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.”
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.
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.
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.
Regardless of your preference for the plural of “syllabus” (“syllabi” or “syllabuses”), I’ve put some of mine up here under the Courses tab. The American Anthropological Association also has the Teaching Materials Exchange, where you can search for others’ syllabi or just scan through the wide variety of syllabi available. These resources are really valuable for graduate students and junior faculty (like me) who are teaching a course for the first time or those who are just looking to compare their courses with others.
If you’re at the annual American Anthropological Association meeting in San Francisco next week (Nov. 14-18), I’ll be giving my talk at 2:45 pm on Friday (room: Golden Gate 2 at the Hilton San Francisco). Here is the abstract:
Most Amazonian smallholder farmers are accustomed to uncertain climatic conditions, often relying on traditional ecological knowledge, agrobiodiversity management, and social network support to contend with the threats of drought and flooding. Nonetheless, anthropogenic climate change presents unique challenges to Amazonian farmers and their resilience. Between 2009 and 2010, record flooding accompanied by intense drought left devastating impacts on many smallholder communities in the Central Amazon, severely compromising production of even the most resistant crops, including the regional staple manioc. Drawing on botanical, ethnographic, and social network data collected during this period, I discuss the effects of these events on the production and management of manioc and its varieties in communities along the Lower Madeira River in the Central Brazilian Amazon. Examining issues of crop selection and the dynamics of varietal distribution through social networks, I highlight both the vulnerabilities that farmers face and the mechanisms by which they respond to increasingly uncertain environmental conditions. To conclude, I consider the ways in which anthropological research on agrobiodiversity management vis-a-vis climate change may serve farmers and policy makers alike.