2020 Spring Visiting Speakers
Department of Anthropology, SP 2020, Visiting Anthropologist Lecture, Dr. Alexander S. Dent (George Washington U)
Title of Public Lecture: Cellular Ambivalence: Teenage Phone Use in Washington DC
Day, Date, Time, Place: Thursday, February 27, 4:30pm, Cole Cinema
Free and open to public
Abstract: Cellular phones are everywhere — in our conversations, kitchens, bathrooms, classrooms, and cars. At the same time as we embrace their conveniences we wring our hands over their dangers. In language that resembles moral panics over automobiles, the printing press, and old-fashioned telephones, we worry that we are “distracted” and “addicted.” This talk will explore the concept of ambivalence, asking how our love-hate relationship with cellular technology keeps us from understanding what is really “new” about it. I will call on interviews and observations from an ongoing project on teen cell phone use on Washington DC that began in 2015.
Alexander S. Dent is a linguistic and cultural anthropologist who works on media, music, intellectual property, and policing in Brazil and North America. He teaches at The George Washington University. He got his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his graduate degree from the University of Chicago. His first book, “River of Tears: Country Music, Memory, and Modernity in Brazil” was published by Duke University Press in 2009, and “Digital Pirates: Policing Intellectual Property in Brazil” will come out with Stanford University Press in June. His next project will investigate the policing of punk rock in authoritarian Brazil (1976-84). He is an active musician in Washington DC.
Department of Anthropology, SP 2020, Distinguished Scholar Lecture, Dr. Donna Goldstein (Colorado)
Day, Date, Time, Place: Thursday, March 5, 4:30pm, Cole Cinema
Free and Open to the Public
Abstract: After the Fukushima catastrophe, people in many different countries turned their attention to the nuclear power stations located closest to them. What were the risks of a nuclear meltdown? Were there lessons to be learned from Fukushima? It was in this context that I approached nuclear discourse in Brazil. My project involves speaking to and working with scientists, engineers, security experts, anti-nuclear activists and public health officials connected to the Centro Nuclear.
Almirante Álvaro Alberto (CNAAA), Brazil’s nuclear complex located in Angra dos Reis. Did Brazilians care about Fukushima? How do they understand nuclear energy in light of questions related to climate change? This presentation focuses on nuclear discourses in the Brazilian nuclear and public health sectors. Advancing concepts related to scientific uncertainty—technophilia, undone science and epistemic murk—I explore why Brazil has pursued construction of a third nuclear power plant in spite of the Fukushima disaster, even while its citizens share apocalyptic visions of what a catastrophic nuclear event would look like at Angra.
Biography of Donna Goldstein:
Donna M. Goldstein is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder has written extensively on the intersection of race, gender, poverty and violence in Brazil. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Laughter Out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown (University of California Press 2003), and winner of the 2005 Margaret Mead award for her contributions to public anthropology. Laughter Out of Place focuses on the lives of impoverished domestic workers living in Rio de Janeiro’s infamous shantytowns who cope with unbearable suffering, violence, and social abandonment. The book came out in second edition with a New Preface in 2013. Currently, Professor Goldstein is working on a series of interconnected projects within medical anthropology, anthropology of the environment, and the anthropology of science (STS). She has also written about the election and racial politics of Donald Trump. She is currently writing a book about the history of genetics, Cold War science, the health of populations, and the future of nuclear energy in Brazil.
2019 Fall Visiting Speakers
Department of Anthropology, FA 2019, Distinguished Scholar Lecture | Dr. Matthew H. Johnson
Day, Date, Time, Place: Thursday, October 24, 4:15pm in Cole Cinema
Continues to be free and open to the public
Abstract: Bodiam Castle, built in the 1380s in south-eastern England, is perhaps the most discussed castle in medieval Europe. It is certainly the most controversial – was it built as defense against the French, or was it an old soldier’s dream house, a fairytale castle set in a symbolic landscape? In this talk, I use the results of archaeological survey at Bodiam to suggest a third view: I think about Bodiam in terms of political ecology, as a landscape of work. I focus on how the castle and its surrounding landscape work to control and define flows of things, of animals, and of people, circulating in and around the castle and its context. Flows work at a series of different scales. Things, animals and people move within and around the castle hall and kitchens, upper and lower courtyards, the farm buildings and water features beyond, to the local, regional and wider landscape and environment. I also think about the cultural biography of the castle over the very long term, from the prehistory of its location to its entanglements in colonial and postcolonial worlds.
