and specialization in urban structural organization.

Greg Batchelder's World of Warcraft avatar.
Greg Batchelder's World of Warcraft avatar.

Our final lecture of the semester was a FABBL by PhD student Greg Batchelder on April 11 (“Batchhunder’s Travels: Participatory Aesthetic Experience in World of Warcraft: Effects on Mood and Mental Wellness”). Greg earned his master's degree at Colorado State University, where he also participated in team research under Dr. Jeffrey Snodgrass on a psychological anthropological study of World of Warcraft play.

As evidence of the transparency of the Talladega Study & socioeconomic disparities, in 1951, when the study was conducted, only 1% of "colored" families received sanitation services.
As evidence of the transparency of the Talladega Study & socioeconomic disparities, in 1951, when the study was conducted, only 1% of "colored" families received sanitation services.

Image (35)As part of our new "Extemporaneous Talks" lecture series, Dr. James Hall from New College gave a talk about a particular history of segregation in Alabama.  His talk reviewed a period of UA & Anthropology Department history that resonates to this day but about which we are scarcely aware.  Solon Kimball, who received in Ph.D. from Harvard in 1936, was hired at UA as professor & chair in 1948 to inaugurate UA's new dual program in Sociology & Anthropology & sociology. He remained here until 1953, when he moved on to Columbia University's Teachers' College.

While at UA, Kimball was instrumental in developing & administering the Talladega Study, which was a study of community morale that led to the establishment of the town's public health program.  Among the aspects of the study that made it unique was that it was what we today call "participatory action research," wherein the community has an investment in the study, helps develop the methodology, & administered the study itself with the assistance of outside experts.

What was also important about the Talladega Study is that it highlighted a painful aspect of academia at that period of time with regard to segregation.  Dr. Hall spoke of how Kimball & his collaborators appear to have been anti-segregationists but could not convince the Talladega community to allow African-Americans, who constituted 1/3 of the town's population, to participate in the study. Kimball made arrangements for the African-American community to conduct their own separate study, but volunteers declined to come forward.

The methodological shortcoming of biasing the sample toward the white demographic of the community & representing it as The Talladega Story: A Study of Community Process, in retrospect, calls into question the findings of that study.  What Hall finds remarkable is the attitude of Kimball & others of the period, who, just 18 months shy of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, did not understand why African-Americans would utilize passivity, silence, & non-action as a form of resistance. Nonetheless, Kimball's work in Alabama earned him the label of "academic radical," & may have had something to do with his departure before The Talladega Story had even been published.

Of note, Kimball was also a founding member of the Society for Applied Anthropology, created in 1940, president of the American Ethnological Association, & was instrumental in the formation of the Council on Anthropology & Education. In 1978, he helped establish the Zora Neale Hurston Fellowship Award Fund to honor outstanding African-American graduates in anthropology. The Kimball Award is issued every other year by the American Anthropological Association to an anthropologist who effects change in public policy.

Though Kimball's presence in our department is not part of the living memory of any current faculty members, Dr. Jim Knight, who grew up in the Talladega area, recalled taking an undergraduate course with Dr. Kimball when he had moved on from Columbia to the University of Florida. For better & worse, this is a fascinating chapter in Alabama, UA, & our department's history.  We appreciate Dr. Hall stopping by & look forward to learning more.

Read our department history for information about Solomon Kimball & other UA anthropologists from years past.