Proceedings, Volume 3, 2009
Culture & Identity
- Snapshots of Student Life: Managed Auto-Ethnography [pp. 1–3]
Abstract: The Madden Library of California State University, Fresno has undergone a $105,000,000 rebuilding project. The Institute of Public Anthropology (IPA) has been recruited by the Madden Library to help facilitate their desire to better serve the needs of students and to find fresh, innovative means to encourage use of their new facility. Through the Library Study, the IPA has deployed methods for acquiring data to establish insight into student life drawn from the emerging field of Design Anthropology. In particular, a “managed auto-ethnography,” has been employed to provide a better depiction of the experience of CSU-Fresno students. Students were recruited from general education undergraduate classes and asked to participate in a study in which each individual was given a disposable camera, a jottings book, a map of campus, and a list of twenty things to photograph. The participants were then interviewed by a professor and ethnography student. These interviews were held in the participants’ homes which allowed for a more intimate, natural dialogue. Information taken from the interviews were analyzed with Atlasti (a qualitative methods software program) and provided many codes that the IPA would not have otherwise found. This paper explores how the “managed auto-ethnography’ method has contributed to furthering understanding of student life at CSU, Fresno as it pertains to library services.
Keywords: Madden Library, Institute of Public Anthropology, students, auto-ethnography
- Marketing White Ethnicity: An Anthropological Dialogue with an Ethnic Festival [pp. 4–12]
Abstract: Las Vegas is often depicted as a contemporary mecca of consumerism. As such, Las Vegas seems the appropriate venue for a study focused on the commodification of white ethnicity. There has been an increasing amount of attention given to ethnic marketing over the past twenty years which coincides with the emergence of the Las Vegas San Gennaro Feast, a semi-annual ethnic festival. In this paper I explore the various meanings behind the marketing of ethnicity, through the lens of an ethnic festival. This study is designed to address such questions as: what is the profit margin for the commodification of ethnicity; how does this specific festival contribute to larger issues such as the (re)emergence of white ethnic identity; and how is anthropology utilized as a marketing tool in the public domain? Data consist of participant observation as well as interviews with Las Vegas locals. By examining these issues through anthropological inquiry I unravel the message(s) contained within this particular festival as well as the meaning behind the marketing of white ethnicity and its relation to white ethnic identity.
Keywords: Las Vegas, San Gennaro Feast, ethnicity, marketing
- Trans-local Circuits: Identity Formation Among Thai American Youth [pp. 13–20]
Abstract: Identity formation of young Thai Americans is often a top concern of middle-class Thai transmigrants and the Thai nation-state. This essay examines how a Buddhist temple, the most influential institution among Thais in the United States, with the support of the Thai state, disciplines the bodies of Thai American youth and reshapes their identities. Building upon Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Margaret Lock’s work on the “mindful body,” I situate Thai American individuals in the overlapping cultural space informed by the Thai body politic and the American body politic in an effort to engage with not one but two distinctive social bodies and two sets of regulations. The essay suggests that identity formation is a central organizational concern of the temple, and that the formation of identities among Thai American youth needs to be understood both in the country of destination and in the country of origin.
Keywords: Thai, identity, transmigrants, mindful body, Buddhism
- “Acting Gay”: Embodiments of Gay Male Identity [pp. 21–23]
Abstract: In this paper I explore what may lie behind what it means to “act gay.” Gay men are imagined to exhibit a range of behaviors characterized as typically gay and often are seen as inherent to the gay body, yet many gay men do not display these behaviors at all. Through interviews, participant-observation in the gay community in Austin, Texas, and auto-ethnography, I analyze what my gay male respondents think it means to “act gay,” how they themselves behave, and whether they think this type of behavior is “natural” or “cultural.” In my analysis, I use the theoretical frames of phenomenology and performativity; phenomenology focuses on a world in which subjects orient themselves and move towards particular objects, opening up new paths to follow and closing off others, and performativity focuses on a subject that is constructed by society and the self based on particular roles the subject is expected to perform. My preliminary results suggest that gay men‘s understandings and practices of “acting gay” are more nuanced than perhaps either theoretical approach takes into account.