Professor Matthew H. Johnson, Department of Anthropology’s Distinguished Scholar Fall 2019
Matthew Johnson works on the archaeology and history of Europe and the Atlantic world. He has written six books on a range of themes, including castles, traditional houses, landscape, and archaeological theory. He most recently worked ‘in the field’ at Bodiam Castle and nearby houses and landscapes in southeastern England.
Matthew was born in Austin, Texas, and is a dual US/British citizen. He has held visiting fellowships and positions at UC-Berkeley, Heidelberg University, UCLA, Flinders University, University of Cambridge, and the University of Pennsylvania. After a PhD at Cambridge and posts at Sheffield, Durham and Southampton, he returned across the Atlantic in 2011 to be Professor and sometime Chair of Anthropology at Northwestern University.
He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 2019, in order to write a book on the archaeology of the English in the Atlantic world in the second millennium CE. The book will trace landscapes and identities from the English Middle Ages, through the feudal settlements of Wales, Scotland and Ireland, to the plantations and colonies of New England, the Chesapeake, and the Caribbean. His aim is to explore the landscapes, buildings and objects that people made and used, and how these were bound up with the changing identities of the English and their neighbors over the very long term.
Department of Anthropology, FA 2019, Visiting Anthropologist Lecture | Dr. Ashanté M. Reese
Title of Public Lecture: “There Ain’t Nothing in Deanwood”:
Toward an Anthropology of Food Access and ‘Nothingness’
Abstract: Tracing the food geographies of residents in northeast Washington D.C., this talk is guided by two queries: How do Black residents navigate and produce space in pursuit of food, especially when there is “nothing” there? What do theories of anti-Blackness reveal about conventional approaches to food inequities? Drawing from ethnographic research in Washington, D.C., I foreground residents’ histories, memories, and agency as they navigate supermarkets, urban agriculture, and their support for Black-owned businesses. Theoretically, I offer geographies of self-reliance as a way to understand how self-reliance is used as a cultural framework to produce spatial food patterns that are shaped but not wholly determined by inequities. Ethnographic attention to Deanwood reveals quiet food refusals—the everyday decisions residents make to intentionally refuse narratives of lack often sutured to Black people—as a practice of both racial and spatial resilience that eludes the gaze of mainstream food justice organizations.
Dr. Ashanté M. Reese earned a bachelors in History with a minor in African American studies from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. After undergrad, she taught middle school at Coretta Scott King Leadership Academy in Atlanta, GA for two years. It was during those teaching years that she developed an interested in the relationships between race, place, and food access. She went on to earn a Masters in Public Anthropology at American University in 2013 and a PhD in Anthropology, specializing in race, gender, and social justice two years later. Broadly speaking, Dr. Reese is interested in Black geographies – the ways Black people produce and navigate spaces and places in the context of anti-Blackness. While she am interested in and committed to documenting the ways anti-Blackness constrains Black life, Dr. Reese is constantly brought back to the question, what and who survives? This question is animated by her recurring interest in community and vulnerability in both research and the human experience more broadly.
Her first book, Black Food Geographies: Race, Food Access, and Self-Reliance in Washington, D.C. was published by UNC Press in April 2019. Her second, Black Food Matters, is volume co-edited with Hanna Garth. Dr. Reese’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, UNCF-Mellon, and the Mellon Foundation, and the Association Colleges of the South.
