Friday, July 18, 2014

Can Anthropology Make the World Safe for Women?

Greeting Nerds!
The members of the anthropology program are busy this summer conducting various research projects all over the place. Dr. Giblin is currently in Hungary, and Dr. Ullinger will be back shortly from her time working on collections in the Midwest of the USA.  My work this summer has been mostly at home, conducted at my kitchen table in Fairfield, CT.  I took a short break from my table to bring three wonderful students with me to Morocco (see Lauren and Emily's posts for details of the trip), but I've spent most of my time thinking about the way anthropological theory and practice can be used to end human suffering.  My particular focus here is on the suffering women experience at the hands of others—either by loved ones, strangers, or even institutions. Since violence against women is a problem of epidemic proportions, there are numerous projects to work on this summer. One project came from my dear friend Annabel Taylor in Christchurch. We are currently working together as part of a larger team on a project to identify best practices in the field of violence prevention.  Lucy Freeman, one of our AN students, has been helping me dig up the relevant literature so we can provide the best evidence for what works in helping victims move away from violence, and if there is evidence for ending violence full stop.

Another project came about due to evidence collected by a team of biological anthropologists who identified high rates of sexual harassment and sexual assault against women (and some men) in fieldsite settings [you can read the study here: ]  Since the majority of the respondents to the study were anthropologists, the American Anthropological Association decided it was time to find out what was going on amongst the membership, and take stock of the scope and scale of sexual violence and sexual harassment (sv/sh) experienced by AAA members, both in the field, as the aforementioned study identified, and in labs, classrooms, and other settings.  I was lucky enough to be included on the research team for the AAA project.  Our current goal is to determine how extensive the problems of sv/sh are for members, and then, based on the findings, decide what educational module would be most beneficial for the membership.   Both projects are exciting for me because they are explicitly applied, meaning the goal is to use the findings from both studies to make the world safer for women. 

One of the main reasons anthropologists are now being incorporated into projects addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues (violence, economic inequality, environmental sustainability, etc.) is because for too long policy and programmatic responses to an issue assumed that the way “Westerners” did things was the best, yet to ill effect.  After three-quarters of a century of hiccups and outright project failures across the world, major NGOs and development entities are starting to realize what anthropologists have known all along—you have to listen and learn from others, and to discover what local solutions are available to solve local problems.  Sometimes people can be impatient, or arrogant, and don’t want to listen; other times projects are operating on inadequate budgets in order to allow the project team the time they need to learn what the perspectives are in the local context, and what obstacles and opportunities might arise; lastly, and detrimentally, there is often no money available to hire and train local experts themselves, so that local people can address local problems. Thus there are still many barriers in place that make it so projects cannot do the deep learning that leads to thick description of a place and its people, but at the very least project directors and organizational leaders are starting to realize that the anthropological worldview can be a positive way forward.

This is not to claim that anthropologists are going to solve the global problem of violence against women alone. However, bringing our perspectives and our methodological toolkit to bear on the problem, in collaboration with other scholars and activists might present the challenge before us in a new light, and offer new solutions that were hidden from view previously.
This is my daughter Lula, at my kitchen table. I'm trying to make the world safer for her and all girls.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Breaking Ground: The start of the BAKOTA 2014 field season

Hello fellow anthro nerds! 

This is Julia reporting from the BAKOTA 2014 archaeological field season 
in southeastern Hungary. 

Dori, Adam and Justine working on Burial 45.
We have had a great first week…

  • Our international team of researchers and students have been arriving from throughout Hungary, Canada, the US and the Middle East.
  • We have re-established our grid from last season and have started to open up new "blocks" (excavation areas) to continue exploring a Middle Bronze Age cemetery called Bekes 103. 

Here are a few shots of our research team from the field and lab!

Kalyan mastering the Total Station.

Enikő and Anna screening dirt from an EU (excavation unit) - amidst the growing corn field.

Russell, Monique and Enikő excavating in Block 39, where we have identified several burials already! 

Paul giving an introductory lecture about the BAKOTA Project.

Laci and Monique reconstructing a crania.

Justine setting up field notebooks for the documentation of special samples (like soil chemistry) collected while excavating.

Stay tuned for more updates from me and Justine as the season progresses.


Also, check out the TEDx talk produced by the students of Anthro 300 (Ancient Food for Thought) on eating insects! It just went live (hehehe…pun intended).

Link: Don't Bug Out: Challenging Food Taboos

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An overdue post about the AN300 TEDxQuinnpiacU Event!

Our TEDx talk ("Don't But Out!") was a collaborative project by my Anthropology 300 class (Ancient Food for Thought). We wanted to challenge food taboos on campus and encourage students to think critically about their food practices. We began researching entomophagy, the consumption of insects, and built our TEDx talk around a central question: How does a food trend get started on a college campus? The class divided into teams: the research team, the images team, the speech writers, and, of course, the class chefs! We cooked up some chocolate ‘chirp’ cookies and cricket salsa to see how students would respond to this unusual snack. The results were overwhelmingly positive! Students were incredibly receptive to the idea of occasionally incorporating insects into their diet.

