I Can’t Stop Thinking about Anthropology

Sarah Welch UMass Freshman Anthropology Major

Sarah Welch
UMass Freshman
Anthropology Major

By Sarah Welch

UMass Public Anthropology Course | Anthro 397D

Spring 2014

“Fabs, I’m not going to talk about anthro this weekend.”

“What? As if, Sarah!”

We were on an early-morning PVTA 38 bus to Hampshire College, en route to the Five College Queer Gender and Sexuality Conference  Unsurprisingly, this is a conversation that Fabs, a nonbinary English-and-women’s-and-gender-studies-immersed close friend of mine, have a lot. It always takes the same pattern: “I’m going to turn off the anthropology switch, Fabs.” “Yeah, right.” “Excuse you, I have a sense of self-control!”

Flash forward to me inciting a discussion with unsuspecting strangers attending a panel on DIY riot grrl social justice about the problems with imperialism and moral relativism in ethnography: Maybe Fabs was right.

So I can’t ever stop thinking about anthropology: What gives? Maybe it’s not such a bad thing. Anthropology is the study of humans, so on some level it must be relevant to everyone. As anthropology informs my outlook on the world (and what I talk about at queer conferences), so does my environment affect how I do anthropology. Workshop spaces—gatherings of people who discuss and hold activities on a certain topic—have recently been where I have felt the relevance of anthropology the most.

Specifically, three instances in the past month have been fertile ground for the intersection of anthropology and my own personal life: the conference at Hampshire, an informal brown-bag discussion in the Engaged Anthropology Lab  and Hampshire College student Lisa Profeta’s Division III workshop project. While only one of these events was specifically related to my field of study, each one provided its participants with opportunities to make aspects of their personal narrative a compelling part of the experience. Examples included my (entirely relevant, I swear) discussion about ethnography at the queer conference, one professor at the anthro brown bag who related a story of her encounter with racism online, and the Hampshire student workshop facilitator who explained how her experience with working in jails informed her own personal politics. Each of these deeply personal conversations was a result of the space provided for us: one that was collaborative and encouraging of healthy discourse among all present. In that way, we utilized the physical space as a medium for sharing, listening, and learning.

These collaborative spaces put into action the key point of what I have been learning about in anthropology this semester: nothing can exist in a vacuum. The field of anthropology is often one that is confined to academic spaces: commonly, professors and researchers extracting knowledge and artifacts from indigenous societies to bring them back to a Western institution. So far in 2014, my learning in the subject has been related to challenging those forms of scholarship rooted in imperialism and moving towards more engaged forms of research. Essentially, treating non-academic people as colleagues rather than subjects is key to ethical research that breaks down colonialist standards.

While informal chats about Twitter with professors and grad students in the anthropology lab might not constitute a research study, the ethics of listening to others and acknowledging that a position of power does not mean it should be used to exploit were still at the forefront of our goals. An important component of the queer conference and the Division III workshop, run by Hampshire senior Lisa Piefeta, was the construction of a set of ground rules suggested by the participants. Popular phrases included “Don’t yuck my yum,” meaning, “Respect others’ personal values and choices even if you don’t share them,” and “Ouch/oops,” a way of gently letting someone know that their words may have been harmful or offensive. Also key to kicking off the event was each participant sharing their name and preferred pronouns, thereby establishing a safe space for people of all gender identities.

Most important about these self-governing ground rules and expectations was that they were all mutually agreed upon, meaning that all participants had a personal stake in ensuring a safe and supportive climate for sensitive discussions. Racism, misogyny, trans- and queerphobia, and even insensitivity have no place anywhere, especially close-contact workshops, but as instances permeated by them are inevitable, it is useful to have the language for swiftly combating them. This technique of laying down a code of conduct, while perhaps unnecessary to instate formally for something as short as a one-hour anthopology-themed Twitter clinic, it is vital to ensure that any collaborative space is also a safe space.

Once the safe space is established, the physical space can take any form. In the case of the gender and sexuality conference, it took the shape of a two-day string of guest speakers, discussions, craft activities, and panels of experts on queer issues. Most importantly for me, it was defined by the opportunity for solidarity among members of the LGBTQAIP community, who are so often devalued, abused, or entirely erased from mainstream culture. Knowing that all of the people present were a part of the community which I am usually not physically a part of was incredibly empowering. While there, I felt safe to attend events such as “DIY Social Justice”  and activist Robyn Och’s presentation “Real People are Complicated” and speak frankly about my opinions and share experiences, while also tuning in to the other stories people were sharing.

Who I am is crucial to what I do: I can bring a queer, feminist perspective to anthropology that is unique to me. Simultaneously, what I do is crucial to who I am: by meeting people in on-the-ground, meaningful, engaged spaces, I both receive and contribute to a well-rounded, intersectional braiding of experiences. Anthropology is as important to me as I am important to it.

Does that justify me talking my friends’ ears off about my latest readings on techniques of ethnography? As long as I listen to what they’re sharing with me, I say definitely.

Purposeful Gender Inequality Admitted by Cartoon Executives

Casey West UMass Junior Anthropology Major

Casey West
UMass Sophomore
Anthropology Major

By Casey West

UMass Public Anthropology Course | Anthro 397D

Spring 2014

Citation is not necessary to point out that there is a clear and well-defined inequality between males and females. All you have to do is look around, look at the society we live in and you can see the clear dividing lines of what is “socially acceptable” for men and women, or what is made available for and directed towards the two genders. While there are many examples of this occurring each and every day, one specific example caught my eye, showing how men and women are treated differently in regards to media as well, even at a very young age.

