DC event: The Curious Rise and Development of Central Asian Nationalisms

When: Friday, December 12, 2014, 12:30 – 2 pm
Where: Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E Street, NW
Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412

This presentation examines scholarly notions about post-Soviet Central Asia’s future close to the the time of the Soviet dissolution. Given the different outcomes for Central Asian states over the past quarter century, the author claims that Central Asian states have articulated curious nationalisms that concurrently militate against regional cooperation while maintaining a modicum of peace and stability among the regional countries. In discussing the case of nationalisms, the argument centers on relative successes of the Soviet system that have created an enduring legacy in Central Asia till present. The author implies this is hard to apprehend without spending significant time outside of cities, and without understanding how varied Soviet experiences have been across this area.

Speaker: Russell Zanca, professor of anthropology, Northeastern Illinois University

RSVP here.

Sponsored by:
Central Asia Program, Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies

Event in St. Mary’s City, Maryland on slavery in America

Panel: Interpreting Slavery in America

When: December 3, 4:45 PM – 6:00 PM
Where: Auerbach Auditorium, St. Mary’s Hall
18952 E. Fisher Rd, St. Mary’s City, MD 20686

A panel discussion hosted by St. Mary’s faculty Liza Gijanto, Iris Carter Ford, and Ken Cohen and featuring the following panelists:

  • Azie Dungey – Creator of the YouTube series “Ask a Slave” and former interpreter at Mount Vernon
  • Christy Colemen – President of the Civil War Center
  • Matthew Reeves – Director of archaeology, Montpellier
  • Jeanne Pirtle – Director of education, Sotterley Plantation
  • Wes Brown – Creator/screenwriter of “Ascension,” winner of the 2014 AMC Austin Film Festival Television Screenplay Competition

The panel will be moderated by Michael Blakey, biological anthropologist and former director of the African American Burial Ground Project, Department of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary.

Free and open to the public

Anthro in the news 11/24/14

  • Building a green wall to hold back the Sahara

The New York Times carried an article called “Senegal Helps Plant a Great Green Wall to Fend Off the Desert.” It mentions the changes in the environment from a time still remembered by elders when there were so many trees that you couldn’t see the sky to now, when the landscape is miles of reddish-brown sand dotted with occasional bushes and trees. Overgrazing and climate change are the major causes of the Sahara’s advance, said Gilles Boetsch, an anthropologist who directs a team of French scientists working with Senegalese researchers in the region. The article quotes him as saying: “The local Peul people are herders, often nomadic. But the pressure of the herds on the land has become too great…The vegetation can’t regenerate itself.”

Since 2008, however, Senegal has been fighting back against the encroaching desert. Each year it has planted some two million seedling trees along a 545-kilometer, or 340-mile, ribbon of land that is the country’s segment of a major pan-African regeneration project, the Great Green Wall.

While many countries have still to start on their sections of the barrier, Senegal has taken the lead, with the creation of a National Agency for the Great Green Wall.

  • Australian art from the Tamami desert: A book review

The Australian carried a review of a book, Remembering the Future: Warlpiri Life through the Prism of Drawing, by visual anthropologist Melinda Hinkson. The book accompanies a capsule exhibition at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. It draws on Mervyn Meggitt’s mid-20th century fieldwork in the settlement of Hooker Creek in the Northern Territory’s remote Tanami Desert. He aimied to produce a detailed ethnography of the Warlpiri desert people, and he employed all the standard investigative techniques of mid-century anthropology. But he also persuaded the Warlpiri to make a set of crayon drawings for him that would show how they saw the world. These were sketches, in vivid colors: landscapes, country, totemic animals, scenes from the Hooker Creek settlement. Many are images of stark simplicity; some are naive-seeming, some are elaborately conceived and worked. They form a striking record. They caught the eye of visual anthropologist, Melinda Hinkson, who made them her special focus. She took copies out to the desert capital of the Warlpiri, Yuendumu, and began learning about their meanings and their past.

  • Women’s roles in Nepal: A book review

The Nepal Times published a review of Elizabeth Enslin’s book, While the Gods Were Sleeping. Enslin met her husband, Promod Parajuli, when they were graduate students at Stanford. After their marriage, she lived in Nepal as a daughter-in-law, learning about Nepali Brahmin culture first-hand. She interviewed women who joined the literacy classes initiated by her and her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law plays a central and inspiring role in questioning the traditional place women are supposed to keep in Nepali Brahmin society and family. The reviewer notes that “…the timeframe of the book is the 1980s-90s, and Nepal has changed dramatically since then. So, readers looking at more contemporary trends in gender relations, community activism, the role of mothers’ groups and female health volunteers in public health awareness will be disappointed.” (more…)

Upcoming film: Food Chains: The Revolution in America’s Fields

In this exposé, an intrepid group of Florida farmworkers battle to defeat the $4 trillion global supermarket industry through their ingenious Fair Food program, which partners with growers and retailers to improve working conditions for farm laborers in the United States.