Keywords: gay men, performance, phenomenology, body, Austin, Texas
- Zoroastrianism: Virtual Diaspora and Transformations of Religious Identity [pp. 24–31]
Abstract: This paper addresses the role of the Internet in the process of transformations of ethnoreligious identity in the Zoroastrian diaspora. As part of a wider investigation, this is a case study focusing on the fragmenting potential of the Internet on Zoroastrian identity and global community solidarity. Online resources offer isolated voices in a widely dispersed population virtual spaces which have become communities of affirmation. Here individuals with similar viewpoints freely express passionately held beliefs in a supportive atmosphere concerning what the future direction of the religion should be. Should it be preserved as an ethno-religious community or “restored” to a universal religion that welcomes all converts or a compromise of limited conversion? This is critical in a global community of strongly held, yet opposing in-terpretations, of the founder’s teachings. Online growth is laity driven with a potentially unlimited set of voices exercising free agency in defining and creating perceptions of Zoroastrian identity. What is emerging is a wealth of sites supporting ideological orientations from orthodox to liberal to reformist that daily discuss; events (such as the attacks in Mumbai in 2008) and their impact on the Zoroastrian community, doctrine, ritual, comments critical of individuals and opposing viewpoints. This study draws on qualitative techniques of online participant interviews and through participation in several Zoroastrian discussion groups. The dramatic rise in Zoroastrian websites gives testimony to a third wave of diaspora and community building in a virtual world.
Keywords: Zoroastrianism, identity, diaspora, conversion, ethnicity
- ‘They Were Once So Innocent’: Post-Colonial Nationalism, Identity Transformation and Tradition in a Caribbean Context [pp. 32–39]
Abstract: With independence from Britain in 1984, the Caribbean island of Nevis began the journey from depressed colonial agro-industrial outpost to developing nation. This paper examines the progression and impact of post-colonial identity as television, cell phones and the internet serve to increase the pace of transformation even as colonial heritage and, indeed, slavery, remain inextricable components of the present ideology. The revival of popular traditions and festivals helped awaken nationalist consciousness. Many of these customary festivals were rooted in Euro-colonial traditions centered on Christmas—a holdover from the pre-emancipation plantation era, such as Mas, Mumming, and oratory. Remaking these traditions from Afro-centric perspective, linking them to West African customs, and moving them in time to coincide with emancipation day on the calendar stimulated new identity conceptions that are still being shaped and defined. In deconstructing the shift we find the movement is traceable to “returnees”—Nevisians educated abroad during the 1970’s. The year 2007 marked the 200th anniversary of the ending of the slave trade and figured prominently in the annual festival. The author has conducted archaeology on Nevis annually since 1997. The analysis presented here is informed through observation, interviews, review of local media, and historical research.
Keywords: Nevis, colonialism, Christmas, mumming, archaeology
- Acts of Violence: Neoliberalism, Culturally-Constructed Fear, and Mexican Immigration to the U.S. [pp. 40–46]
Abstract: Mexican immigration is commonly viewed as an overwhelming threat to American values, ideals, and ways of life. However, such views are based on flawed assumptions, which fail to recognize the manner in which Mexican immigration exists as a system of violence enacting a complimentary pattern of dislocation and commodification. This paper examines the issue of Mexican immigration to the United States through the analytical framework developed by Michael Taussig in his publication “Culture of Terror―Space of Death” (1984). Herein, the historically-informed contemporary realities of immigration are explored through the lens of violence. Examined first is the manner in which the accumulation of capital enabled by American neoliberal involvement in Mexico subjugates large sections of the Mexican population and creates the context from which immigration occurs. Second, the incorporation of Mexican immigrants into the U.S. as an inexpensive, exploitable labor source is analyzed as constituting the context in which immigrants are received. Narratives of immigrant illegality, evinced through letters to the editor and historical records, and the violences they have instigated produce the heightened vulnerability of undocumented immigrant laborers and intensify the profitability of the immigration system. This paper illuminates these processes and interactions, addressing the unavoidable politicality of violence discourse and functioning as a counter-narrative to those violences.
Keywords: Mexican immigration, neoliberalism, violence
- ‘Going Tribal’: Notes on Social Scientists’ Involvement in 21st Century Pacification Efforts [pp. 47–50]
Roberto J. Gonzalez
Abstract: The concept of the “tribe” has captured the imagination of US military planners, even as most contemporary anthropologists avoid using the term. The military’s interest in “tribal engagement” stems in part from events in Iraq's al-Anbar province, where the US military has co-opted Sunni “tribal” leaders. Some social scientists have capitalized on these developments by doing contract work for the Pentagon specifically geared towards understanding and enlisting “tribal” peoples. For example, the influential Iraq Tribal Study—a report prepared by a private company consisting of anthropologists and political scientists among others—bluntly suggests employing colonial techniques (such as divide-and-conquer) for tightening social control in western Iraq. It also advocates bribing local leaders, a method that has become part of the US military‘s counterinsurgency tactics. In recent months, American and British commanders have begun extending “tribal engagement” strategies to the Afghan war, even though critics suggest that such measures are likely to increase violence in Iraq and Afghanistan over the long run. This paper will give a contextual analysis of “tribal engagement” in the past and present, with a particular focus on the role of social scientists‘ influence in this process.