I am talking about the cartoon, Young Justice,  that aired on the Cartoon Network  until just recently. At first, the cancellation only drew dismayed reactions from fans, but outrage grew online when Paul Dini, a writer and television producer for Warner and D.C. comics, was interviewed by Kevin Smith via Smodcast. Dini’s interview revealed the horrifying truth behind the cancellation. The reasons for show cancellations described by Dini appalled persons everywhere: “They’re all for boys, ‘we do not want the girls’….’We do not want girls watching this show. Girls buy different toys [than action figures].” (Smith 2013) Of course, both Dini and Smith were appalled by this revelation. Smith himself becomes enraged  at this information, claiming that the fault lies in the toy manufacturers who do not produce toys for girls, when woman make up “51% of the population!” (Smith 2013)

However, the problem continues to go much deeper due to this need to make money, affecting the writers themselves and the writing involved in female characters, because despite all of this, of course shows meant for male audiences have to include women. So  when prompted, Dini spoke about another show that was cancelled for the same reason. He explains why, in references to writing and characters: “…that’s the thing that got us cancelled on [other produced show]…’we need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys’ – this is the network talking – ‘one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there’.”(Smith 2013) The implications of the quote are frightening, as it is directly stated that the producers of a show aimed at young children think that their female characters have to be “not as smart” or “interesting” as the male characters. Dini goes even further to describe what happened when the writers made the female characters interesting:

“…we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a part of our audience…but the Cartoon Network was saying…’no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve [got to] get that in there’…I’d say look at the numbers, we’ve got parents watching…[the executives at Cartoon Network say] ‘we’ve got too many girls, we need more boys.’ And that’s why they cancelled us…’We don’t want girls because the girls won’t buy toys….Boys buy the little spinny tops, they buy the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.” (Smith 2013)

This quote in itself not only shows that cartoon producers allegedly do not wish to add any interesting females, simply for the fact of not having women watching. An especially provocative statement is at the end however, when the producers state that children’s toys pertain to specific genders. Now, beyond the fact that, if this statement indeed proves true, the producers could just make dolls from their show’s characters, they are also implying that they do not need to make these toys because there are already toys for girls. Therefore also implying that since there are princess shows for girls, cartoon producers do not need to include female characters and can discriminate their audiences because they produces shows specifically for female audiences. Furthermore, these shows are about the “princesses” only, the “damsels in distress”, where they are saved by a strong male character even in shows designed for girls.

The subtleties of programming shows or writing characters to fit into gendered norms is an example of “benevolent sexism”.  Before explaining the not-so-subtlety of benevolent sexism, first let me explain the obvious form. Hostile sexism is “an adversarial view of gender relations in which women are perceived as seeking to control men, whether through sexuality or feminist ideology.” (Glick and Fiske 2001) This form of sexism is categorized as violent and obstructive. Benevolent sexism is less obvious and more complicated: “…This term recognizes that some forms of sexism, are, for the perpetrator, subjectively benevolent, characterizing women as pure creatures who ought to be protected, supported…implies that they are weak and best suited for conventional gender roles.” (Glick and Fiske 2001) And thus the “…traits of deference that…place a person in a subordinate, less powerful, position” (Glick and Fiske 2001) are prevalent without the use of violence.

Benevolent sexism relates to the dichotomy present in shows by assigning traditional “knight-princess” roles to young children. Benevolent sexism is simply a complement to hostile sexism, that “helps to pacify women’s resistance to societal gender norms.” (Smith, 2013) By setting up this pacifistic dichotomy at a young age, children grow up without realizing that they were forced into the roles of “boys play with action figures and girls play with dolls”, and “blue is for boys and pink is for girls”. All of this occurs through benevolent sexism, and since it is not openly hostile, it has gone under the radar, and gives executive producers, such as the producers of Young Justice, an excuse for cancelling shows that are not supposed to be popular with girls, because it allows men to “maintain a positive self-image as protectors” (Glick and Fiske 2001) for the “not as smart” (Smith 2013) women who are watching the show about boys.

Looking at this through an anthropological lens, it is not nearly as surprising that this kind of dichotomy exists. It is still beyond frustrating, but not nearly as surprising. Sexism is not only a much-discussed topic in nearly all of my anthropology classes, but the patriarchal view that is taken is examined closely in a Historical Archaeology course I am currently in, in which the first class has us examine the quote: “Born of the same cultural traditions that bred racism and disdain for the working class, this patriarchy encompassed both the ideology and practices that saw men ‘dominate, oppress, and exploit women” (Delle, Mrozowski and Paynter 2000). This quote has led many a discussion, and has become a centerpiece for my courses this semester. The fact that this idea was put together by the now disdained ‘old, white man’, gives me hope that one day this unsurprising trend of sexism can come to an end through hard work.


Delle, James A., Stephen A. Mrozowski and Robert Paynter (2000) Introduction. In Lines that Divide: Historical Archaeology of Race, Class and Gender, edited by J.A. Delle, S.A. Mrozowski and R. Paynter, p. xi-xxxi. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press.

Smith, James Paul Dini: Shadow of the Shadow of the Bat. 10 December 2013. http://smodcast.com/episodes/paul-dini-shadow-of-the-shadow-of-the-bat/.

Glick, Peter and Susan T. Fiske (2001) “An Ambivalent Alliance: Hostile and Benevolent Secism as Complementary Justifications for Gender Inequality.” American Psychologist: 9.


The Importance of the “Public” in Anthropology

Melissa Maiorella UMass Junior Psychology major Anthropology minor

Melissa Maiorella
UMass Junior
Psychology Major, Anthropology Minor

By Melissa Maiorella

UMass Public Anthropology Course | Anthro 397D

Spring 2014

Anthropology is one of the most fascinating subjects that one can learn about in college. Learning about different cultures, lifestyles, ideas — it’s what life is about. When I first got to UMass, the idea of an anthropology class really perplexed me. I had no idea what Anthropology even was.  It wasn’t until after enrolling in my freshman year Anthro 106 Culture through Film class, that I finally understood. Anthropology is cool!

I often wonder why I hadn’t heard of anthropology sooner. It’s an interesting idea, the study of other cultures, and it’s definitely benefited me to partake in these classes. I feel that I now have a better understanding of the world. I feel not only more knowledgeable about other cultures, but it’s helped me learn more about myself as well.  I think that if people took more time to understand the world around them, we could create a better world to live in.

The issue anthropologists face, especially public anthropologists, is engaging the community. In public anthropology, one of the main facets of the work is how to engage a community(ies) that you want to work with, as a way to solve problems and in order to get an idea of what community members think is important. It’s important to get a good perspective on what you wish to study, and the best way to do that, I think, is to get into the heart of it, and really dissect what community members consider to be important and not so important.

Getting insider help and input on social issues is something that can almost always be beneficial to a project. Though having an outsider opinion, or an unbiased view is the best way to observe something, the idea of an unbiased approach is virtually impossible.