The process of putting together a TEDx talk took an enormous amount of time and hard work, but luckily we had a great team that always kept a positive attitude. The finished product far exceeded my expectations in terms of quality, insight, and humor.

I would like to thank everyone that worked on the project, but in particular Professors Julia Giblin and Jaime Ullinger, our producer Justine Tynan, and of course my amazing speech partner Jirina Fargeorge.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

AN 300 in Morocco

If you ever have the chance to travel, take it.  Let me rephrase that – if you ever have the chance to travel with an anthropology course, take it. It’s one thing to travel and see the world, and don’t get me wrong it is an amazing experience.  But when you go abroad specifically for anthropology your eyes and mind open up a little bit more, at least in my experience. 
            Prior to traveling to Morocco with Professor Haldane and my two other classmates, Lucy and Emily, I traveled to England, Ireland and Bali.  Those trips were amazing in their own way and I will forever be grateful for the memories I have from them. Going to Morocco with anthropology though made me want to understand their culture more and more.  I’ve always been interested in other people’s cultures and other people’s reasons for specific things, but on this trip I found myself engaging more in my curiosity.  I wanted to know why. Why was it that women drew henna on their hands?  Why was it that men were always the ones sitting around the cafés in the middle of the day drinking tea? I started paying more attention to my surroundings, specifically the people.  I mean yeah it’s great to see the town or city you are in but the town or city wouldn’t be anything without the people.  I started noticing how affectionate men were with other men, and it was in a close friendship kind of way.  I noticed women would come out more at night with their children.  And even that girls in some cities would ride bicycles but in other cities girls didn’t ride bicycles. Of course, I questioned that because of my curiosity. 
            I’ve never been very good at “people watching” as people would call it because most of the time I feel like I was impolitely staring.  I was nervous at first for this trip because I felt like I had to pay attention to the people, my surroundings and the behaviors for the sake of the paper I had to write when I returned home.  I quickly let go of that feeling and just ‘was’ throughout the trip; I let the anthropology I learned prior to the trip soak in.  Believe me when I say, I learned a whole lot by just observing and being curious.
            Being on this trip opened my eyes to the other worlds that surround us.  From now on, when I travel outside of the country I will now be able to really experience the culture for what it truly is, just because I stay curious and ask different questions. 
Lauren Uvino '14

Exploring the Moroccan Berber Villages

On Friday, May 23rd, our little AN300 class of four (including Professor Haldane) took a trip to a few different Berber villages along the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Although the three villages were lumped together, it was very hard to tell them apart. The houses were constructed in Adobe style, and
unfortunately many were severely damaged by a rainstorm last year. The houses were made of mud and straw and other various materials such as rock and even trash from the nearby area.
The first house we visited was where a woman who made soap lived. I bought 2 soaps from her, one lavender and one olive and argon oil. The house was very interesting to walk though. The woman's husband was there fixing walls while she was cooking. We sat in the open outside area in the center of the house. Surrounding the outside area were entrances to various rooms such as bedrooms. The doors to these rooms were covered with either cloth or metal sheets. We did not see all of the rooms, and some of the areas were open with no ceiling. The first open area had a dirt floor while the second open area had a solid floor. In the second area was a lemon tree with basil plants. The home
even had a private hamam that consisted of two rooms. The first room had a small area for a fire, and the second room had a small door that you had to crouch very low to enter, this is where you would wash. Near the hamam was an area where the family kept their animals. There were chickens and a rooster, as well as one donkey. The animals were kept in this room by a simple door thatched together with branches and mesh.
The second village that we visited was only about 500 feet away. This was a village that made pottery for themselves and for the surrounding villages.
The first thing we saw upon entering the village was a giant kiln, and hundreds of pieces of broken pottery laying nearby as well as fire wood. The kiln is filled with pottery once or twice a week, and then then is covered with the broken pottery in order to seal the kiln as the fresh pottery bakes. While in the village, we had the opportunity to go into a small house where there were two men throwing pottery on the wheel. The wheels are foot powered, and are set low into the ground. The wheels spin with a kick of the foot. The men sat on the floor with their feet in the hole in the ground to kick the wheel. Next to them sat a large bowl of water and a slab of clay. The clay that the men use is from the High Atlas. The room was small and dark, the men on the wheels were close to the door, where the light poured in. A large mountain of extra pottery pieces was piled up in the back of the small house.
I told Dounia (from La Maison Anglaise- where we were staying) that I had taken a pottery class this past semester at home. She must have told one of the men on the wheel because he got up and offered me a chance to try throwing. I sat at the wheel and gave it a shot! The wheel did not need to spin as fast as I first thought, it was quite different from what I am used to. I started to throw a mug, but it was very uneven because I was unsure how to center the clay on this style of wheel. After my sad attempt, I got off the wheel and the man managed to throw a perfect mug in all of two minutes.
Upon leaving the pottery wheels, Dounia walked us up to a woman's home where I could wash my hands that were covered with clay. When I walked into the house, there were several women at the entrance who laughed at me when I came in. It turns out that women do not throw pottery in the villages, it is a man's job! I can imagine how the women would find it funny when I walked into the house with my hands covered in mud! 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Looking forward to AN 2014-2015