2019 Spring Visiting Speakers
Department of Anthropology, SP 2019, Distinguished Scholar Lecture
Title of Public Lecture: Why is a raven like a writing-desk? How and why languages sort the world
Day, Date, Time, Place: Wednesday, April 3, 2019, 4:45 – 5:45pm, Cole Cinema, Campus Center
Free and open to public
Abstract: Everything in the world is unique, but in order to talk about things we sort them into categories called words. Some languages go farther than that, by sorting words into larger categories called “genders” or “noun classes”, or referring to things with special words called “classifiers”. I will illustrate a few of these from languages like German, Swahili, Menominee (Algonquian), Mandarin Chinese, and American Sign Language, showing some of the bases for classification (like gender, shape, size, and culturally-specific associations), and I will talk about what communicative work these classification systems do. For example, metaphors of gender can be used to create new words, noun class markers help identify what is being talked about, choice of classifier can express a speaker’s attitude about the referent, and they can be used as a form of verbal art.
Professor Ellen Contini-Morava, Department of Anthropology’s Spring 2019 Distinguished Scholar
Biography (excerpt from UVA faculty profile website),
I had an early childhood fantasy that my unique brain wave configuration made me the only person on Earth who would be able to communicate with the space aliens I hoped would show up. Later I became interested in human languages, but I resisted learning my father’s native language, Italian, until our family moved to Somalia when I was 12 and it turned out that the only middle school in Mogadishu was Italian. There I also studied Latin and Arabic, and for fun I attended Russian classes that were run by the Soviet embassy for Somalis en route to study in the USSR. I didn’t learn Somali, though, which was not written then and not formally taught. This I felt as an unpaid debt that followed me back to the U.S., which led to my later focus on African languages and linguistics.
According to Franz Boas, anthropology’s intellectual forebear, each language is a principle of classification, and its grammar encodes only a subset of the infinite number of meanings that people can imagine wanting to communicate. Two questions that have inspired most of my research are: (1) what are the meanings encoded by the grammatical categories of particular languages? and (2) how do people employ these sparse and abstract meanings to convey an infinitely varied set of messages in actual discourse?
My early work was on the meanings expressed by verb tenses and “aspects” (forms indicating ongoing or completed action, as opposed to location in time) in Swahili. I was intrigued by the fact that Swahili, like other Bantu languages, had a different set of tenses and aspects in the negative from those used in the affirmative. In my first book I discuss how the negative forms express meanings having to do with defeated expectations, i.e. they say more about what might have been than about what actually happened. Later I turned to the system of noun classification for which Bantu languages are famous. These resemble “grammatical genders” such as those found in French or Spanish, except that there are a dozen or more “genders” instead of just two, and the basis for classification has nothing to do with sex/gender. In this work I have been interested in both why a noun is assigned to one class rather than another (why are hippos, diminutives, and names of languages put into the same class in Swahili?), and what is the communicative function of noun classification in general. After all, languages like Turkish make do without noun classes, modern English has abandoned them, and English speakers find it an illogical burden to learn the genders of nouns in French or German.
Title of Public Lecture: Anthropology and Sexual Assault: U.S. Clinics and Courts in 21st Century
Day, Date, Place, Time: Monday, February 25, Cole Cinema, 4:45pm
Free and open to public
Abstract: This talk focuses on how anthropologists contribute to understanding U.S. approaches to sexual assault intervention. Considering fieldsites like emergency room clinics, and courtrooms, I show how anthropologists use participant-observation making us particularly well-situated to identify the specific ethical complexities of caring for victims of sexual assault, responding to sexual violence, and preventing rape and sexual assault. While these subjects of research are delicate and require careful research design and ethical accountability, the insights we learn from insisting on conducting fieldwork under even the most fraught conditions yields results that no other technique or methodology can produce. As we navigate the crisis of #MeToo and Title IX, anthropology offers us the tools of overcoming what we take for granted about sexual violence.