For years anthropologists have gained knowledge from insider information. Examples of this can be seen in Udi Mandel Butler‘s chapter ‘Toward a Dialogical Anthropology’ in the edited volume Toward Engaged Anthropology (edited by Sam Beck and Carl Maida, Berghahn Books, 2013). As far back as the early 20th century, American anthropologists and colonial leaders worked together to solve the problems that were occurring within the communities they were studying. Butler goes into detail about different projects that include using information from both sides of the anthropology spectrum. Butler cites the “best selling Brazilian book” Cabeza de Porco, which was written in a collaborative effort between anthropologist Luiz Eduardo Soares, rapper MV Bill and Hip Hop producer Celso Athayde. The topic of this book is the growing issue of drug trafficking throughout Brazil, and the rising power of gang-life in urban areas. By collaborating between academics, as well as those who have lived their lives in these kinds of areas, they were able to paint a more accurate picture, as well as analyze and understand what issues are really forming there.

The most important thing that research like this can bring to light is how it effects the community’s young people. The young people of urban areas in Brazil are the ones who are fueling the gang violence issues. They are being taught at a young age that this is what you need to do to survive, and because of that, don’t ever get the chance to see what the world has to offer, outside of life in a gang. There is no real way out. That’s why education is so important.

Educating students earlier in life about the benefits of anthropology, and how it can be used to help the world, is something that I think is very vital to human existence. If we can get this knowledge into the ‘public’ of public anthropology, I think that we can create an open forum where even the tiniest of change can occur, and create a better environment for the future.

It’s important in anthropology to create a dialogue for all parties who wish to be involved to be able to interact with one another. Rather than telling someone that what their community is doing is wrong, or what’s being done to them is wrong, we must be open to different viewpoints. If we can do this, we can help create a better world to live in, one that’s more open and accepting for all.


 Butler, Udi Mandel (2013) Notes on a Dialogical Anthropology, In Toward Engaged Anthropology, edited by S. Beck & C. Maida. New York: Berghahn Books.


My Necessary Disillusionment

Bianca Renzoni UMass Freshman Anthropology & History Double Major

Bianca Renzoni
UMass Freshman
Anthropology & History Double Major

By Bianca Renzoni

UMass Public Anthropology Course | Anthro 397D

Spring 2014

I am frustrated. I am frustrated with my colleagues, peers, supervisors, the world, myself. Fall 2013 I was a naïve first year undergrad student and by spring semester I had blossomed into an undergrad student filled with angst from the discipline I was so previously charmed by. I never thought in my future I would be combatting funding problems, backlash from my own field, or tenure parameters.

Indeed I was naïve. I should have surmised that most anthropology is not within the area of public and engaged scholarship. Somehow I thought there would be many more anthropologists entering the political domain, or gracing the news with their presence. Well, we do see anthropologists in the news when they’ve discovered some type of archaeological wonder such as a “lost pyramid” or King Richard in a parking lot, but too often they have little meaningful engagement with public policies. Their opinions on legislation and human rights seem to be only accessible within the world of academia. It is ironic that the people who dedicate their lives to studying people have little to say about it to the people.

Let us back track. I am an anthropology undergrad student who previously existed in a utopic bubble where working for the people, with the people for changes the people had envisioned was the norm. For me, ‘the people’ were those oppressed by power structures, never realizing I was oppressed by my own discipline, which attempted to channel my focus into academia rather than encourage my flaunting of the boundaries. I foolishly thought that anthropology was a place where egos were left at the door and everyone involved stood on equal footing.

Looking through the Spring 2014 course catalog, I stumbled upon Public Anthropology 397D and with pure delight signed up for the course. Anticipating a course about the widespread community-based engagement in the field, I was sorely mistaken. In fact I found the exact opposite: we do study the work of those engaging with the world in different ways, but I found that much of this type of scholarship is marginalized within academia and the wider field of anthropology. My very first class was just the introduction to my disillusionment. The syllabus states: “For some anthropologists, the goal of research is not simply to study the world” FOR SOME! Not for most, not even for many but for SOME “the point is to engage with the world and bring about positive change.” Immediately, I began to wonder: then what is the majority of anthropologists doing? Where does their research go after they have collected data and published their ideas and results? Are they content to put their research on a shelf, behind a subscription paywall, or a jargon laden book where only academics have the chance of finding it? I thought to myself this cannot be real, but alas article after article, professor after professor, expressed the challenges they faced within academia as they conducted engaged research, worked closely with communities outside of academic, and attempted to share authority and their position of power.

The most obvious power structure people struggle with is the neoliberal capitalist infrastructure, which oppresses the poor for profit. In this class we explored such power structures in Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor, where he investigates the structural violence enacted by powerful corporations and governments. It was this power structure my pre-397D self had dreamed of demolishing.

We also read about Professor Julie Hemment’s work in Russia. We learned how she struggled with financing her and her colleagues’ projects. In order to get funding from international agencies or the local government they often had to prioritize and rework projects to maximize their chances of getting funding. In 2003, when funding stopped the center that Hemment and her colleagues formed through their collaborative work was forced to shut down. I learned that many community-based research projects face serious funding challenges. This can pose real ethical and practical challenges for community-based projects. When organizations pull out or a researcher does not receive additional funding from their institution, the community and the products of the research can truly suffer.

Another funding related issue engaged scholars face involves the expectation that granting agencies have for project proposals. Grant agencies expect a detailed outline of the research it will fund, however, anthropologists working in engaged settings often require funding at an earlier phase of the work so that they can develop questions and a research design in full partnership with communities. Thus, for many community-based projects, the problem is not just where to find funds, but how to explain a project that will be determined and developed through a community collaboration.

In considering all the structural challenges that engaged anthropologists face, I have realized that one of the most problematic power structures is found within academia. Egos are inflated instead of left at the door. We judge each other, and create a hierarchy where community-based work falls at the bottom and publications that are scientifically rich, yet often unintelligible to the anthropological layman rise to the top. It can be a place where people must censor themselves to get funding or tenure. It is a place where a person’s life work can be deemed unworthy of tenure because it is written in “real people language” or allows “subjects” as co-authors and gives them a substantial role in the published products. This is where academics need to begin to look in their efforts to change the world. It is this power structure we need to dismantle first in order to truly bring power to the people we “research” or for anthropology to be socially and politically relevant.

Remember that my piece is entitled “My Necessary Disillusionment.” This is because without being disillusioned I could never work to change any of these power structures. Initially I saw my future working in the field and ending in academia, but I have realized that first I must infiltrate academia in order to bring change to the people. I am a member of the new generation of anthropologists and this is my rally cry. It is time to change the archaic standards so imbibed in academia, and replace them with new malleable standards that we create. We cannot limit each other or dismiss each others’ work because it is practice-based scholarship. As the world evolves, shouldn’t anthropology? My answer is yes. The answer of classmates in Public Anthropology 397D is yes. The answer from my professors at University of Massachusetts Amherst is yes. It is time to break down the walls of academia and let anthropology move into the context of society.


