The Fermentological Turn

What does the Culture and Agriculture section of the American Anthropological Association have brewing up for this year’s meeting? Take a look.
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Margaret’s Mead: C&A’s First Zine

Last week, we printed off the first zine produced by the Culture & Agriculture section of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). It’s a collaborative effort with essays, art, and conversations on the history, making, and sharing of mead (honey wine). A special shout-out goes to Jon Tanis who handled the orchestration and assemblage, and really made the thing come alive.

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We’re eager to get the zine into your hands, and we will have print copies available at the AAA Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. this November. We’d also love for you to check out the “Cultures of Fermentation” roundtable that Jim Veteto and I organized for the AAA meeting, which will be held Saturday, Dec. 2nd at 10:15 AM. The zine will be there and you might even be able to sample some meads with us.

You can find electronic versions of the zine (in both reader and print formats) on the C&A website if you who want to take a sneak peak or even print out some copies of your own. Feel free to distribute it and let us know what you think!

The Social Network of US Academic Anthropology

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This morning I presented a paper at the AAA meeting in Minneapolis as part of a panel I co-organized with Joe Feldman, titled “Challenging Anthropology in the 21st Century.” My paper focused specifically on the social network of US academic anthropology and how hiring networks can contribute to – or at the very least reflect – embedded hierarchies within the discipline. You can download a copy of the paper here. The abstract is below:

“Anthropologists often strive to point out social inequality while using their research to promote meaningful social change. However, academic anthropology can sometimes reproduce the very problems of social inequality that its scholars tend to rail against. Past research on U.S. academic hiring networks has shown evidence of systematic inequality and hierarchy, attributed at least in part to the influence of academic prestige, which is not necessarily a reflection of merit or academic productivity. Using anthropology departments’ websites, we gathered information on all tenured and tenure-track faculty in PhD-granting anthropology programs in the U.S., totaling 1,918 individuals in all. For each faculty member, we noted their current institution and PhD-granting institution, which we treated as a “tie” between those academic programs. With these data, we applied methods from social network analysis (SNA) to examine U.S. academic anthropology’s social network, and we identified multiple factors that help to explain its structure. In this paper, we report on our preliminary findings and we discuss how they can be used to help rethink social reproduction in academic anthropology.”

Culture and Agriculture at #AAA2016

If you’ll be attending the American Anthropological Association meeting in Minneapolis next month, here you can find all of the sessions sponsored by the Culture and Agriculture section. This year we will host two mentoring sessions led by Dr. Karen Kelsky of The Professor Is In. The first session will be geared toward PhD students while the second is designed for those with recently-minted PhDs. If you have questions, feel free to contact me.

Web Fellow Position

The Culture & Agriculture Section of the American Anthropological Association is looking to expand its online and social media presence though a remunerated Web Fellow position. Ideally, candidates should hold (or be working toward) a graduate degree in anthropology and have interests in the relationship between culture and agriculture. If you have any questions about the position, please don’t hesitate to contact me or Lisa Markowitz, the current president of C&A.

Race, Religion, and Magico-Medicinal Plant Use in Rural Amazonia

This Friday I’ll be giving a talk at the American Anthropological Association meeting in a session titled Humans, Plants, and Race: Investigations into Cultivation, Discrimination, and Identity. My paper will focus on the relationships between race, religion, and magico-medicinal plants in rural Amazonia. Here’s the abstract:

In home gardens across rural Amazonia, it is common to find plants that are cultivated for their magical and healing properties. Some plants have long histories linked to indigenous traditions while others are derived from Afro-Brazilian religions, especially Candomblé. Despite widespread occurrence of such plants, many rural Amazonians are reluctant to acknowledge them and some, especially in Evangelical communities, openly criticize their use as incongruent with Christian belief and practice. In examining the use of such plants, this paper highlights the growing tensions in rural Amazonian communities between the competing belief systems of Evangelical Christianity and Amazonian Folk Catholicism, which borrows from Afro-Brazilian Candomblé. In doing so, it explores how the movement away from Folk Catholicism and Candomblé by some Amazonians can be seen as part of a broader attempt to establish distance from “blackness” and “Indianness” and their histories of marginalization in Brazil.

The Big Snake: An Amazonian Vision of Human-Environmental Relations

For the 2013 American Anthropological Association Meeting, I’ll be presenting on the panel Visions of the Amazon: Combining Materialist and Discourse-Centered Approaches, which begins at 10:15 AM on Saturday, November 23rd (in Conference Room 4G in the Chicago Hilton). Here’s the abstract for my talk:

Dam projects, road expansion, cattle ranching, and large-scale soy agriculture all contribute to continued deforestation and environmental degradation in the Amazon region today. But as humans are increasingly viewed as independent drivers of regional environmental change, the ways in which the Amazonian environment resists human control are ignored and overlooked. Drawing from ethnographic research among smallholder farmers, I discuss how rural Amazonians hold a de-centered perspective of human-environmental relations that recognizes not only the agency of humans but that of non-human others as well. Examining Amazonian folklore and the stories of Cobra Grande (the “Big Snake”) in particular, I argue that rural Amazonians view their environment as one of robust, defiant vitality rather than a fragile ecosystem in need of protection or a passive landscape open to human manipulation. To conclude, I consider the implications of this perspective for Amazonian conservation and development as well as its potential value for an alternative political ecology of the region.