There is more interest in food these days than ever, yet there is very little interest in the hands that pick it. Farmworkers, the foundation of our fresh food industry, are routinely abused and robbed of wages. In extreme cases they can be beaten, sexually harassed or even enslaved – all within the borders of the United States.

Food Chains reveals the human cost in our food supply and the complicity of large buyers of produce like fast food and supermarkets. Fast food is big, but supermarkets are bigger – earning $4 trillion globally. They have tremendous power over the agricultural system. Over the past 3 decades they have drained revenue from their supply chain leaving farmworkers in poverty and forced to work under subhuman conditions. Yet many take no responsibility for this.

The narrative of the film focuses on a group of tomato pickers from Southern Florida – the Coalition of Immokalee Workers or CIW – who are revolutionizing farm labor. Their story is one of hope and promise for the triumph of morality over corporate greed – to ensure a dignified life for farm workers and a more humane, transparent food chain.

Food Chains will be released nationwide November 21st.

DC event: Improving Global Health Through Clean Cooking Solutions: A Panel Discussion of Diverse Perspectives

When: Monday, November 24th, 2014, 12:30pm*
Where: 950 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Room B100B

Exposure to smoke from cooking with solid fuels kills more than 4 million people, predominately in the developing world, each year according to the World Health Organization. This event will feature a panel of experts discussing clean cooking solutions and their ability to lead to improvements in health, environment and the livelihoods of women and children. It will conclude with a demonstration of the newest biomass stoves developed by Aprovecho Research Center.


  • Jacob Moss - United States Government Cookstove Coordinator, Department of State
  • Ranyee Chiang - Director of Standards, Technology and Fuels, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
  • James Tielsch - Chair of Global Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health
  • Dean Still - Executive Director, Aprovecho Research Center

*A light lunch will be provided at 12pm

All are welcome to attend – RSVPS strongly encouraged.
Please RSVP to Kallista Bernal at kallista@gwu.edu

DC event: Better Working Conditions, Better Performance: Findings from Cambodia

The World Bank Group Gender & Jobs Teams
invite you to a seminar

“Better Working Conditions, Better Performance:
Findings from Cambodia”

When: Nov. 18, 2014, 2-3:30 p.m.
Where: World Bank Group MC 7-100

Developing countries often experience globalization as foreign direct investment that fosters growth and expands exports-commonly concentrated in the apparel sector. Workers in this sector are overwhelmingly women, whose only alternative is low-skilled work in agriculture and services. Work in the apparel sector often provides a vital first step out of poverty toward economic empowerment, although their working conditions are often poor.

The Better Work program is a partnership between the International Labor Organization and IFC, the WBG private sector arm, which aims to improve compliance with labor standards and competitiveness in the garment industry. In the seminar, economist Raymond Robertson will discuss whether and how improved working conditions boost factory performance, using detailed longitudinal data from Better Factories Cambodia.

Raymond Robertson, Professor of Economics at Macalester College

Gladys Lopez-Acevedo, Lead Economist, Office of the Chief Economist, South Asia
Namita Dutta, Global Head, Let’s Work Global Partnership, Jobs, World Bank Group

Caren Grown, Senior Director, Jobs, World Bank Group
Nigel Twose, Senior Director, Jobs, World Bank Group

External participants should allow 15-20 minutes to pass through security.

Sign up for periodic updates and invitations

Raymond Robertson is Professor of Economics at Macalester College. His research focuses on international, labor, and development economics. His research has appeared in, among others,The American Economic Review, The Review of Economics and Statistics, The Journal of International Economics, The Review of International Economics, and The Journal of Development Economics. He serves on the advisory board at the Center for Global Development and was a member of the US State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy. He currently chairs the US Department of Labor’s National Advisory Committee on Labor Provisions of Free Trade Agreement. His current work focuses on the effects of the ILO’s Better Work program in Cambodia and elsewhere, as well as other issues relating to the effects of globalization on workers. He holds a PhD from the University of Texas after spending a year in Mexico as a Fulbright Scholar.