Farmer, Paul

2005  Pathologies of Power Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the

Poor, Berkeley: University of California Press


Hemment, Julie

2007  Public Anthropology and the Paradoxes of Participation: Participatory

Action Research and Critical Ethnography in Provincial Russia,

Human Organization 66:301-14

Anthropology That Anyone Can Edit: Wikipedia and Public Anthropology

Ken Mick UMass Senior History Major, Anthropology Minor

Ken Mick
UMass Senior
History Major, Anthropology Minor

By Kenneth M. Mick III

UMass Public Anthropology Course | Anthro 397D

Spring 2014

It is hard to overestimate the influence of Wikipedia in modern society. Nearly anyone with an internet connection can access its millions of articles on almost every conceivable topic, from biology to physics, medicine, history, popular culture and anthropology. And with its tagline “Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” Wikipedia prides itself as a project of full public collaboration in which everyone is heard and to which everyone can contribute. I am an undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, majoring in History with a minor in Anthropology, and I am also a prolific Wikipedia editor, operating under the user name 3family6. This spring term (my last undergraduate semester!) I am enrolled in Prof. Sonya Atalay’s Public Anthropology course, which discusses how to engage a range of public audiences and communities in anthropology. As a Wikipedia editor, I thought that it would be interesting to look at how Wikipedia can help communities and anthropologists engage and collaborate in research and publication of research findings. Can the encyclopedia that anyone can edit provide a space for anthropology that anyone can participate in? For public and engaged anthropology, this seems like a dream come true: a free, interdisciplinary project where everyone can voice their thoughts on what they want researched, how it should be researched, and how it should be presented, available to the public 24/7. But does the project live up to its name, and is it an ideal platform for public and engaged anthropology? Does it truly listen to all voices? Can anyone really contribute? How is the project used in anthropology? And what limitations are there to the project?

Currently, seven users are categorized as anthropologists on Wikipedia. User:Maunus, User:Vidyadhara, User:ZMatskevich, User:Sub specie aeternitatis, User:Thecfed, User:Phlyming, and User:Bagulescu. One of these — User:Sub specie aeternitatis — proclaims on their user page that they are an archaeology professor at Mount Allison University, and that they have their students edit and create Wikipedia articles. I tried to get in touch with this user to discuss how they integrate Wikipedia with anthropology, but was unable to reach them. In addition to these seven users, there are undoubtedly many more anthropologists who do not categorize or advertise themselves as such, but still edit Wikipedia as registered users or unregistered anonymous contributors working under the IP address of whatever machine they accessed Wikipedia with.

Anthropologists working on Wikipedia certainly helps anthropological knowledge reach the public, but the remarkable feature of Wikipedia is that everyone, anthropologist or not, can edit and create content. Theoretically, everyone has a voice. But is this the reality, or is there an imbalance in the contributor base? Numerous studies consider this question. The Wikipedia essay “Wikipedia:Systemic Bias” outlines nine major imbalances in its contributor base: “The average Wikipedian on the English Wikipedia is (1) a male, (2) technically inclined, (3) formally educated, (4) an English speaker (native or non-native), (5) aged 15–49, (6) from a majority-Christian country, (7) from a developed nation, (8) from the Northern Hemisphere, and (9) likely employed as a white-collar worker or enrolled as a student rather than employed as a blue-collar worker”. And inherent mechanisms within the community operation of Wikipedia make changes in approach difficult. In a review of Dariusz Jemielniak’s (2014) ethnographic book on Wikipedia, Common Knowledge: An Ethnography of Wikipedia, Wikipedia contributor Piotr Konieczny comments that Jemielnak’s discussion on conflict resolution reveals that “despite Wikipedia:Consensus claim to the contrary, established consensus is nearly impossible to change. Organizations (and people in general) are inimical to change, and on Wikipedia experienced Wikipedians who have already discussed a topic once are rarely fond of returning to it, thus they are likely to torpedo any attempt to reignite a discussion. This in effect disfranchises new editors of the right to change the existing status quo, and ensures that Wikipedia’s bureaucratic environment continues to fossilize in the current state” (Konieczny 2014).

The New York Times addressed the issue of a gender gap on Wikipedia in a January 2011 article by Noam Cohn. It cites a joint study published in 2010 by United Nations University and Maastricht University which found that in 2008, women made up barely 13 percent of Wikipedia’s global editor base, and that the average age of contributors was 20 (Cohen 2011). While a 2008 Pew Research study found a modestly higher global number of over 16 percent women contributors, this still falls far short of equal representation (Yasseri et al. 2013). Another concern raised recently is that on other language Wikipedias where the language has gender-specific forms of the word “user,” such as German (Benutzer vs. Benutzerin), a female user might be listed as male, or be considered male in an invite message for new users (Haeb 2011b).

Allowing for indigenous knowledge and oral traditions to be heard is another major critique of Wikipedia, particularly the English language version. Indian Wikimedian Achal Prabhala in the documentary “People Are Knowledge” examines how Wikipedia’s preference for written material as reliable sources poses problems for indigenous knowledge. For instance, an article on Cherokee woman Lisa Christiansen, birth name Gi-Dee-Thlo-Ah-Ee, was deleted because the biographical work which the article cited was published by the Cherokee Nation and deemed an unreliable source (Konieczny et al. 2013). The case of Makmende, a fictional Kenyan superhero and internet meme whose article was deleted three times on the English Wikipedia (though as of this writing he now has an active page), has also been cited as an example of difficulties with Wikipedia’s current system, however this particular example has been challenged as the first two versions of the article were of very poor quality (Konieczny et al. 2013; Zuckerman 2010; Haeb 2011a). South African Heather Ford, a former member of the Wikimedia Foundation’s advisory board, noted in 2011 that “interestingly, Makmende does not exist in the Swahili version of Wikipedia … There seems to be a disconnect between where ordinary Kenyans want their cultural narratives to live, and where outsiders imagine it” (Haeb 2011a; Ford 2011).