Biography: Sameena Mulla is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Marquette University. She is the author of The Violence of Care: Rape Victims, Forensic Nurses and Sexual Assault Intervention, which is based on research she conducted in Baltimore, MD. She is currently studying sexual assault adjudication and trials in Milwaukee, WI, with her collaborator, Heather Hlavka. In 2017, Mulla was awarded the Margaret Mead Award by the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.
2018 Fall Visiting Speakers
Title of Public Lecture: An Archaeology of Food Security in West Africa
Day, Date, Place, Time: Wednesday, October 25, 4:45pm, in Cole Cinema
Free and open to public
Abstract: Today, food insecurity is associated with both severe climatic shifts and pervasive poverty. What is less well understood is how the problem of hunger came to take its present-day form, especially in the African continent, where the highest prevalence of undernourishment is found. I propose that archaeology can be used as an alternative archive of food security. Material remains provide a from-the-hearth-up view of changing foodways and political economy and can be used to trace the shape of processes that led to modern-day patterns of food insecurity. Combining archaeobotanical, ethnoarchaeological, and environmental data, I provide a case study that
shows how food insecurity was avoided during a centuries-long drought in Banda, Ghana, and emerged only much later, in the 19th and 20th centuries, as market economies and colonial rule took hold. I suggest that archaeology is essential for making such processes of “slow violence” visible, particularly in areas that lack rich historical archives.
Biography: My overarching goal is to connect the past to the present through reframing the kinds of questions we ask and empirically bridging the modern/premodern divide. My current focus is building an archaeology of food security that traces how, where, and when chronic hunger emerged across the African continent. Drawing insight from political ecology and critical development studies, I utilize archaeology to highlight the political and economic shifts that paved the way for food insecurity, rather than attributing it to environmental change alone. By using empirical data to construct alternative narratives of underdevelopment and agricultural achievement, I question the common misconception that African food insecurity is a “natural” outcome of environmental catastrophes and “antiquated” agricultural strategies.
Distinguished Scholar lecture
Title of Public Lecture: From Race as Biology to the Biological Consequences of Race and Racism
Day, Date, Place, Time: Monday, November 5, 2018, 4:45 – 5:45pm, Cole Cinema
Free and open to public
Abstract: This talk highlights a paradigm shift in anthropology and related disciplines from viewing race as bio-genetic to elucidating how race and racism impact health and have biological consequences.
Race was initially thought to be a “real” and useful bio-genetic way to divide humans. Even though this understanding of race is completely disproven, current practices in medicine and forensic anthropology often continues to use race as a biological category. This talk begins by summarizing data and reasons why race neither categorizes nor explains human variation, and why continued use of race as a bio-genetic category is harmful. While race is not the same as human variation, race nonetheless has real effects. Racial processes and racism have consequences for development, physiology and health status. This talk ends by considering ways that race and racism “get under the skin.”
Biography: Alan Goodman is a professor of biological anthropology at Hampshire College, and co-director of the American Anthropological Association’s Public Education Project on Race. Professor Goodman earned his PhD at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His research interests include critical approaches to the interactions among political-economic processes, histories, ecologies, and human biologies; the history of human health and nutrition; everyday race and the intersections of genetic and racial discourses; dietary, nutritional and health consequences of poverty and inequality.
2018 Spring Visiting Speakers
Adventures in Anthropology lecture
Title of Public Lecture: The Crossroads of the Whole World
Day, Date, Place, Time: Wednesday, January 31, 4:45pm, in Auerbach Auditorium, St. Mary’s Hall
Free and open to public
Alexandria has, at all periods in its history, occupied a distinct position among the cities of the world. Since its foundation by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, and for the three centuries that followed, Alexandria was the capital, the showcase and the main emporium of one of the most powerful kingdoms in the Hellenistic world, the Ptolemaic kingdom. Even when Egypt became a Roman province, Alexandria retained its importance and significance as a commercial and cultural hub and the second largest city in the Mediterranean after Rome. However, it is evident that the role that Alexandria played was significantly influenced by three different environmental mediums, which converged at Alexandria and which gave the city many of its special characteristics; those are the Mediterranean Sea, the River Nile and Lake Mareotis.
