Calendar 2015-2016

September 15, 2015 (event cancelled)

Roger Sanjek, Professor Emeritus, Queens College, CUNY

Title: “Fieldwork and Fieldnotes in the Making of Ethnography: A Conversation with Roger Sanjek”

Roger Sanjek trained at Columbia in the 1960s and taught anthropology at Queens College from 1972 until 2008. His early fieldwork and publications were in rural Brazil and urban Accra, Ghana. He has also studied the Gray Panther social justice movement in Berkeley and NYC. From 1983 to 1996 he led an ethnographic team in a famous study of racial change and immigration in the extraordinarily diverse Queens neighborhood of Elmhurst-Corona, resulting in many publications, including his book, The Future of Us All (1998) that won the prestigious J. I. Staley Prize. Doctoral students in this program know him best as the editor and multiple chapter contributor to Fieldnotes (1990). In the fall of 2015, University of Pennsylvania Press will publish a completely new “v.2” edition of Fieldnotes that he has edited.


September 22, 2015

Emma Kowal, Associate Professor, Deakin University

Title: “Trapped in the Gap: Doing Good in Indigenous Australia”

In Australia, a ‘tribe’ of white, middle-class, progressive professionals is actively working to improve the lives of Indigenous people. Drawing on ethnography of an Indigenous health research institute in northern Australia, this seminar explores what happens when well-meaning people, supported by the state, attempt to help without harming. ‘White anti-racists’ find themselves trapped by endless ambiguities, contradictions, and double binds — a microcosm of the broader dilemmas of settler colonial societies and international development. These dilemmas are fueled by tension between the twin desires of equality and difference: to make Indigenous people statistically the same as non-Indigenous people (to ‘close the gap’) while simultaneously maintaining their ‘cultural’ distinctiveness. This tension lies at the heart of failed development efforts in Indigenous communities, ethnic minority populations and the global South.


October 7, 2015

Lisa Wynn, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia

Title: “Hymenoplasty, virginity testing, and the simulacra of female respectability”

Based on ethnographic research, formal interviews with laypeople and physicians, and a review of Egyptian court rulings and revolutionary graffiti, this article situates Egyptian political protesters’ battles over the state’s ‘virginity testing’ in the ethnographic context of cultural beliefs about the hymen and women’s moral purity.  The use of hymens in social and political theatre can only be understood by appreciating that a woman’s hymen, her sexual purity, and thus her social respectability are all simulacra, in the Baudrillardian sense: a substitution of the signs of the real for the real, and which are thus more real than real.  This article analyzes hymens and graffiti as memory-objects that construct idealized moral histories, and which open up possibilities for creative manoeuvres in the social construction of women’s moral identities that draw on the sensory registers of blood and hymens at the same time that they reveal these to be simulacra.


October 8, 2015

Reed Malcolm, Executive Editor for Anthropology at the University of California Press

Title: “The Future State of Book Publishing, Scholarly or Otherwise”

Reed Malcolm will discuss the state of  book publishing in light of recent changes within the scholarly publishing industry, declining library acquisitions, evolving pedagogical styles, and the emergence of all things digital. With traditional bookstores closing, and on-line retailers such as Amazon on the rise, what does the future hold for today’s scholar/author who is navigating a university culture that still regards the “traditional book” as the gold standard for hiring and promotion? Reed will also provide useful  information for first-time authors on the art of dissertation revising and finding the (right) publisher.


October 13, 2015

Lisa Barthelemes, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Germany)

Title: “Itinerant Vendors and Local Officials in Hanoi, Vietnam”

In this talk I will present data I collected during 18 months of fieldwork about itinerant street vendors in Hanoi, Vietnam. Hanoi street vendors are predominantly rural-urban migrants who come from the surrounding provinces to the capital to improve their income. I aim to show that even though reality renders the rural-urban dichotomy obsolete, essentialized discourses about the ‘rural’ as backward and the ‘urban’ as civilized are actively produced by the Vietnam state. These narratives then influence how Hanoians perceive rural-urban migrants in general and itinerant street vendors in particular. I argue that stereotypes of the ‘rural migrant’ provide powerful tools for the state to govern its population and reinforce itinerant vendors’ marginal status. At the same time I want to draw attention on how itinerant street vendors appropriate these discourses of ‘ruralness’ and use them to their own advantage. In this way state discourses, urbanites’ perceptions and street vendors’ re-interpretations all contribute to the reproduction the inferior status of rural-urban migrants in the city.


November 3, 2015

Sahar Romani, Malathy Singh Post-Doctoral Associate and Lecturer, Yale Macmilian Center, Yale University

Title: “Being NGO Girls: Mobilizing Development Femininities in Kolkata’s Red-light Areas”

I examine the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as a cultural and political force in shaping gendered and classed subjectivities of young women growing up in ‘red-light areas’ in Kolkata, India. I foreground the ways young women deploy NGO gender narratives to improve their everyday lives. Drawing on debates of NGOization, urban Indian femininities, and intersectionality, I demonstrate how several young women who grow up as ‘subjects’ of NGO development, mobilize, reject, and improvise contested NGO-inspired femininities for their everyday gain.