These are just some case examples of the problems with the Wikipedia community as it now stands. So how do we change it? With regard to the gender discrepancy, Sue Gardner, at the time executive director for the Wikimedia Foundation, the parent organization of Wikipedia, started an email list in 2011 called “Gendergap,” an attempt to “share research and information and tactics for making Wikipedia more attractive to women editors.” She stated that “We want women to contribute to Wikipedia because we want Wikipedia to contain the sum of all human knowledge, not just the stuff that men know” (Haeb 2011b; Gardner 2011). Cohen quotes Gardner as saying “that for now she was trying to use subtle persuasion and outreach through her foundation to welcome all newcomers to Wikipedia, rather than advocate for women-specific remedies like recruitment or quotas” (Cohen 2011). Policy analyst Kat Walsh, a longtime Wikipedia contributor who was elected to the Wikimedia board, agreed that indirect initiatives might cause less unease among the Wikipedia community, but acknowledged that “The big problem is that the current Wikipedia community is what came about by letting things develop naturally — trying to influence it in another direction is no longer the easiest path, and requires conscious effort to change” (Cohen 2011). The Royal Society in Britain has held “edit-a-thons” in 2012, 2013, and 2014 in an attempt to boost the number of female editors (Hern 2014). In regard to building greater diversity as a whole, the Wikimedia Foundation held a “Diversity Conference” in Berlin in November 2013 (Wikimedia Diversity Conference).

Despite these efforts, much remains to be done. How can Wikipedia expand to include a more diverse contributor base? And how can anthropologists play a hand in sparking this change? I think that dialogue is the first and biggest step. Once we acknowledge the problem and start asking questions, only then can solutions be proposed. Efforts to lessen the gender divide on Wikipedia have begun in recent years, and the concerns related to devaluing of oral traditions and other forms of indigenous knowledge have begun to circulate. Wikipedia could be on the threshold of achieving its proclaimed goal – a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. But it is up to us, every day people, anthropologists or not, to make that happen.


Cohen, Noam. “Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List.” The New York Times. January 30, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/business/media/31link.html.

Ford, Heather. “The Missing Wikipedians.” Hblog.org. February 16, 2011. http://hblog.org/2011/02/16/the-missing-wikipedians/.

Gardner, Sue. “[Gendergap] Wikipedia’s gender gap: discussion on Metafilter.” List.wikimedia.org. February 3, 2011. http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/gendergap/2011-February/000081.html.

Haeb. “Egyptian revolution and Wikimania 2008; Jimmy Wales’ move to the UK; Africa and systemic bias; brief news.” The Signpost. Wikipedia. February 21, 2011. Accessed March 13, 2014.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2011-02-21/In_the_news.

_____. “Widespread Discussions about the Low Participation of Women in Wikipedia.” The Signpost. Wikipedia. February 7, 2011. Accessed March 13, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2011-02-07/Gender_gap.

Hern, Alex. “Wikipedia ‘Edit-a-Thon’ Seeks to Boost Number of Women Editors.” The Guardian. March 4, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/04/wikipeadi-edit-a-thon-boost-women-editors.

Konieczny, Piotr. “Common Knowledge: An Ethnography of Wikipedia.” The Signpost. Wikipedia. January 1, 2014. Accessed March 13, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2014-01-01/Book_review.

Konieczny, Piotr, Brian Keegan, Nicolas Jullien, Amir E. Aharoni, Henrique Andrade, Tilman Bayer, Daniel Mietchen, Giovanni L. Ciampaglia, Dario Taraborelli and Aaron Halfaker. “Does ‘Cultural Imperialism’ Prevent the Incorporation of Indigenous Knowledge on Wikipedia?” The Signpost. Wikipedia. December 4, 2013. Accessed March 6, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2013-12-04/Recent_research.

Sub specie aeternitatis. “User:Sub specie aeternitatis.” Last updated February 18, 2012. Accessed March 13, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Sub_specie_aeternitatis.

“Wikimedia Diversity Conference.” Accessed March 13, 2014. http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Diversity_Conference.

Wikipedia contributors. “Wikipedia:Systemic Bias.” Wikipedia. Accessed March 13, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Systemic_bias.

Yasseri, Taha, Han-Teng Liao, Piotr Konieczny, Jonathan Morgan and Tilman Bayer. “Survey Participation Bias Analysis: More Wikipedia Editors are Female, Married Or Parents than Previously Assumed.” The Signpost. Wikipedia. July 31, 2013. Accessed March 13, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2013-07-31/Recent_research.

Zuckerman, Ethan. “Makmende’s so Huge, He can’t Fit in Wikipedia.” Ethen Zuckerman.com. Last updated March 24, 2010. Accessed March 13, 2014. http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2010/03/24/makmendes-so-huge-he-cant-fit-in-wikipedia/.

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words: Visual Anthropology and Activism

Faye Miller UMass Senior Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies Major Commonwealth Honors College

Faye Miller
UMass Senior
Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies Major
Commonwealth Honors College

By Faye Miller

UMass Public Anthropology Course | Anthro 397D

Spring 2014

It shames me a bit to mention this but I usually prefer a documentary about an issue than actually reading about it. Blame it on my generation or a short-attention span, but the fact remains that I get way more invested in stories when a face is presented to me in color. Photographs and documentaries capture something for me that just doesn’t always happen with words, especially if the alternative to a picture is a lengthy, wordy, and complicated article. Call me a sucker for press hype, but the truth is I watched the documentary Blackfish twice in the past three months and probably wouldn’t have been motivated to read a collection of books or articles to learn about SeaWorld’s problems and abuses (http://blackfishmovie.com/).

I don’t think I’m alone in my enjoyment of photographs and other digital accounts of lives and issues. I also don’t think that this is in anyway a problem for activists or public anthropologists. How many people are really going to read an academic book you wrote about a community and its problems? If the amount of books I checked out this semester for my thesis that haven’t been read since the 90’s are any indication, it seems that very few people actually are reading thick academic tomes. Of those readers, I doubt many are the intended audience that most anthropologists would really hope to reach. Moving away from articles and books toward something more attention grabbing, like photographs or documentaries, might be effective pathways for social change.

