2015 – 2016 Colloquium

 

Keeping the Road Open: Waiting, Migrating and the Domestication of Hope in Kyrgyzstan

Keeping the Road Open

 

Thursday March 24, 2016

Green College Coach House

5:00 - 6:30 pm

Event Poster: PDF

Dr. Madeleine Reeves

Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester

 

 

Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between waiting, leaving, house-building and hope in the context of contemporary Kyrgyz transnational migration. How and why is it, I ask, that despite the very real hardship that is recognized to accompany migration and the ever-present risk that after years of work abroad one might still return empty handed, migration nonetheless comes to be seen as the necessary precondition for a a properly future-oriented existence in Kyrgyzstan? Critically engaging debates about hope, futurity and temporal agency, I argue that part of the appeal of migration for families in rural Kyrgyzstan is that it serves to expand the horizons of possibility in a context where the immediate future is envisioned as radically unstable.

I focus on two strategies that figured during my fieldwork central to this practical and imaginative work of ‘keeping the road open’: house-building, particularly for newly-married sons, and ‘doing up a passport’ (passport kyluu): that is, the purchase of Russian passport and the (official, at least) revocation of one’s Kyrgyzstani citizenship. Such strategies, I suggest, point to a paradox at the heart of contemporary Kyrgyzstani migration: the vast majority of my interlocutors spoke of labour migration in Russia as a temporary process that would ultimately create the conditions for meaningful family life in Kyrgyzstan. Yet such possibilities are increasingly seen to be contingent, not just upon a (potentially indefinite) period of labour far from home, but on a displacement of political membership: the ceding of Kyrgyzstani citizenship in favour of the Russian citizenship that guarantees better working conditions abroad, and which protects against the risk of deportation.

Bio

Madeleine Reeves is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, and a member of the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change. Her interests lie in the anthropology of politics, space and (im)mobility, based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Kyrgyzstan and Russia. She is the author of 'Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia' (Cornell, 2014), which won the 2015 Rothschild Prize of the Association for the Study of Nationalities and the 2016 Alexander Nove prize of the British Association of Slavic and East European Studies. She is the co-editor, with Johan Rasanayagam and Judith Beyer of 'Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia: Performing Politics (Indiana 2014), and with Mateusz Laszczkowski, of a special issue of Social Analysis on 'Affective States' (2015).

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and the Eurasian States and Societies: Past and Present Lecture Series at Green College

The State's Own Anthropology: Comparative Cases from California and Palestine

The State

 

Thursday March 24, 2016

Anthropology and Sociology Building (ANSO) 134

11:30 – 1:30 pm

Event Poster: PDF

Dr. Les Field

Les Field is a Professor of Anthropology at University of New Mexico

 

 

Abstract

In this paper I am concerned to speak as specifically and illustratively as possible about certain instances of the complex relationship between anthropological scholarship and the formation of state policies.  In what ways is anthropological scholarship deployed in the development of government policy?  Is the production of knowledge deployed in the exercise of a state’s governmentality with respect to indigenous peoples in fact distinct from anthropological knowledge?  Using case-studies from my work in California and Palestine, I elaborate these themes and question and show how in these instances states deploy policies that rely upon anthropological framework and epistemologies both with and without the complicity of anthropologist themselves.

Bio

Les Field is a Professor of Anthropology at University of New Mexico and author of Abalone Tales: Collaborative Explorations of California Indian Sovereignty and Identity and The Grimace of  Macho Ratón: Artisans, Identity and Nation in Late Twentieth Century  Western Nicaragua.

The Absorption Hypothesis: How People Learn to Hear God and Experience Spirituality

How people

 

Thursday March 17, 2016

Michael Ames Theatre, Museum of Anthropology

11:30 – 1:00 pm

Event Poster: PDF

Dr. Tanya Luhrmann

Tanya Luhrmann is Watkins University Professor in the Stanford Anthropology Department.

 

 

Abstract

What kind of skill? Both my ethnographic work and my psychological work have consistently found that “absorption” is associated with experiences of God, both in America and abroad. People who score highly on the absorption scale are more likely to say that they experience God as a person; that they have a back and forth dialogue with God; that that they have vivid sensory encounters with God (they hear his voice with their ears); and that they have a range of other powerful and unusual spiritual experiences. So what exactly IS absorption and how are spirituality and imagination related?

Bio

Tanya Luhrmann is Watkins University Professor in the Stanford Anthropology Department. Her work focuses on the way that objects without material presence become real to people. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003 and received a John Guggenheim Fellowship award in 2007.

