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Dispatches From the Field #2
Published 10/21/2015 in The Schema
Author Greg Batchelder
“Que tipo de carne es este?” “tepezcuintle.” I was sitting in the typical house on stilts made with hand hewn lumber somewhere in the Skuy River basin. We had walked for five hours, following the river, ascending and descending steep, muddy slopes. I’d come with one of the families from Yorkín and a Peace Corps volunteer to visit the husband’s parents. I had been told that this was a two hour walk, and I thought “easy, I’ll just bring one water bottle and two packets of Emergenc-C, one for the trip up and one for the trip back the next day.” I did not bring any food because I knew I would be offered food when I arrived at the family’s house in two hours. The trip turned out to be more than I expected in terms of length and elevation gain. I had sweat out so much fluid that,... read more ❯
Talking about Race with “White Person Bias”
Published 10/21/2015 in Biocultural Systematics
Author Jo Weaver
Fieldwork. We all do it, yet it seems to be something that’s particularly hard to teach and talk about, especially when so much of the success of fieldwork in any anthropological sub-discipline hinges on a researcher’s ability to form genuine social relationships. I’ve heard people say, “You just can’t teach that” about this keystone of success. Well, Russ Bernard has shown us that many elements of the focused attention required for fieldwork can be taught (see his section on participant-observation from Research Methods in Anthropology, AltaMira, 2011), while books like Tales of the Field (Van Maanen),Disasters in Field Research (Ice, DuFour, and Stevens), and I’ve Been Gone Far Too Long (Borgerhoff-Mulder and Logsdon) speak to the need in the social sciences to share and learn from fieldwork mistakes and misadventures. I continue to be fascinated by the exigencies... read more ❯
Anthropologists at the Table
Published 10/21/2015 in Biocultural Systematics
Author Bill Dressler
The question of what an anthropology degree means, especially in cultural anthropology, has been asked ever since I was an undergraduate (back when I saw Pigpen on keyboards with the Dead). As things change, in the academy as in the world around us, there is a certain renewed urgency in that question, as we prepare students to do: what? (And don’t for a second think that I regard a university degree as vocational training.) The what will be what anthropologists have always done. Some will continue in the academy, both in traditional faculty roles and in new ways of teaching and doing research. Others will become applied anthropologists in government and non-profits. More will likely forge new roles for themselves in the shifting landscape of the marketplace. How do we help? “Bringing something to the table” is a hackneyed but nonetheless useful phrase, and that is... read more ❯
An Epidemiologic Anthropology: Considerations when Employing Mixed Methods
Published 10/21/2015 in Biocultural Systematics
Author Kathy Oths
Anthropology versus Epidemiology Author, Kathryn OthsAnthropologists and epidemiologists have contributed vital knowledge to understanding public health problems such as low birth weight, reemerging disease, mental health, and more. Lively and enduring dialogue on the potential for collaboration between the disciplines was sparked in the ‘80s by Janes et al.’s (1986) Anthropology and Epidemiology and True’s (1990) chapter “Epidemiology and medical anthropology.”  The discourse continues to the present, well-summarized in the works of Dein and Bhui (2013), Hersch-Martínez (2013), Inhorn (1995), and Trostle (2005). In contrast to early literature, later writing—from both camps—implies that what anthropology most offers epidemiology is its qualitative sensibility (e.g., Ragone and Willis 2000; Scammell 2010). While clearly one of anthropology’s great strengths, sensitivity to qualitative dimensions is not all we have to offer. Rigorous, contextualized mixed-methodology is more likely to be persuasive to other disciplines than mere entrained awareness (Prussing 2014). In fact, by incorporating epi techniques into anthropological designs, we can... read more ❯
Cheap Thrills and Elementary Anthropology
Published 10/20/2015 in Biocultural Systematics
Author Christopher Lynn
In “Fieldwork in Common Places,” Mary Louise Pratt (1986) critiqued anthropological writing, saying, “For the lay person, such as myself, the main evidence of a problem is the simple fact that ethnographic writing tends to be surprisingly boring. How, one asks constantly, could such interesting people doing such interesting things produce such dull books?” I came to anthropology through journalism but wanted to do the research and be one of the popularizers. Yet, I soon realized many popularizations are not written by anthropologists, whose work is too jargon-filled for public consumption. I have heard from colleagues opposed to such public anthropology that the complexity of culture is poorly represented through public renderings, but sometimes a sufficiently complex representation is too complex to be easily understood. I suggest a two-pronged means of dealing with this seemingly de facto problem with anthropology. We can and need to start teaching children anthropology earlier so... read more ❯
What’s Biological about Biocultural Research? (Part 2)
Published 10/20/2015 in Biocultural Systematics
Author Jason DeCaro