When we can capture on film people speaking about their lives, communities, and the desires they have for change we can bring a whole new perspective to public discussions and social justice movements. Imagine trying to explain issues of corporate pollution or systemic racism in a local community through a documentary. The community’s emotions, desires, and fears would be presented in full-living color. Theoretical issues, like structural violence, can be transformed into actual people, with lives, hopes, and dreams. Structural violence is affecting your neighbor down the street, your teacher, or your own family. UMass Amherst Public Health professor Aline Gubrium (2009) asks students and research participants to produce moving digital stories to encourage and promote change. She recently collaborated with UMass Anthropologist Krista Harper to write a book, Participatory Digital and Visual Methodologies (Gubrium and Harper 2013), exploring a range of digital and visual approaches to collaborative research. Kansans State University visual anthropologist Michael Wesch explains on his website ‘Mediated Cultures’ that visual anthropology “seek[s] to inspire empathy and a sense of connection between the audience and the subject, and all of our productions strive to achieve what we call “profound authenticity” – giving the viewer and the subject a sense of wonder about those things that otherwise seem mundane and trivial” (2013). Boom. That kind of message, of connection and compassion, goes far and pulls on heart-strings far more than a book that’ll sit on a library shelf until some poor student has to write a thesis about it.

Great. Fantastic. Documentaries, photography, and digital storytelling are wonderful ways to make us feel impassioned about an issue. But how do we move to the next step? As in, how do we get our emotionally moved audience to actually enact change and to work with communities? This is what I call the double-edged sword of visual anthropology: “slacktivism”. Humor site Urban Dictionary described “slacktivism” as “The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem”. In other words, I’m going to like this page on Facebook and now I can feel good about myself. I’ll re-tweet this story and now I’ve helped improve the lives of Syrian refugees. “Slacktivism” is the negative side of visual ethnography and anthropology. Communities and academics can work together to produce a beautifully moving film about their lives or issues. Then, nothing. There could be outrage but no action. Or, if there’s action, maybe it’s the “little white girl” (or boy) voluntourist as savior riding in to save that poor community described by Biddle 2014. Once we release a video into the wild we are at the mercy of the public’s perception and that may or may not lead to lasting change.

But sometimes we can see beautiful action born out of digital media. Writer Sarah Kendzior wrote on Al-Jazeera English that “In the case of Trayvon Martin, the cause prompted the conversation – because it is not only a cause but a symptom; a symptom of systematic injustice that Americans are confronting through, and in part because of, social media”. Social media allowed Trayvon Martin’s family and their supporters to bring to light the horrific lack of justice and love for young black men in America. Today, months after the trial of George Zimmerman, this conversation continues, even as change moves slowly (if at all). Maybe, slacktivism is not the worst thing that has come with the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Maybe, slacktivism is the first step in achieving lasting change and social justice. We have to open minds and change perception before we can implement lasting and large change. Digital storytelling and the creation of a connection and empathy, in Michael Wesch’s words, is the first step toward change.

As anthropologists, as advocates, as activists, as fighters for social justice, as humans, we have to stand in solidarity with our partners. Public anthropology faces a huge hurdle in connecting with the greater public just because anthropology is located in academic institutions. Universities change slowly, like all behemoth institutions. However, if we want to encourage social change and social justice, if we want to stand in solidarity with community members, we have to be willing to go against the grain. Digital media and ethnography does, right now, challenge traditional academic knowledge production, which is change itself. So, let’s make a movie.

References Cited:

Blackfish”. http://blackfishmovie.com/

Bidddle, Pippa. “The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys): Why I stopped Being a Voluntourist”. 2014 http://pippabiddle.com/2014/02/18/the-problem-with-little-white-girls-and-boys/

Gubrium, Aline. “Digital Storytelling as a Method for Engaging Scholarship in Anthropology”.   Practicing Anthropology. 31 (2009). 5-9.

Harper, Krista and Aline Gubrium. “Participatory Visual and Digital Methods”. Left Coast Press. Walnut Creek, California. 2013.

Kendzior, Sarah. “The Subjectivity of Slactivism”. Al Jazeera English. April 5th, 2012.            http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/04/201244114223946160.html

Wesch, Michael. “Smile Because it Happened”. June 14, 2013.http://mediatedcultures.net/our-videos/smile-because-it-happened/

Urban Dictionary. “Slactivism”. 2003. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=slacktivism.

Critique of Social Networking

Colin Abbatessa UMass Senior Anthropology major

Colin Abbatessa
UMass Senior
Anthropology major

by Colin Abbatessa

UMass Public Anthropology Course | Anthro 397D

Spring 2014

In our UMass Amherst Public Anthropology course we have been urged to use social networking (either twitter or facebook) as a platform for discussion on the readings and lectures we have had during class time.  This method has proven to be an incredibly engaging practice and has furthered to establish connectivity between Professor Sonya Atalay, my fellow students, our guest speakers, and members of the public who choose to access the page. While on the ever present topic of engaging public activity in anthropological research, we have touched upon how social networking and media can be an instrumental tool in informing and urging public awareness in general.  The idea of using social networking as an engagement tool for anthropological work is both promising and exciting, however I could not stop myself from wondering about the implications of how connected our society has become.  I, myself, have never been all that thrilled about constantly “updating” the occurrences in my life to the world, and in my discontent I have stumbled upon a book by Andrew Keen (2012) titled “Digital Vertigo: how today’s online social revolution is dividing, diminishing, and disorienting us”.  Keen’s work sheds light on aspects of social networking that are not always on the surface, and he questions where the current path of this trend may lead us in the near future.

While social media can be used as an informative free media source, it is often clouded by masses of individually posted banters and rants encompassing the respective person’s day to day life. In a sense, there is no real order or organization in social networking, and in this way “we” as the individuals become almost inconsequential and transparent. While being enveloped into the gigantic array of individuals using social networking and media, a person can lose their “voice”. That is to say, if this tool is used in an attempt to convey an important issue, we would have no control over whether this issue is heard by the desired range of the public or not.  As individual people we are succumbing to and being absorbed into the “permanent self-exhibition zone” (Keen 2012:11). In the social world of the internet, the individual is completely vulnerable, and any remaining areas of privacy are slowly being ebbed away with the tide. Social networking has become incredibly commonplace in recent years, and I personally do not like the idea of showcasing myself to the entire world. As we speak, social networking and digital technology are being transformed from “tools of second life into an increasingly central part of real life” (Keen 2012:39).

One has to admit that the speed in which social networking is currently growing is becoming in the least, mildly unsettling.  Keen states that: “Everything – from communications, commerce and culture to gaming, government and gambling – is going social” (2012:42). It is difficult to not wonder things like; how much will social networking encompass? Where will this pattern take us? And will we eventually lose our individuality?  From an observational standpoint, I can’t help but feel the trend of social networking is growing even more rapidly each day, and I fear that we may be facing a future where individuals, cultures, and distinct social patterns may all lose their sense of “self” and what makes them unique. Keen claims that “network society has become a transparent love-in, an orgy of over sharing, an endless digital Summer of Love” (2012:42). When described in this way, it is easy to realize how quickly everything is becoming “social” and connected on the internet, a looming presence of change to come; a change that might be evolving faster than we can handle.