Co-sponsored by Green College and the Vancouver Institute

Men Are Animals: The Perils of Naturalizing Male Violence and Sexuality

Men Are Animals

 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS) Seminar Room

11:30am – 1:00 pm

Event Poster: PDF

Dr. Matthew Gutmann

Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Brown International Advanced Research Institutes at Brown University.

 

 

Abstract

This lecture explores popular enthusiasm for putative scientific beliefs that men have minimal control over their sexual and violent “natures” and that they must be managed and restrained, usually by societal restrictions, and by the women in their lives.  A folk biological narrative can be compelling when trying to understand gendered undercurrents in biological explanations about human behavior pervasive today in various societies.  Nonetheless the biology of maleness may be more remarked upon than understood, and why and how analytic frames referencing heredity, genes, and hormones hold sway in the popular imaginary in three societies (China, Mexico, and the United States) at this particular historical moment rests on more than simply the credibility of scientific discovery.

Bio

Matthew Gutmann is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Brown International Advanced Research Institutes at Brown University.  His research and teaching focuses on men and masculinities; public health; politics; and the military.  His books include, The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City;The Romance of Democracy: Compliant Defiance in Mexico CityChanging Men and Masculinities in Latin AmericaFixing Men: Sex, Birth Control and AIDS in Mexico; and Breaking Ranks: Iraq Veterans Speak out against the War (with Catherine Lutz).

Co-Sponsored by: Department of Anthropology and Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies

Edge-Effects: Remediating Crisis & Critique in the Ayoreo Video Project

Edge Effects

 

Thursday Feb 24, 2016

Anthropology and Sociology Building (ANSO) 134

11:30 – 1:30 pm

Event Poster: PDF

Dr. Lucas Bessire

Lucas Bessire is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma.

 

 

Abstract

How can we envision an effective critical response to the non-sensical violence against life on our planet? To formulate a response to this perplexing dilemma, the talk draws on the experimental video imagery recently created by Ayoreo-speaking people of the Paraguayan and Bolivian Gran Chaco. It explores how unauthorized Indigenous self-imagery and the minor conditions of its production may offer untimely correctives to the visual economies, temporal causalities, perceptual registers and political lexicons often presumed to define the so-called “Anthropocene.” In doing so, it asks how Ayoreo remediations of self and world may charter novel axes for ethnographic critique.

Bio

Lucas Bessire is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author
of Behold the Black Caiman: A Chronicle of Ayoreo Life (University of Chicago Press, 2014).

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies

The Historical Ecology of Cultural Keystone Species and Places of the Northwest Coast

 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Anthropology and Sociology Building (ANSO) 134

11:30-1:00 pm

Event Poster: PDF

Dr. Dana Lepofsky 

Professor in the Department of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University

 

 

Abstract

Cultural Keystone Places (CKPs) are landscapes that hold particular importance to the identity and well-being of cultural groups today. I introduce three CKPs of the Northwest Coast: Hauyat, Laxgalts'ap (Old Town), and Dałk Gyilakyaw (Robin Town) (territories of Heiltsuk, Gitga’ata, and Gitsm’geelm, respectively). Our team brings together the data and knowledge gleaned from interviews, oral histories, and ecological, archaeological, and botanical studies to recreate the deep and recent histories of these cultural landscapes. Archaeological features at each CKP are situated within expansive landscapes transformed by generations of people interacting with their surrounding environments.  Extensive management and use of culturally valued resources and ecosystems – reflected in a continuum of native fruit orchards, berry gardens, intertidal root gardens, and clam gardens – belies the appellation of Northwest Coast peoples as “hunter-gatherers”.  We use websites and touch screens to share the historical secrets held within the lands, water, and ecosystems of these special places.

Bio

Dana Lepofsky is a professor in the Department of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University.   She is interested in past human-environmental interactions and in situating this information in current social and ecological contexts.

An Assessment of Language Vitality among the Mako people of Venezuela and the Importance of Participant Observation Data

Language

 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Anthropology and Sociology Building (ANSO) 134

11:30am-1pm

Event Poster: PDF

Dr. Jorge Rosés Labrada

Honorary Killam and Banting Postdoctoral Fellow

Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, First Nations and Endangered Languages Program

 

