Category Archives: Themes in Anthropology

Sara Perry: Intersection of Archaeology and Visual Anthropology

Brave hunter, guided by arrows. Source: Perry (2009).

We’ve featured the newish blog anthropologies here before – its thematic issues are always worth a read. The January 1 edition was particularly interesting because its theme, Visual Anthropology, is of keen interest to the department here since we are currently hiring in that subdiscipline.

But it was of particular interest because one of our distinguished alumna, Dr. Sara Perry, has a short essay entitled Fluid Fields: The (Unspoken) Intersections of Visual Anthropology and Archaeology.  Sara writes an elegant account of how her long-standing research interest in how archaeologists create, consume, and circulate images matters within a holistic anthropological project:

However, on the other side, amongst audiences of archaeologists, I am often similarly loath to declare myself to be a visual anthropologist. This is because I have repeatedly been challenged by both my archaeological students and colleagues for doing research that is purportedly “not real archaeology.” My response to such a baseless statement is that archaeologists are—and always have been—skilled users and makers of multi-media, capitalising on various visual anthropological methodologies to facilitate or augment their work.

It’s almost a manifesto for how archaeologists and visual anthropologists need to learn from each other, not so much through shared attention to material culture, but through shared attention to images as artifacts.  It’d be hard to find a better example of the niche that our department’s thematic approach to graduate studies is designed to fill.

Sara’s work is best known to us here in the form of her brilliant M.A. thesis on visual representations of the First Peopling of North America, Australia and the Pacific (downloadable PDF!).  Since leaving us, she went to complete her Ph.D. in 2011 at the University of Southampton, working with Professor Stephanie Moser, and as of this month she has started as lecturer at the University of York, U.K.  Congratulations to Sara on her new position!

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Reference:

Perry, Sara (2009). Fractured media: Challenging the dimensions of archaeology’s typical visual modes of engagement. Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 5(3): 389-415

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A “Four-Field Manifesto” for Moral Optimism

Traces of ancient raised fields in Bolivia mark a former sustainable agricultural system. Source: Clarl Erickson, UPENN

Anthropology needs to make “an explicit claim to the moral optimism that may be this discipline’s greatest appeal and yet its most guarded secret” (Trouillot, p.136).

So begins a stirring essay by Jason Antrosio, an Anthropologist at Hartwicke College.  Ostensibly about Capitalism and its excesses, the piece also works as a “four-field manifesto” for moral optimism in the contemporary global context.  In this, Anthropology is urged towards the forefront of a movement to contemplate the relationship between market forces and the global citizen.

Drawing heavily on the work of Michel-Rolph Trouillot, the essay takes each Anthropological subdiscipline in turn, showing how singly and together they challenge the easy conventional wisdom about “human nature” which structures contemporary discourses and political thought:  humans are naturally greedy and selfish, Capitalism harnesses greed and selfishness to productive ends, therefore Capitalism is inevitable and invincible.

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In Defence of Anthropology

Screenshot of Governor Scott on Anthropology. Source: TampaBay.com

There’s been a bit of controversy making the rounds recently since the Governor of Florida started using Anthropology as an example of a degree program which that state’s universities could use a bit less of.  Well, fortunately there is concerted and highly effective push-back on this notion.  The American Anthropological Association issued a strongly worded, if rather generic, letter (PDF).  The Chair of the Anthropology Department at University of South Florida was more eloquent:

Anthropologists at USF work side by side with civil and industrial engineers, cancer researchers, specialists in public health and medicine, chemists, biologists, and others in the science, technology, and engineering fields that the Governor so eagerly applauds. Our colleagues in the natural, engineering, and medical sciences view the anthropological collaboration as absolutely essential to the success of their research and encourage their students to take courses in anthropology to help make them better scientists.

Noted blogger Daniel Lende has a roundup of some of the reaction here, while Kristina Killgrove responds as well: Continue reading