Despite my personal disposition to social networking, I do not fail to see the light in this marvel of technology.  When taking a step back, it can be quite amazing to see how connected we as human being are becoming. I do believe in all honesty that social networking has great potential, as it can connect, inform, and assist people around the world in a positive manner.  Just in the example of our anthropology class alone, social networking has proven to be a valuable asset and tool with regards to learning and engaging with course material.  It has been used by our guest speakers to get an idea of some of our discussion topics; used by students to voice their opinions; and used by our Professor to encourage out of class thinking.  Through networking we have voiced our ideas, shared them with each other, and made them available to the public.

With the social sciences (anthropology in particular) facing a possible paradigm shift, social networking may yet have a pivotal role to play.  We have only scratched the surface of moving anthropology toward become more public-focussed and less ‘scholarship for other scholars’. In our class discussions and readings we have seen that anthropological research has had limited benefit for some of the communities being studied.  That is, research material is being gathered and brought back to universities, where for the most part, it stays.  Social networking can play a critical part in connecting anthropologists with communities, and helping scholars discover what those outside the academy want to learn, and the research they would like done.  With is vast power and potential to reach out, we as anthropologists could use social networking to “change our field” and become more involved with the people we would like to do our work and research not on, but with.

            However, while social networking may hold great excitement and capabilities, we need to be wary of how it is used.  As scholars attempting to reach out to the public, it may be difficult to gain the attention of our target audiences.  As Keen has implied many times in “Digital Vertigo”, there is little to no control in social networking and media.  We as anthropologists should heed this notion, and realize it may be more difficult than we perceive to utilize the tools of social networking.  While facebook in particular has proven a great tool both in and outside of our classroom, it is important to realize that our posts are most likely only viewed by the students of the classroom and faculty members of the UMass Amherst anthropology department.  As our times are ever changing and we seek to impact these changes positively, we should seek to utilize social media as a benefit for all, but at the same time we need to tread carefully.

Works Cited

Keen, Andrew. “Digital Vertigo; how today’s online social revolution is dividing, diminishing, and disorienting us”. Constable & Robinson. New York. 2012.

Benefits of CBPR

Greg Alexander UMass Senior Anthropology major

Greg Alexander
UMass Senior
Anthropology major

by Greg Alexander

UMass Public Anthropology Course | Anthro 397D

Spring 2014

I am an undergraduate student majoring in anthropology with a concentration in archaeology. I chose this major because I find the field of archaeology to be very interesting and I want to learn as much as I can about the human past and what it could potentially teach us about our future. I decided to take the public anthropology class here at UMass because I have learned that archaeology has entanglements with colonialism and isn’t always looked upon in a positive way. Public anthropology breaks down some of these power inequalities by introducing methodologies that are more democratic and ethical. I wanted to write about Dr. Sonya Atalay’s (2012) book Community-Based Archaeology Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities because I find it very interesting and insightful for addressing the negative views surrounding archaeological research in easy to understand language.

Table 3 from Sonya Atalay's book 'Community-Based Archaeology'

portion of Table 3 from Sonya Atalay’s book ‘Community-Based Archaeology’

As I looked at the comparison chart in Table 3 (partial section of the table shown to the left), she outlines the differences in the practice of community-based participatory research (CBPR) and conventional archaeology and my first thought is how much more work is involved both before and after the actual research and whether or not this can be done in a meaningful way (Atalay: 2012: 85-86). The time commitment placed upon the researcher is extensive even prior to conducting the research. Complications may arise in trying to properly define who we mean by “the community” in these community-based partnerships when multiple stakeholders are involved and limits need to be placed upon active participants in various stages of the research (Atalay: 2012: 69). Dr. Atalay’s book certainly gives the reader a lot to think about in terms of methodology and practice yet as challenging as this process may be it would be difficult to argue against CBPR being the ethical way to conduct research.

I find the most interesting aspect of CBPR to be the shift in power from the researcher to the local community in defining their own problems and ways to go about solving those problems with the expertise of the researcher (Atalay: 2012: 63). This could potentially solve many of the ethical dilemmas of anthropological research practices that are grounded in colonial methodologies, most specifically concerns about anthropologists being “objective” experts imposing their will upon a community, especially in Native American (Indigenous) communities where little benefit have been produced for those whose heritage is being studied. Atalay outlines what is truly meant by the concept “participatory” in CBPR, a term that seems to be very loosely used by some researchers. Although participation will vary by project or task, the choice for participation at any level should lie with the community (Atalay: 2012: 66-67). In my opinion, equal participation in knowledge contribution may have the effect of reducing the subjectivity of a single authority’s positionality. One person’s background has less chance of impacting the research when multiple voices and knowledge systems from alternative viewpoints are included. This multi-vocality might offset the unintentional bias in interpretation of the results and offer new insights that could elude someone unfamiliar with the context.

CBPR provides marginalized segmentsof the population a voice (and participation) in interpreting their past, dealing with current problem they face, and setting a better course for the future. One of the best ideas CBPR brings to changing social issues for the future is defined in the principle of “capacity building” (Atalay: 2012: 71). Researchers can come into a community to study a social problem and include the public but if they leave without sharing the results or building the community’s capacity to solve these problems or have a positive impact in the community, there isn’t much point in doing the research. This is where the idea of reciprocity comes into play as a major component of CBPR practices (Atalay: 2012: 74). Academic knowledge is important if it’s useful in making an impact to promote social change and social justice.

I’m curious to see what we can learn in the field of archaeology by including indigenous forms of knowledge to fill in the gaps where western forms of knowledge have come up empty. It will be very interesting to see where the direction of CBPR practices go in the future and how widely accepted it becomes in the academy. I’m grateful for the education I’ve gained here at UMass and I’m hopeful that ethical considerations will be at the forefront of my thoughts as I further my education and work in archaeology.

Works cited
Atalay, Sonya
2012 Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities. California: University of California Press.

