Mirrors: For more than just selfies.
First, here's some kids being kids. It shouldn't surprise you that we aren't born with the ability to recognize our own reflection. Self-recognition is a skill that can develop as early as 18 months in children. In their article, Self-Awareness, Social Intelligence and Schizophrenia, Gordon Gallup and his colleagues delve deep into just what it means to be able to identify yourself in a reflection. So, you're not a vampire. What else? The evidence provided by Gallup and his colleagues strongly suggests that the ability to recognize yourself in a mirror is closely related to your ability to conceive yourself as an individual, and infer information about the mental states of other individuals. As a matter of fact, self-recognition typically develops in humans around the same time as primitive social intelligence. In other words, whenever you can recognize yourself, you can try and piece together what other people are thinking or feeling. On the flip... read more ❯
2013 Faculty Publications
Alibali, Martha W., Nathan, Mitchell J., Church, R. Breckie, Wolfgram, Matthew S., Kim, S., & Knuth, Eric J. (2013). Gesture and speech in mathematics lessons: Forging common ground by resolving trouble spots. ZDM – International Journal on Mathematics Education, 45, 425-440. Bingham, Paul M., Joanne Souza, and John H. Blitz (2013) Introduction: Social Complexity and the Bow in the Prehistoric North American Record. Evolutionary Anthropology 22(3):81-88. DOI: 10.1002/evan.21353. Blitz, John H., and Erik S. Porth (2013) Social Complexity and the Bow in the Eastern Woodlands. Evolutionary Anthropology 22(3):89-95. DOI: 10.1002/evan.21349. Blitz, John H., and Lauren E. Downs (2013) An Integrated Geoarchaeology of a Late Woodland Sand Mound. American Antiquity 78(2):344-358. DOI: 10.7183/0002-73188.8.131.524. Brown, Ian W. (2013) Above and Beyond the Pale: A Portrait of Life and Death in Ireland. Tuscaloosa, AL: Borgo. Brown, Ian W. (2013) The Red Hills of Essex: Studying Salt in England. Tuscaloosa, AL: Borgo. Dengah II, H.J.François (2013). The Contract with God: Patterns of Cultural Consensus across Two Brazilian Religious Communities. Journal of Anthropological Research 69(3):347-372. Dressler, William W.,... read more ❯
Childhood: The Experience of Children, Enforced by the Limits of Adults
"I just can't wait to be king!" At least, I think so, but I really don't know what I'm asking for. When Are You an Adult? Allison James begins her chapter On Being a Child: The Self, the Group and the Category sharing an anecdote in which a twelve year old boy, frustrated by the restrictions of his youthfulness, asked her, “When are you an adult?” James confesses that she did not know how to answer the boy, because achieving adulthood, as many of us nineteen – twenty-two year olds have recently come to understand very personally, is more than simply reaching a certain age. It reminds me of a moderately amusing little quote from Grey’s Anatomy which now exists to be re-pinned on Pinterest and shared on Facebook over and over by 20-somethings and 40-somethings alike who think they’re cute (including, but certainly not limited to my own older sister and... read more ❯
Graduate News from Fall 2013
Dr. François Dengah, who received his Ph.D. from our department in May 2013, has had a banner year in exemplifying the scholarship and accomplishment our department strives for. In the fall, his article, "The Contract with God: Patterns of Cultural Consensus across Two Brazilian Religious Communities," was published in the esteemed Journal for Anthropological Research. Subsequently, he received the Best Dissertation Award of the year in the College of Arts & Sciences. In February 2014, it was also named Best Dissertation at the University level. And to cap it off, Dr. Dengah has accepted a tenure-track position as Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Utah State beginning in the fall of 2014. Sara C. Shults, who received her MA from our department in 2012, and Dr. Lisa J. LeCount have published a journal article entitled “Obsidian Form and Distribution at Actuncan, Belize” in the 2013 edition of Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology.... read more ❯
Students Earning Fall 2013 Awards
Graduate Student Awards Doctoral student Paul Eubanks received a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant for his project "Caddo Salt Production in Northwestern Louisiana." Congratulations to Paul and his adviser, Dr. Ian Brown. Paul is our seventh doctoral student to receive an NSF DDIG. This speaks, first and foremost, to Paul's great promise as a scholar and also to the strength of our young doctoral program. Doctoral student Erik Porth was received the Richard A. Krause Award at the 2013 Holiday luncheon. The Krause Award, established in 2008, is given in recognition of outstanding scholarship by a graduate student in Anthropology. Porth, whose research focus is the historical process of placemaking at Moundville, has consistently exemplified this in his dedication to research, teaching, and service to our department. Master's student Kelsey Herndon was honored with a Graduate Student Association award to support travel to the South-Central Conference on Mesoamerica to present "Structure from... read more ❯
Week 2: Cultural Anthropology
I'm Sophia Fazal, an Anthropology and Journalism student here at UA. I am fortunate enough to have a hand in the UA-TMSE Anthropology Partnership this semester. I am happy to report that week 3 covered Cultural Anthropology and it was way too much fun! The students broke up into their created clans from last week and went over their clan fundamentals. They then designated a “Guardian of Culture,” and two ethnographers within their groups. While the “Guadian of Culture,” provided a discretionary background for his or her own culture, the ethnographers traveled to different clans to gain knowledge. The Shadow Clan discussing ritual practices and drawing individual totems. The Shadow Clan chant is a right of passage that every member must learn. Ethnography is a technique used by anthropologists to learn and share about different cultures. The ethnographers were provided with a worksheet to take notes on the clan name, shared ancestor, appointed leader,... read more ❯
How is Religion Useful?