Keywords: tribe, Iraq, US military, Pentagon, engagement, colonialism
- How to Facilitate Genocide: A Practical Guide for the Modern Age [pp. 51–56]
Patricia H. MacEwen
Abstract: The most difficult problem any diplomatic envoy will confront in the 21st century is likely to be genocide. The root causes of such serious ethnic conflict always include a resource crunch resulting in economic collapse. As the effects of global warming, unfettered population growth and declining oil production take hold, shortages of essential resources will affect every part of the world. We can expect competition for those resources to be intense. We can also presume that most such rivalries will take on an ethnic character as various sub-populations are pitted against one other. For the astute and aspiring young professional in the diplomatic corps, this situation offers unlimited opportunities for achieving personal recognition and career advancement. As genocides progress, they are accompanied by endless rounds of diplomatic contact, fruitless negotiation, and futile attempts at intervention. By observing a few simple rules, each of these stages can be used to advantage. One can acquire technical expertise, an enhanced reputation and an expanded range of international contacts, all the while achieving nothing. Indeed, facilitating genocides can help an aspiring envoy to acquire the status of statesman in very short order without having saved a single life. The rules are derived from diplomatic responses to genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Sudan, and they include tactical options, linguistic choices, recommendations concerning the use of peace-keeping troops, mythological and religious considerations and, of course, ways to maintain the all-important appearance of neutrality.
Keywords: genocide, ethnic conflict, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Sudan, peace-keeping
- Curiouser and Curiouser: Montgomery McFate’s Strange Interpretation of the Relationship between Anthropology and Counterinsurgency [pp. 57–65]
Jeffrey A. Sluka
Abstract: In 2005, in an article titled “Anthropology and Counterinsurgency: The Strange Story of their Curious Relationship,” Dr. Montgomery McFate launched a serious academic assault on the anthropological tradition, established in the late 1960s in response to the involvement of social scientists in the Vietnam War and Project Camelot, of non-involvement in mission-related military and counterinsurgency research. Dr. McFate was then instrumental in the establishment of the Human Terrain System in 2006, which has ‘embedded’ social scientists with front-line army units in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has caused great concern among anthropologists and renewed interest in the professional ethics of the discipline, including the current proposed revisions of the AAA code of ethics which seek to re-introduce some of the original concerns of the code with issues such as covert research and the dissemination of research findings, which were specifically included as a reaction to counterinsurgency research but which were subsequently removed in the 1980s in response to concerns raised by private-sector anthropologists. In this paper, I critically review McFate’s accounting of the relationship between anthropology and counterinsurgency, and argue that it is her particular reading of history of that relationship that is curious and strange. Viewed in its proper historical context, the antipathetic relationship that had evolved was appropriate, ethical, and in no sense ‘curious’ or ‘strange.’ This paper critiques McFate’s article as a fundamentally flawed revisionist history intended to legitimate and facilitate the active involvement of anthropologists with the US military in the ‘war on terrorism’ in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Keywords: Montgomery McFate, counterinsurgency, Human Terrain System, ethics, AAA
- Biological Backlash or Cultural Consequence? High Infant Mortality in Bronze Age Arabia [pp. 66–69]
Abstract: Excavations of the Umm an-Nar tomb at the Bronze Age site of Tell Abraq provided the comingled human skeletal remains of 286 adults and 127 subadults. The tomb was used over 200 years and the remains are in relatively good condition although most are partially broken. All age categories are represented, from fetal and newborn remains to individuals over sixty. The demographic profile by age categories suggests a well-represented population. Analysis of the remains for signs of dietary stress revealed a well-nourished population, however non-specific periosteal reactions resulting from transmissible infections are found in approximately 28% of the long bones and osteoarthritis is pronounced and severe in all individuals aged over 30. Additionally, this skeletal population features an extreme range of variability in size and robusticity among the long bones in particular. The children’s bones show much pathology, suggesting challenges in making it to adolescence. Cultural factors such as the long tradition of child marriages and marriage to first cousins may have contributed significantly to infant mortality and maternal morbidity. This skeletal population highlights the utility of joining biology and culture to understand health in both the past and the present.