In an earlier post, I discussed the role of biology in biocultural research by debunking common misconceptions. Here, I turn to the messier question of what biocultural research needs from biology. We inhabit an academic universe of disciplines, sub-disciplines, and sub-sub-disciplines guarding their borders. Holism is not dead, but we struggle with what it means. If biocultural research is to be useful, it needs to be inclusive, flexible, and not defensive. For instance, many researchers in the positivist anthropological sciences rail against or just ignore theory and practice Foucault’s biopower, the de-colonization movement, or critical medical anthropology. Yet one of the compelling features of anthropology is that every foundational assumption can and should be examined. Biocultural research has the potential to be a transactional phenomenon without a set trajectory. By transactional I mean we converge on understanding human experience that incorporates the subjectivity and physicality of the body in the world and describes exchanges... read more ❯
Evolution at Arcadia
Published 10/18/2015 in UA Outreach: Anthropology Partnership
Author jmfriel
Week 6: Evolution Lecture Evolution is descent with modification, which consists of slow change in species over many generations Natural selection is the survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype Mutation is a change in the DNA that can be passed down to the individual’s children Genetic drift is random change in the frequencies of genetic variation, which causes change in a population but does not produce adaptations Gene flow is the migration of a population and their genetic information to another place Anthropologists study evolution of humans and their closest relatives as well as cultural evolution. We are mainly interested in human evolution and that of our relatives. Activity 1: Mutation Telephone Starting with the instructor, a simple message sent through the line. There will be significant change in the message as it is passed along. This change happened from an accumulation of small mistakes the students made, much like mutations happen in DNA. Eventually, after... read more ❯
Anthropology and Museums - TMSE
By Megan Crawford This week at Tuscaloosa Magnet School Elementary, I taught the kids a lesson on museums. My main goal was to emphasize the role that museums play in relation to anthropology, particularly, the preservation of artifacts and their ability to be displayed for public consumption. We began with a brief review of last week's lesson on archaeology. I began my lesson by first explaining that museums were not just for anthropology and that they could house art, fossils, books, and so many other things. I explained that museums were organized in exhibits and that the creation of these exhibits were the jobs of the curators. I asked the students what questions a curator might ask if they were trying to create their own exhibit. I got answers such as "How was it used?", "Where was it used?" and "Who used it?" Going off of their energy in answering this question, I... read more ❯
Primates at Arcadia
Published 10/13/2015 in UA Outreach: Anthropology Partnership
Author jmfriel
  Week 5: Primates Lecture Primates are any member of the group of animals that includes human beings, apes, and monkeys. Apes are closely related to monkeys and humans, they are covered in hair and have no tail or a very short tail. Monkeys are smaller, with tails. Some are prehensile and some are not. There are two groups of monkeys: • Old World monkeys: baboons, macaques, colobus monkeys, among others • New World monkeys: spider monkeys, marmosets, howler monkeys, among others Most primates live in small groups. There are advantages to living in a group, including increased protection, shared parenting, and shared food supply. There are three main diets: carnivore (only eats meat), omnivore (eats meats and plants), and herbivore (eats only plants). Most primates eat fruits, which are high in energy, leaves, which are nutritious, and then some other foods they can find (like crickets!) Activity 1 Students play the meddling monkey scavenger hunt. This game replicates the choices that primates make with... read more ❯
Dr. Kewal Krishan - Physical and Forensic Anthropologist
Published 10/11/2015 in Confessions of a Hockey Anthropologist
Author dascott
Dr. Kewal Krishan is Senior Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Panjab University in Chandigarh, India. His areas of interest include forensic anthropology, forensic osteology, anthropometry, stature estimation, growth and nutritional status. He extensively worked on Gujjars of North-West India. The majority of Dr. Krishan’s publications are in the fields of anthropometry, anthropometrics and forensic anthropology. Dr. Krishan was a graduate student of Biological Anthropology in, and earned the Doctorate in Forensic Anthropology from, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India in 2003. He was awarded gold-medal for standing first in M.Sc (Honours School) in Biological Anthropology at Panjab University (1994) where he also earned the B.Sc., also in Anthropology. Before joining his current faculty position, he worked as an anthropologist in the Forensic Medicine Department of Government Medical College Hospital, Chandigarh, India. Dr. Krishan’s M.Sc. supervisor was JC Sharma, editor of the book Anthropology, Population and Development (1995). Professor R N Vashisht,... read more ❯
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