This presentation will be looking at the maritime network that converged at Alexandria in antiquity and the role it played in the development and prosperity of the city.
Visiting Anthropologist Lecture
Title of Public Lecture: On Both Sides of the Wall: Deportation and Mixed-Citizenship Families
Day, Date, Place, Time: Tuesday, February 20, 4:30pm, Cole Cinema
Biography: Dr. Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Loyola University Chicago. Her ethnographic work with undocumented people and their family members examines how members of mixed-status families navigate U.S. law and society. She is the author of two books, Labor and Legality: An Ethnography of a Mexican Immigrant Network (2011) and Becoming Legal: Immigration Law and Mixed Status Families (2016), as well as numerous journal articles.
This talk presents results from a binational pilot project exploring the challenges facing families that are separated or relocated by deportation to Mexico. Deported parents are often separated from their U.S. citizen children and can lose parental rights. Parents who bring their U.S. citizen children with them often encounter bureaucratic barriers to accessing dual citizenship for the children, who may experience prolonged periods of “illegality” and exclusion from school and government services in Mexico. For people who migrated to the United States without their families, return often means family reunification after a long estrangement, and couples grapple with divergent expectations for their roles as spouses, parents, and sexual partners. I will also discuss how the project sought to provide practical help for people who return as they learn to navigate family and society anew in Mexico.
Distinguished Scholar lecture
Title of Public Lecture: Love Letters, Language, and Learning: An Anthropologist’s Journey.
By Laura M. Ahearn
Day, Date, Place, Time: Monday, February 26, 4:45pm, Cole Cinema
Free and open to public
In this talk, I reflect on the path I have traveled as an anthropologist, which began with several years serving in the Peace Corps in Nepal. Returning to the same village where I taught as a volunteer, I conducted research on changing courtship and marriage practices, focusing in particular on love letters, which were only made possible by the increase in literacy among the village women.
After 20 years in academia, however, I left a tenured position as a linguistic anthropologist to work on organizational learning with the U.S. Agency for International Development. In the talk, I discuss how one can apply anthropological skills in many different work settings.
Biography: Dr. Laura M. Ahearn is a Senior Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Learning Specialist on USAID/LEARN. She has held faculty positions at the University of Michigan, the University of South Carolina, and Rutgers University. She is the author of numerous articles and two books: Invitations to Love: Literacy, Love Letters, and Social Change in Nepal and Living Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology.
2017 Fall Visiting Speakers
Distinguished Scholar Speaker Series (Fall 2017):
Professor Jonathan Marks, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Title of Public Lecture: Where Does Race Come From?
Day, Date, Place, Time: Thursday, October 26, Cole Cinema, 4:15pm
Free and Open to the Public
I will be addressing the historical context of the development of the concept of race, in the 17th and early 18th centuries. While we now know what the basic patterns of human variation are, it is interesting in hindsight to ask how science came to think incorrectly that there exists a few basic kinds of people, each associated with a continent. I will discuss the biblical association between place, inhabitants, and mythic ancestors; and then examine the role played by mapmakers in graphically reconceptualizing that association in the 1600s.
Visiting Anthropologist Speaker Series (Fall 2017):
Professor Martin Gallivan, College of William & Mary
Title of Public Talk: The Powhatan Landscape
Day, Date, Place, Time: Wednesday, November 1, Cole Cinema, 4:45pm
Free and Open to the Public
This presentation offers a new perspective on Chesapeake history by tracing the Native past from the arrival of Algonquian forager-fishers to the rise of the Powhatan chiefdom. The goal is to shift the frame of reference from English accounts of colonial events toward a longer narrative of Algonquians’ construction of places, communities, and connections in between. The archaeological record indicates that scholars’ attentiveness to the English arrival in the Chesapeake has concealed a deeper, indigenous past in Tsenacomacoh, the Algonquian term for Tidewater Virginia.