Keywords: Tell Abraq, bioarchaeology, paleopathology, mortuary
- Can You Love More Than One Person at the Same Time?: A Research Report [pp. 70–77]
William Jankowiak and Laura Mixson
Abstract: Our study was designed to explore whether it was possible for one person to love two or more individuals at the same time. We wanted to determine if individuals actually were in love, and if those who insisted they are deeply involved in a concurrent love developed a similar level of intimacy with both lovers, or if they, albeit tacitly, ranked their lovers along a continuum of emotional significance. Finally, we wanted to know how people involved in a concurrent love relationship manage potentially disrupted issues of loyalty and sexual exclusivity that have disrupted so many love-inclusive communes and most contemporary “open marriages.” There are 37 students (22 females and 15 males) in the written survey and 27 participants (19 females and 8 males) in our face to face interview sample. We found that individuals in our sample were capable of strong simultaneous loves. However, concurrent loves seldom last for any significant length of time, and, more significantly, individuals voiced deep and pronounced displeasure with being emotionally involved with more than one person.
Keywords: love, sex, monogamy, intimacy, sexuality, Las Vegas
- Tooth Crown Shape Variation in Homo Erectus [pp. 78–80]
Justin W. Lantz, Jennifer L. Thompson, and Debra L. Martin
Abstract: Some researchers support the presence of two distinct, yet phylogenetically related, species within H. erectus sensu lato: H. ergaster and H. erectus, whereas others propose only a single species exhibiting an extremely large geographical and temporal distribution. While previous taxonomic analyses of H. erectus have focused on variability in size among fossils, researchers have noted the greater importance of shape variables when testing for species distinctions. Consequently, this study uses geometric morphometric techniques to analyze shape separately from size variation in mandibular first molars commonly attributed to H. erectus (n=9), H. ergaster (n=9), and H. sapiens (n=25). Twenty-five landmarks were collected for each specimen using tpsDig2 data acquisition software to interpret overall crown shape and cusp apices. The paucity preserved fossil remains presents a significant obstacle in studying the fossil record. Resampling and bootstrapping techniques were used to increase fossil and modern human sample sizes. This method effectively increases the amount shape data and produces conservative estimates of taxonomically diagnostic differences in fossil hominids. Multivariate analyses were used to determine the presence of multiple species in H. erectus s. l. In a canonical variates analysis (CVA), confidence intervals for the fossil samples exhibited some overlap, suggesting morphological similarity between groups. As a result, it is proposed that shape variation in mandibular first molar crowns is not great enough to suggest the presence of multiple species.
Keywords: H. erectus, H. ergaster, tooth crown, bootstrapping, canonical variates analysis
- Ripped Flesh and Torn Souls [pp. 81–86]
Debra L. Martin
Abstract: Recognizing the signature of abduction, forced captivity, slavery and the hard physical labor that often accompanies human bondage on skeletal remains is a relatively new area of study in biological anthropology. Information from human remains provides empirical data on the extent and effects of slaving practices as well as violence in archaeological populations. This project focuses on the biological and behavioral effects of captivity and indentured servitude in pre-state societies. Although much current research on slavery and work emphasizes the Atlantic slave trade, there is an emerging body of scholarship focused on pre-state societies that practiced a range of abduction and slaving practices. An analysis of non-lethal violence and pathology as a signature of forced captivity and hard physical labor is presented for a wide variety of cultures in order to clarify the role, maintenance and cultural logic of institutionalized violence. Data is presented from the distant past and applied to the present as a way of integrating cultural practices and biological effects into a cohesive explanatory model.
Keywords: slavery, pre-state societies, Atlantic slave trade, pathology, archaeology
- Cooking Pots: A Model for Technological Adoption in Pre-Contact Southern California [pp. 87–92]
Abstract: Various types of cooking pots were used prehistorically in California to boil foods in order to make them more edible. These pots included ground stone, basketry, and ceramic varieties, and they were heated either by placing them directly on a fire or by placing fire heated stones inside of them. What type of cooking pot being used was often dictated by tradition, lifestyle, and available resources. Throughout most of California, hunting and gathering groups continued to use cooking stones in baskets in order to cook their foods even after ceramics became available. Ground stone was too heavy and burdensome to use unless a group was at least partially sedentary, and ceramics were too breakable for groups on the move. Therefore, cooking in baskets was the most useful way to cook food for non-sedentary people.
Keywords: cooking, pottery, California, prehistory, ground stone, non sedentary peoples
- Call for Papers, 80th Annual Conference [p. 93]
- Participants, 80th Annual Meeting [p. 94]
- SWAA Newsletter Editors (1958–2010) [p. 96]
- SWAA Presidents (1928–2010) [p. 97]