Anthro in the news 11/17/14

  • A taste for service and adventure

Bloomberg Business News reported on the origins and ongoing success of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders. On a budget of €952 million ($1.2 billion) per year, MSF runs a volunteer collective of 30,000 physicians, nurses, logisticians, and locally recruited staff that functions as an independent ambulance corps and a kind of MASH unit for those in need.

MSF is able to move so swiftly, in large part, because of its decentralized structure, which is more akin to a guerrilla network than a top-down corporation. They go where things are worst, often to care for civilian casualties and refugees of war. They also confront “neglected” diseases, from malaria to HIV/AIDS, to drug-resistant tuberculosis. They are truly global, privately funded, and astonishingly effective, able to treat diseases others won’t touch in places few will go—and where they’re not always welcome.

In addition to medical training, another prerequisite for MSF work is a taste for adventure:  “That’s certainly part of their myth, of being on the front lines,” says Peter Redfield, a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina, who has written a book on MSF, Life in Crisis: The Ethical Journey of Doctors Without Borders. “But they are careful in who they select and who they send. It’s not risk-takers, per se, they want, but people willing to assume a risk responsibly. And they never willingly sacrifice staff in the face of death threats or abductions.”

  • The future of money

CBC News carried an article in its business section on whether cash will live on or be replaced in the near future by e-money. It quoted cultural anthropologist Bill Mauer, an expert on the anthropology of money. Mauer feels that people are largely satisfied with old-fashioned money and plastic cards and was quoted as saying: “All these mobile wallets are looking for a problem to solve.”

  • Refugee or IDP: Labels matters

All Africa reported on how the different labels of “refugee” and “internally displaced person” affect the kind of help and care that people receive. In Iraq and Syria, people in both categories are fleeing what the international community now views as the same crisis. Yet due to UN protocols and how funding is allocated, internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Iraq and refugees from Syria are being supported by, in some cases, completely separate programs, despite their similar needs and geographical proximity. In some cases, duplication results, prompting experts to call for a rethinking of how organizations in Iraq and elsewhere respond to dual caseloads of IDPs and refugees, with a strong push to prioritize based upon need rather than status. The article quoted Dawn Chatty, professor of anthropology and forced migration at the Department of International Development at the University of Oxford who also questioned the practice of allocating aid according to “on-paper labels:”

“Why are we making certain kinds of distinctions between what assistance we give to a group that has a particular label and another group that doesn’t have that label, when they are both actually fleeing the same crisis…In Iraq you had the case of the Iraqi Yazidis who fled Mount Sinjar. Many of them became refugees when they crossed into Syria, but then, when they crossed back into Iraqi Kurdistan, they were re-categorized as IDPs, which rather makes a nonsense of these categories being so rigidly adhered to.”

“Not everyone wants to be called a refugee…Many people crossing into countries like Turkey prefer to be called muhajir (migrant). They are not interested in third country re-settlement; what they want is some temporary protection and to sustain themselves until they can go back home. People being displaced internally are in the same position and I think the international humanitarian and refugee regime has got to do a lot of thinking about this.”

  • Disaster capitalism and the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat

The Hindu reviewed a book by Edward Simpson entitled, The Political Biography of an Earthquake. Aftermath and Amnesia in Gujarat, India. “Earthquakes, says Edward Simpson, “are capable of rubbishing the best achievements of humanity and levelling the vainest cultural ambition.” Following widespread havoc wrought by the Gujarat earthquake of 2001, those affected had to cope with the trauma of death and destruction all around them and salvage the remnants of their lives for reconstruction of a future that might possibly include recurrence of a similar event. Simpson portrays with deep sympathy and humane concern how the survivors and the affected region experienced the aftermath of the calamity. After the 2001 earthquake, Simpson spent varying periods between 2001 and 2012 in Kutch, the region that bore the brunt of the earthquake, observing the interface between the lives of ordinary people and the processes of reconstruction, or what can be considered the “second quake” in which social relations were destroyed.

  • Take that anthro degree and…

…become a documentary filmmaker. Rachel Lears‘ most recent feature documentary, The Hand That Feeds, co-directed with Robin Blotnick, won the audience award for best feature at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2014, Best of Fest recognition at AFI Docs, and the jury award for Best Documentary at Sidewalk Film Festival. Rachel’s first feature documnetary, Birds of Passage (2010), was supported by Fulbright and the National Film Institute of Uruguay (ICAU), had two community screening tours in Uruguay sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and was broadcast nationally throughout Latin America. Her ongoing video-art collaborations with artist Saya Woolfalk have screened at numerous galleries and museums worldwide since 2008. Lears was a 2013 Sundance Fellow. She holds a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from New York University.