David Sloan Wilson is a hardcore evolutionary biologist; Evolution is his religion. That is what makes his approach to studying religion so particularly interesting. Borrowing the term “Secular Utility” from Emile Durkheim, Sloan appreciates and in many ways dissects the importance of religious practices in human prosperity. It makes the reader wonder if religious rules are the source or the product of practices that aided in success. I think his opinion leads more toward the religious rules stemming out of evolutionary success rather than initially causing it. He views religion from an organismal approach, believing the survival of any religion is bound by the same constraints of any organism. In the chapter “The Secular Utility of Religion”, Sloan looks closely at 3 religions and breaks down their practices to their most biologically successful nature. The Water Temple System of Bali The people of the Water Temples do not have what most... read more ❯
Fall 2013 Publications by Our Students
Blitz, John H., and Erik S. Porth (2013) Social Complexity and the Bow in the Eastern Woodlands. Evolutionary Anthropology 22(3):89-95. DOI: 10.1002/evan.21349. Davis, CB, KA Shuler, ME Danforth, and KE Herndon (2013) Patterns of Interobserver Error in the Scoring of Entheseal Changes. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 23:147-151. DOI: 10.1002/oa.2277. Eubanks, Paul N. (2013) Late Middle Woodland Settlement and Ritual at the Armory Site. In Early and Middle Woodland Landscapes of the Southeast, edited by Alice P. Wright and Edward R. Henry, pp.167-180. University of Florida Press, Gainesville. Herndon, KE, A Booher, and BA Houk (2013) The 2013 Excavations of Structure A-5, Chan Chich, Belize. In The 2013 Season of the Chan Chich Archaeological Project, edited by Brett A. Houk. Papers of the Chan Chich Archaeological Project, Number 7. Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Texas Tech University, Lubbock. Houk, BA, CP Walker, M Willis, and KE Herndon (2013) Structure from Motion Mapping and Remote Sensing at Structure A-5,... read more ❯
"Religion Explained"? Well, it's a start.
Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Or if you're a Harry Potter fan was it the Phoenix or the flame? That is the question that anthropologist Pascal Boyer brings forth in his essay titled Religion: Bound to believe? However, rather than dealing with poultry origins he seems to be more curious about religion and its origins in our culture. Boyer wants to find out if "religion [is] an adaptation or a by-product of our evolution" and though it would be great to have one single answer it appears to be a question that can be argued in many different ways. Pascal Boyer is a french anthropologist who continues his work today as a Professor at Washington University in St. Louis Missouri, and has published multiple books, including Religion Explained (2001), and The Naturalness of Religious Ideas (1994). He studied anthropology at the University of Paris and at Cambridge, and... read more ❯
A New Look at an Old Method: Ethnography as Essential to Good Work, or How Doing Should Start with Being
The inaugural meeting of the University of Alabama Department of Anthropology Journal Club was held Friday January 18th at 2:00 p.m. Attendees were grad students Tina Thomas, Becky Read-Wahidi, Anjelica Callery, Achsah Dorsey, and Greg Batchelder; undergrads Brittany Brooks, Samantha Sloan, and professors Kathryn Oths, Dick Diehl, and Ian Brown. With me (Kathy Oths) moderating, a lively discussion ensued regarding a recent piece in Social Science and Medicine (SSM), On sitting and doing: Ethnography as action in global health by Stacy Pigg [99:27-134(2013)], the previous editor of Medical Anthropology. She relates scenes from her fieldwork among International Health (now Global Health) and NGO personnel who were attempting to introduce HIV/AIDS prevention education in Nepal in the late 1990s. As she sat and listened ‘between the cracks’, it emerged that a word-play exercise that encouraged participants to shout out ‘sex’ words was antithetical to a Nepalese aversion to discussing sex (much less... read more ❯