Abstract

Mako [ISO 639-3: wpc], a Sáliban language spoken along the Ventuari River in the Venezuelan Amazon, has been variably reported as (critically) endangered and threatened (see for example Mattéi-Müller (2006) and Mosonyi (2003)). These reports, however, are based on second-hand information and/or self-reported census data. In this talk, I present a vitality assessment of the language that relies on first-hand fieldwork data from 20 Mako villages in the Middle Ventuari River area. The analysis of the data—collected through personal and group informal interviews, two community censuses, and participant observation between 2012 and 2014—shows that the situation is not as dire as previously reported and that the language is in fact very vital in its local context. I also show that the place of Mako in the regional and national contexts puts the language in a vulnerable position and that steps should be taken to ensure its presence in new domains of use such as the schools, the government and the media. Methodologically, I show the importance—and argue in favour—of including data from long-term participant observation in analyses and reports of linguistic vitality because of the access this methodology provides to tacit knowledge (see DeWalt & DeWalt (2011)) about language use and attitudes. This work thus not only contributes to our understanding of language vitality among the Mako communities but to discussions of best practices in language vitality assessment.

Co-sponsored by the First Nations and Endangered Languages Program and the Department of Anthropology

A book talk with Sara Shneiderman - Rituals of Ethnicity: Thangmi Identities Between Nepal and India

Rituals

 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Anthropology and Sociology Building (ANSO) 134

11:30am-1pm

Event Poster: PDF

 Dr. Sara Shneiderman

Assistant Professor in Anthropology and the Institute of Asian Research at UBC

 

 

Abstract

Rituals of Ethnicity is a transnational study of the relationships between mobility, ethnicity, and ritual action. Through an ethnography of the Thangmi, a marginalized community who migrate between Himalayan border zones of Nepal, India and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, Shneiderman offers a new explanation for the persistence of enduring ethnic identities today despite the increasing realities of mobile, hybrid lives. She shows that ethnicization may be understood as a process of ritualization, which brings people together around the shared sacred object of identity.

The first comprehensive ethnography of the Thangmi, Rituals of Ethnicity is framed by the Maoist-state civil conflict in Nepal and the movement for a separate state of Gorkhaland in India. The histories of individual nation-states in this geopolitical hotspot—as well as the cross-border flows of people and ideas between them—reveal the far-reaching and mutually entangled discourses of democracy, communism, development, and indigeneity that have transformed the region over the past half century. Attentive to the competing claims of diverse members of the Thangmi community, from shamans to political activists, Shneiderman shows how Thangmi ethnic identity is produced collaboratively by individuals through ritual actions embedded in local, national, and transnational contexts. She builds upon the specificity of Thangmi experiences to tell a larger story about the complexities of ethnic consciousness: the challenges of belonging and citizenship under conditions of mobility, the desire to both lay claim to and remain apart from the civil society of multiple states, and the paradox of self-identification as a group with cultural traditions in need of both preservation and development. Through deep engagement with a diverse, cross-border community that yearns to be understood as a distinctive, coherent whole, Rituals of Ethnicity presents an argument for the continued value of locally situated ethnography in a multi-sited world.

Bio

Sara Shneiderman is Assistant Professor in Anthropology and the Institute of Asian Research at UBC. She previously taught at Yale University. Current research projects include an ethnography of “post-conflict” state restructuring in Nepal, with a focus on citizenship, territory, and religiosity, and an exploration of trans-Himalayan citizenship across the historical and contemporary borders of India, China, and Nepal. The state restructuring project is now expanding to consider how the 2015 earthquakes have affected sociocultural and political processes of transformation.

Maize for the Gods — How a wild grass from western Mexico came to be one of the world’s most important crops

Maize

 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Anthropology and Sociology Building (ANSO) 1109

11:30am-1pm

Event Poster: PDF

Dr. Michael Blake

Department of Anthropology at UBC

 

 

Abstract

Research during the past decade has produced a veritable tsunami of information about the origins and development of agriculture around the world. In the Americas we’ve seen major advances in knowledge about the timing and geography of agriculture’s adoption and spread.  In most cases this research has raised new questions about the changing relationships between humans and the plants and animals they domesticated. Among these, maize is one of the most interesting domesticates because of its early appearance some 9000 years ago and its eventual rise to dominance as one of today’s three most important food and industrial crops. Was it always an important food crop for early Americans, or was this a more recent development as the plant itself underwent genetic modifications during its long history? What does this plant’s history tell us about the complex process of agricultural emergence in different regions of North, Central, and South America?