…work in environmental conservation. Andy White is the coordinator of Rights and Resources Initiative, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, dedicated to supporting forest tenure, policy, and market reforms. He recently published an op-ed about how to create protected areas without a “trail of tears.” He has a Ph.D. in forest economics and an M.A. in anthropology from the University of Minnesota.

…become president of the World Psychiatric Association, professor of psychiatry and advocate for understanding gay identity in psychiatry. Dinesh Bhugra is also former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, chair of the board of trustees for the Mental Health Foundation (of which he is now also president) and has been awarded a CBE for services to psychiatry. An expert in transcultural psychiatry, Bhugra is one of the most prolific academics in the U.K., with hundreds of research papers and more than 30 books to his name.  As head of the World Psychiatric Association, he now represents more than 200,000 psychiatrists across 137 national organizations and 117 countries. And he is openly gay. Many psychiatrists around the world still view homosexuality as a mental illness. Bhugra has his work cut out for him in pushing for diversity and understanding among psychiatrists worldwide about this issue. Bhugra has a Ph.D. from the King’s College London, an M. Phil. From Leicester University, and M.Sc. in sociology from South Bank University and an M.A. in social anthropology from the University of London.

  • ISIS accused of cultural desecration

Newsweek reported that the head of the UN’s cultural preservation organization has spoken out against the “barbaric” destruction of Iraq’s cultural heritage, saying that Islamic State (ISIS) is seeking to “delete” entire civilizations. Irina Bokova, who heads the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), highlighted the desecration of key historic and religious sites by ISIS, alongside civilian atrocities, during her visit to northern Iraq. The country is home to three UNESCO world heritage sites–two are currently listed as “at risk”.

  • In memoriam

George C. Bond, William F. Russell Professor of Anthropology and Education at Teachers College of Columbia University, died at the age of 77 years. He was also Director of the College’s Center for African Studies and former Chair of the Department of International and Transcultural Studies. An authority on the African diaspora and a member of TC’s faculty for 40 years, Bond was widely credited with identifying and representing the historical narratives of indigenous African peoples. An old-time “dirty anthropologist” whose decades of field work in remote African villages left him fluent in Bantu and afflicted by the effects of at least two bouts of malaria, Bond devoted much of his career to demonstrating that the classes of intellectual and political leaders known as elites create themselves by taking control of their historical narratives. He argued that this process is essential for a colonized people to assume its own identity and assert itself against its masters.


Good news: Chixoy dam reparations

Cultural anthropologist Barbara Rose Johnston offers an inside view on Counter Punch of a commitment from the Government of Guatemala to make reparations related to the Chixoy dam.

She has worked long and hard to push for this:

“The Government of Guatemala has finalized a legally-binding commitment to repair the human rights damages associated with forced displacement, violence, and related abuses accompanying the construction and operation of the internationally-financed Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam. This historic action provides the legal means and financial commitment to launch the first-ever formal reparation mechanism that explicitly addresses the varied injuries and immense impoverishment resulting from internationally financed hydroelectric dam development.”

Johnston is an environmental anthropologist and Senior Fellow at the Center for Political Ecology, an independent environment, health and human rights research institute based in Santa Cruz, California.

Update: Panel 1 of Emergency Initiatives on the Ebola Outbreaks conference posted to YouTube

Emergency Initiatives on the Ebola Outbreaks

The American Anthropological Association / World Council of Anthropological Associations/ Wenner-Gren Foundation Emergency Initiative on the Ebola Outbreak, brought together anthropologists from around the world with expertise in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria, other Ebola-affected regions, and in infectious disease management for a workshop to address critical issues in the current Ebola outbreak.

Watch panel 1 of the event here.

DC event: Conducting Short Term Research: What Can We Learn?

The GWU Organization of International Development Presents A Panel Event

Conducting Short Term Research: What Can We Learn?


Scott Freeman: Ph.D. in anthropology, Columbia University, IGIS visiting scholar

Brian Theide: Ph.D. in development sociology, Cornell University, IGIS visiting scholar

Interested in conducting field research? Preparing for your capstone research next spring? Join us for a panel event with IGIS visiting scholars as they discuss their short term summer research experiences in Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic. Former IDS Program Director, Dr. David Gow will moderate this panel.

When: Thursday, November 13th, 2014
6:30-8:00 pm

Where: Elliott School of International Affairs
Room 505

Please RSVP: go.gwu.edu/shorttermresearch

Email oid@gwu.edu with questions.