November 10, 2015

Bianet Castellanos, Associate Professor of American Studies, University of Minnesota

Yucatec Maya migrants in Mexico have long associated debt with a history of indentured servitude and land with freedom and autonomy. As the Mexican government pivots away from land redistribution, Yucatec Maya migrants working in the tourist center of Cancun find it increasingly difficult to obtain land. Instead social interest housing has replaced government subsidized land allotments. In their quest for housing, migrants learn to embrace debt and financial risk by moving away from previous desires for autonomy. This project examines how shifting meanings of debt and risk deeply influence indigenous lives and help them form a powerful critique of the inequalities generated by housing reform.


November 17, 2015

Kelly Fayard, Director, Native American Cultural Center at Yale University and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Bowdoin College

Title: “Kinship, Race, and Identity: Belonging among the Poarch Band of Creek Indians”

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, first noted in published records in the 1940s by anthropologist Frank Speck, is located in Alabama, a place where many incorrectly assume that no Native people remain. Yet, the Poarch community has been and remains a vibrant hub of cultural activity that now includes thriving tribal businesses. This talk will explore Poarch Creek identity in the context of Southern race relations. What happens to a group that contradicts the black-white binary in Southern racial relations? How does educational desegregation affect all-Indian schools like the Poarch Creek Consolidated Indian School? How does racial discrimination in the Jim Crow South affect the way in which community bonds are formed and maintained presently?


December 1, 2015

John Lucy


December 8, 2015

Adrienne Cohen, Yale PhD Candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology


January 19, 2016

Garima Dhabi, Fox Fellow


January 26, 2016 (a joint-EST and Maya Lecture Series)

Walter Little, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology; President, Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

Title: “There Are No Heroes / We’re All Heroes. Kaqchikel Maya Vendors’ Reflections on National Holidays and National Heroes”

In the context of the national politics of state holidays and national heroes, Kaqchikel Maya handicraft vendors have very strong opinions about the subject of heroes — not at all favorable. Despite this, these vendors, who are women, have inserted themselves into the economies of two national holidays that highlight Guatemalan heroes: Día de a Hispanidad, formerly known as Día de la Raza, held on October 12, and the day commemorating Tecún Umán recognized on February 20. In this chapter, I explore the reasons for vendors’ rather cynical comments about these holidays, discuss how their economic participation shapes their opinions about heroes, and explain why they claim both “there are no heroes” and that Mayas “are all heroes.” I argue that their discourses about heroes in relation to their marketing of clothing and other items to Ladinos for the October 12 and February 20 holidays should be understood as more than just critiques of the state. Rather as women, the vendors offer a gendered perspective about the representations and celebrations of heroes that challenges the state-level and community-level forms of patriarchy. However, it is through their sales of specialty items to Ladinos on these holidays that they publically ridicule Ladino concepts of Mayas and re-inscribe themselves as heroic figures in their communities.


February 1, 2016 (special EST event)

Eitan Wilf, Associate Professor of Anthropology Department of Sociology and Anthropology Hebrew University

Title: “Understanding Post-Fordist Business Innovation through One of Its Key Semiotic Technologies”


February 9, 2016 (a joint-EST and Maya Lecture Series)

Paul Kockelman, Yale Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology and Linguistic Anthropology
Title: “Time and Replacement among the Q’eqchi’-Maya”


February 16, 2016

Karine Gagne


March 3, 2016

Jim Igoe, Associate Professor of Anthropology at University of Virginia

Title: “The Nature of Spectacle and the Spectacle of Nature”

The ready familiarity of the term “spectacle of nature” indicates the cultural pervasiveness of nature as a particular kind of view or views. At the same time, with the rise of the Anthropocene concept, “nature” is appearing obsolete. If, as the Anthropocene concept suggests, human activity has become definitive of our global environment, then we can no longer imagine nature as a pristine realm beyond the human world. In spite, or perhaps in part because, of these transforming discourses of nature, images of panoramic landscapes and charismatic wildlife are more pervasive than ever, mediating popular understandings of human relationships to the more-than-human world. It almost goes without saying that mass produced and disseminated images are now taken for granted elements of our everyday environments, appearing to have a life of their own. In far reaching spaces of capitalist modernity — both actual and virtual — it is fair to say that such images have become a kind of “second nature.” My talk explores the historical emergence of mass produced images as “second nature” to address their role in mediating popular understandings of environmental problems, and what to some appears as an impending “end of nature.” It is derived from my current book project — Spectacle of Nature, Spirit of Capitalism: How Images Connect and Disconnect People and the Environment — forthcoming from University of Arizona Press.


March 8, 2016

CJ Kuncheria, Fox Fellow


March 29, 2016

Natalie Vena, J.D./Ph.D. candidate in Northwestern University’s School of Law and Department of Anthropology

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