Permeable Bodies: Children, Cancer, and Biomedicine in Argentina

Permeable

 

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Anthropology and Sociology Building (ANSO) 1109

11:30am-1pm

Event Poster: PDF

Rafael Wainer

M.A. in Anthropology, UBC, 2008

Lic. in Anthropology, University of Buenos Aires, 2005

 

 

Abstract

The vast improvement in survival rates in childhood cancer, especially in childhood leukemia, has expanded expectations of survival. Surviving cancer is the result of invasive and life- disrupting treatments. To understand the long and taxing medical journeys of these children living with cancer this study traces children and families’ experiences at Hospital Infantil (public Children’s Hospital) in the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It examines how children and families as well as hematologists, communicable disease specialists, and palliativists struggle with the treatments and care for these children. This thesis asks: How does a “sick child” overcome a life-threatening illness such as a cancer and its painful treatments to become a “cancer survivor” living “life without illness” in the global south, particularly in a country like Argentina? This question leads to an anthropological reflection on the role of the body, especially children’s bodies, in cancer treatment, palliative care, and cure. It pays careful attention to issues of corporeality and subjectivity. The thesis examines how bodies work interactively while being the object of invasive and painful biomedical interventions. These interventions not only affect children but also their families and the professionals themselves.

This ethnography investigates the potentials and perils of pediatric cancer treatment in its specific Argentinean context and the importance of carefully looking at the body to understand children, families, and professionals’ practices that aim for a life without cancer. By focusing on the production of “permeable bodies” this study argues that cancer treatment turns children’s bodies into permeable bodies, bodies painfully turned inside out, as a way of producing knowledge and an urgent therapeutic relation that stretches in multiple dimensions. Children become the embodied objects of cancer treatment.

Bio

Rafael is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at UBC under the Supervision of Dr. Bill McKellin. His main interests are biomedical knowledge and practices, children, corporal experience of medical treatments, and the perils and promises of cancer treatment for children in a Latin American context. Rafael is particularly interested in the multidimensional strategies in relation to the provision of (social and medical) care to children experiencing cancer, and the distinct experience children, families, and different health professionals come across in their everyday lives. Rafael's dissertation is based on ethnographic research on a local clinic site in Argentina and asks questions about subjectivity, capacity for action, the body, social care, and the limits to medical knowledge and practice placing children’s bodies as the focal point of my analysis.

  

2015 Hawthorn Lecture

 

FROM SCIENCE to ART & BACK AGAIN: the pendulum of an environmental anthropologist

From Science

 

MONDAY, October 5, 2015

Biological Sciences Building, Room 2000

Event Poster: PDF

Tim Ingold

University of Aberdeen

 

 

 

 

Abstract:

Over a forty-year career in environmental anthropology, I have found myself drifting inexorably from an engagement with science to an engagement with art. This was also a period during which science increasingly lost is ecological bearings, while the arts increasingly gained them. In this lecture I trace this journey in my own teaching and research, showing how the literary reference points changed, from foundational texts in human and animal ecology, now largely forgotten, through attempts to marry the social and the ecological inspired by the Marxian revival, to contemporary writing on post-humanism and the conditions of the Anthropocene.

Linking Language, Culture, and the Environment: Twenty years of Biocultural Diversity Research and Action

Luisa

 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Anthropology and Sociology Building (ANSO) 1109

11:30am-1pm

Event Poster: PDF

Luisa Maffi, Ph.D.

Co-founder and Director, Terralingua

 

 

Abstract

Indigenous societies tend to make no distinction between “nature” and “culture”, seeing people as an intrinsic part of a greater whole that is the natural world. In Western ways of thinking, instead, “nature” and “culture” have often been conceptualized as distinct realms, and people have been seen as separate from (and even dominant over) nature. So pervasive has this dichotomy been, that our vocabularies contain no words to refer to “nature and culture” together.

The concept of biocultural diversity emerged two decades ago as a way of bridging this gap. A new word had to be coined to encapsulate the idea that diversity in nature (biodiversity) and diversity in culture (cultural and linguistic diversity) are all manifestations of the diversity of life, and that they are interconnected and interdependent. Over the past twenty years, biocultural diversity has increasingly taken hold both as a holistic way of viewing our place in the world, and as an integrative field of research and action. This lecture reviews the history and conceptual foundations of biocultural diversity and its applications in a variety of “real-world” situations.

Bio

Luisa Maffi (Ph.D., Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley, 1994) has spearheaded the development of the concept and field of biocultural diversity since co-founding the international NGO Terralingua <www.terralingua.org> in 1996. Her edited book On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge, and the Environment and the co-authored Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook have helped establish the field’s theoretical and practical foundations. Together with her economist and ecologist partner David Rapport, she is working on a book that takes a global look at nature and culture and assesses our prospects for a more sustainable future.

Co-sponsored by: the First Nations and Endangered Languages Program and the Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, UBC