Even with eyes, we are still blind…

Subhrangi Swain UMass Senior Anthropology/Biology Major

Subhrangi Swain
UMass Junior
Anthropology/Biology Major

by Subhrangi Swain
UMass Public Anthropology                Course | Anthro 397D

Spring 2014

We started the second day of Public Anthropology (397D) by discussing neo-liberalism and structural violence. Prof. Atalay asked us to do some research on these terms before class so we could discuss them. I had no idea what they meant and what I was to do with them. Upon reading the chapters in “Toward Engaged Anthropology” by Sam Beck and Carl Maida (2013), and the moving ideas presented by Dr. Ventura Perez, these words were no longer confusing but disheartening.

After doing much research I would define neoliberalism as the dominant economic system since the late 1970s, which stresses privatization and free market approaches to social problems. Conversely, as Adam Burtle put it, “structural violence refers to systematic ways in which social structures harm or otherwise disadvantage individuals. Structural violence is subtle, often invisible, and often has no one specific person who can be held responsible.” While these two terms seem complex there is visible intersection of the two. I found it useful to explore these intersections through readings from our Public Anthropology course, including the work that Dr. Perez has conducted with the Yaqui and Vincent Lyon-Callo’s work regarding inequalities on homelessness.

To start off I want to focus on the presentation that we had by Dr. Ventura Perez about his research with the Yaqui community (http://onlinedigeditions.com/display_article.php?id=1078675). He spoke with us about his inspiring work regarding the Yaqui peoples’ efforts of repatriation of ancestral remains that were once collected by Ales Hrdlicka from a massacre site. Hrdlicka had permission from both the US and Mexican government to go about and gather skulls of individuals that he thought were necessary for his research and bring them back to study. When Dr. Perez mentioned how Hrdlicka went about beheading the already dead people and then picking and choosing what he wanted to take back with him, I was thoroughly disgusted. How can someone have the audacity to go to a massacre site, and disrespect the innocent people that died just so the Mexican government can get their land? Just the thought of such an action is unfathomable. When I heard that statement, my initial reaction was, ‘well, back in those days it was not unusual, and it would never happen now.’ I was wrong.

The first image that manifests in people’s minds when they hear the word violence is blood, guns, dead bodies, and in general physically visible harm upon another person. What many people fail to see, which I came to recognize after reading Dr. Perez’s research and hearing his presentation, is that violence is not always visible. One such example of the intersection of neoliberalism and structural violence that is present in current society is homelessness.

I would like to shed light on Vincent Lyon-Callo’s (1990) ethnography, Inequality, Poverty, and Neoliberal Governance, which does an exemplary job addressing the issues discussed above. In his book, Lyon-Callo sets out to examine how neoliberal policies shape the institutional response to homelessness in the U.S. and how this response, succeeds in shaping homeless people and shelter workers. The focus in this book is the way structural factors that create poverty become normalized and reinforced in everyday thought and action. The author bases his experience in the 1990s working as a shelter staff member, and argues that the hegemonic understanding of homelessness as the product of individual deviance “supplements” the conception of current socioeconomic arrangements as natural.

Homelessness is the perfect example of the intersection of neoliberalism and structural violence. This is because the transition to neoliberalism has involved both the dismantling of the social safety net and the development of hegemonic governing forms. This is done through blaming those without access to wealth, the medicalization of poverty, and the normalization of economic precarity. In this neoliberal model, everything boils down to individual action, and where the oppressive effects of capitalist markets are downplayed. Along this line of thinking, governments and service providers have viewed the growth in homelessness largely as a matter of individual problems and deviance rather than a matter of privilege, access to resources, wages and affordable housing. This connects well with the project that Larry Zimmerman is working on regarding the Archaeology of Homelessness (https://www.academia.edu/2048381/Activism_and_creating_a_translational_archaeology_of_homelessness).

I can now visualize how societal expectations have shaped people’s actions and my actions. The system of self-governance has caused people, including the homeless, to view qualities that were once perceived to be positive qualities, as negative qualities that need to be “fixed” because it is the cause of their homelessness. Homeless people often internalize the self-blaming model as they interact with it, by diagnosing themselves to be inadequate citizens who can’t make valuable contributions to society. This is unfortunate because the discourse of self-blame is pervasive and recreated throughout the entirety of dynamics around the shelter. It is not the fault of the individual for being homeless, it is the impact of societal factors that contributed to their homelessness (Lyon- Callo 1990:134).

While I am still disturbed by the actions of many in the past, and present, I am glad to say that I have been fortunate. I am surrounded by people who not only recognize that systemic oppression does not always take the form of direct violent action, but that it is important to be an active participant to educate ourselves, others, and to take actions to fix these ‘problems’ in our culture as a whole. One way of doing so is through engaged anthropology because it provides us with a solution as to how to go about and change the way things are run. I believe that studying and then acting on these issues matter because we all are capable human beings regardless of our status, and we have the right to pursue happiness and be respected. By acting on these issues we can establish various strong communities throughout the world and find a way to encourage acceptance.

Lyon-Callo, Vincent,
1990 Inequality, Poverty, and Neoliberal Governance:Activist Ethnography in the Homeless Sheltering Industry. Peterborough, Ont.; Orchard Park, N.Y.: Broadview Press.

Adam Burtle,
2010-2013 Structural Violence, inequality and the harm it causes

Building a meaningful course

Classes start in less than a week and I am busy developing the syllabus for my ANTHRO 397 Public Anthropology course. I have high hopes and great ideas for what I want to achieve in this class. I’ve chosen the books and am busy combing through the chapters and a stack of journal articles to decide upon just the right order. How can I create the right path for students to travel – one that will guide them through the history and contemporary range of practices and theoretical understandings about engaged anthropology? I don’t want to give them information. I want to inspire them! I want them to walk away from this class convinced that anthropology matters and that, using the skills they obtain with an anthropology degree, they can make a difference in this world that so desperately needs it. I have 13 weeks to accomplish this task. Did I mention our time slot challenge? Our class meets twice a week, at 8am! I’ve convinced myself that this will bring in only the best and most committed students. In my bag of pedagogical tricks for this semester I have included a blog entry assignment as well as expectations for tweets and facebook posts. We are going to map out a continuum of public anthropology practices. And the final project – instead of a paper students will each create a youtube video that shares their ideas about what public anthropology is, why it matters, how anthropologists can (and are) making positive change in the world. Their videos will feature the public anthropology work of UMass Amherst Anthropology faculty, linking the work of their chosen faculty member with larger theoretical and methodological issues in public anthropology. 6 days and counting until go time…