Greeting Anthro Nerds!
You will soon be reading posts here that detail the amazing adventures the Nerds had in 2013-2014 (already Justine has posted a great piece on her adventures in Hungary);  I wanted to provide you with some (contemporary) food for thought about the on-goings in Nerdland for the upcoming school year.  We have a lot planned. The most exciting news is the Department of Sociology is considering a way to formalize the anthropology curriculum so this option of study will be made available to students. There are wonderful synergies in our department, and great collaborations can be made between anthropology, criminal justice, sociology, gerontology, and social services. Additionally, the AN program is always looking for ways to connect with majors and programs across the university. We hope to have news soon about the ways students can pursue anthropology as part of their studies at Quinnipiac.

As far as classes for Fall, we still have room in AN 300 Forensic Anthropology, taught by Jaime Ullinger, AN 101 Local Cultures, Global Issues, taught by Hillary Haldane (me!), and AN 300 Human Survival and the Environment, taught by Frank Crohn.  In Spring we have a bunch of new classes. AN 300 Human Origins will be taught by Diane Stock, a dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and our resident paleoanthropologist, AN 300 Human Variation, taught by Jaime Ullinger, and AN 300 Practicing Archaeology, taught by Julia Giblin. 

Let us know what you are up to this summer, and share your Nerd Adventures with us. We look forward to seeing you again in the Fall.

Lastly, I want to send our warmest congratulations to all our graduating Nerds.  We have 13 AN minors graduating this year, and we wish them all the best in their future endeavors. Keep us informed about your whereabouts as you go out in the world.

Friday, May 16, 2014

BAKOTA 2014 here I come!

So this post is very overdue, since it has basically been a year since I was fortunate enough to be chosen to work on the archaeological site in Hungary called the BAKOTA project.  I spent six weeks with amazing people excavating a Bronze Age cemetery. I am so thankful I got to be a part of the excavation, and it truly was an amazing experience that I will remember always. 

When Professor Giblin approached me about being apart of an independent study, and in turn assisting on the BAKOTA project in Hungary I almost hit the floor.  I love anthropology and archaeology so this was my chance to jump into the fields…literally.   I was a freshman and really did not want to screw up this opportunity, but luckily I had another student, Lauren Tosti who would be coming with us, which made me feel a bit better.  We got straight to work meeting with Professor Giblin once a week discussing readings and going over material that would be useful for us over in Hungary.  We read about osteology, The Bronze Age, excavation, burials, and recovery techniques.  After spending a whole semester getting prepared it was time for us to set off.  We soon found ourselves in a lovely house in Vésztő, Hungary that was only a short car ride from the excavation site called "Békés 103.”

I have so say when we first started I was very nervous, but eventually I started to catch onto the routine.  I got to do a lot of different jobs eventually landing on lab manager. Which if I do say so myself was the coolest job seeing as I got to see EVERYTHING that came in from the field.  I loved getting to see and touch all the artifacts from the field.  It was so amazing to see such well-preserved pottery and bone, and since it was my first field experience my mind was blown!  There was so much to see, and getting to be apart to the piecing together of this site’s story was amazing.

I got to witness all the different jobs like the expert drawing out the burials by Dori or getting to scan the top soil for artifacts with Paul and Györgyi!  It was such a friendly and inviting atmosphere that really made me feel welcome, and eager to learn.  When I was taking the lessons with Professor Giblin I started thinking about what I wanted to concentrate on as we gained information and artifacts.  One aspect I was/ still am interested in is the placement of the burials.  Was there an order or pattern?  I spent a lot of time paying attention to where all the burials were positioned, and there relations to other burials near them.  There were many things to take note of when observing a burial that I wished to observe.  The space between each, the orientation of any smaller vessels, size comparisons, and patterns on the cremation urns.  

The six weeks seemed to fly by, as we recovered a HUGE amount of materials ready to be analyzed and documented.  I also got an extra treat by seeing the lab where are the reconstructions took place, and where all the samples are held.   

I was so lucky to be a part of this amazing project, and I am very excited to be going to Hungary again this summer!  It was so special to see and feel materials that have been in the ground for thousands of years, and get to uncover how humans may have acted in The Bronze Age.  I cannot wait to get back in the field and see what else is waiting for us!  

        -Justine Tynan