Rainforest Hunter-Gatherer Evolutionary Ecology

George Perry (Penn State)
11/03/2014

Small human body size, or the “pygmy” phenotype, is strongly associated with populations who have traditionally hunted and gathered for food in tropical rainforest habitats. The phenotype appears to have evolved independently at least twice: in both Central Africa and Southeast Asia. The likely convergence has led anthropologists to hypothesize that small body size may confer direct or indirect fitness benefits in response to one or more common ecological challenges of the tropical rainforest: (i) food limitation, (ii) high heat and humidity, (iii) forest structural density, (iv) high pathogen load, or (v) high adult mortality. To study the evolutionary ecology of the pygmy phenotype and rainforest hunter-gatherers in general, with my colleagues Nate Dominy and Luis Barreiro, I have worked closely with the Batwa, who traditionally hunted and gathered for food in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (southwest Uganda) before it was gazetted as a National Park in 1992. I will describe results from genomic studies designed to confirm the genetic basis of the pygmy phenotype, identify genetic regions associated with the phenotype, and indirectly examine the evolutionary history of the phenotype through the study of those regions. I will also present preliminary results from ecological experiments designed to assess the plausibility of various ecological hypotheses for the adaptive origins of the pygmy phenotype.

The Racial Lexicon of Development in Postcolonial Africa: The Case of Ghana

Jemima Pierre (UCLA)
10/06/2014
 
If colonial rule in Africa depended upon a racial hierarchy that simultaneously consolidated supposedly “tribal” difference and white racial and cultural and political supremacy, what happens to this structure at the end of formal colonial rule? Following this, what does it mean to explore racial formations in our analyses of decolonization and the African postcolony? In this lecture, I use examples from my current ethnographic and historical research on resource extraction – specifically focusing on Ghana as a new oil exporter – to tackle these questions. I argue that “development-speak” converges with “oil-speak” to create a particular racial lexicon that upholds historical, (neo)colonial hierarchies. In so doing, I demonstrate one of the many ways that race continues to be rearticulated in postcolonial Africa.
* Co-sponsored by the Center for Africana Studies

Paradoxes of Patrimony: Risks to Life and Livelihood in Securing Mexico’s National Resources

Lisa Breglia ( George Mason)
9/29/2014
 

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and the international community are hailing the strides Mexico is making in confronting its serious and well-known security problems.  The recent capture of notorious drug trafficker Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman of the Sinaloa Cartel made splashy headlines and played endless news cycles. Official homicide rates in border towns such as Ciudad Juarez have significantly reduced from a 2011 peak. In the Spring, the government reached an agreement with vigilante groups in the state of Michoacan aimed at disarmament and demobilization. These steps to advance traditional “state security” concerns have gone hand-in-hand with constitutional reforms to achieve gains in economic security, hoping to assure foreign investors that Mexico is a safe and secure foreign investment opportunity. If Mexico is more secure, why do citizens express a growing sense of insecurity, especially in areas rich in the resources that are the hinge of Mexico’s new wave of economic transformation? A phenomenon I call the “paradox of patrimony” demonstrates that those who live and work in the midst of Mexico’s most valuable and strategic “national” resources (such as the oil-affected region of Mexico’s Gulf coast) are experiencing a newly found sense of insecurity and vulnerability.

Moroccan Immigrant Childhoods in Spain: The Everyday Politics of Belonging

Inmaculada García-Sánchez (Temple)
9/15/2014

My recent book, Language and Muslim Immigrant Childhoods: The Politics of Belonging (2014), underscores the importance of studying immigrant children’s everyday lives and discursive practices to trace how the countervailing forces at play in transnational, diasporic settings impact these children’s sense of belonging and emerging processes of identification in the most immediate contexts of their daily existence. Moroccan immigrant children, in particular, walk a tight rope between difference and belonging as they simultaneously participate in their own immigrant community and a “host” society deeply ambivalent toward the multicultural politics of belonging provoked by recent migratory trends. In contemporary Spain, this ambivalence resonates forcefully in the current geopolitical climate of suspicion surrounding Muslim and North African immigrants as actualizations of the Moor invaders of centuries past.

In light of this ideologically and historically-saturated problematization of Moroccan immigrants, I explore children’s daily social engagements and face-to-face interactions in dialectic relation with broader cultural logics and socio-political discourses implicated in conceptualizations of inclusion/exclusion. At school, for instance, I examine how racialized exclusion is a product of everyday practice and of interpersonal relations. Through regimes of linguistically mediated surveillance, Spanish children mark the behavior of their Moroccan immigrant peers as deviant and establish the boundaries of unmarked ideological fields of naturalized social norms and behaviors. In this analysis, I highlight the role of everyday talk and face-to-face interactions in how processes of racialization establish inclusion/exclusion boundaries and reinforce social inequalities. This attention to everyday face-to-face talk-in-interaction is important both theoretically and analytically to complement the rich body of scholarship on language and racialized exclusion that has so far focused more intently on the institutional, political, and everyday discursive construction of social difference and racialized categories by members of dominant majorities.

Fall 2014 Speakers

September
9/15 – Inmaculada García-Sánchez (Temple)
Moroccan Immigrant Childhoods in Spain: The Everyday Politics of Belonging
9/22 – Marge Bruchac, Harold Dibble, Brian Spooner, Greg Urban
Penn Anthropology Centennial Reflections
9/29 – Lisa Breglia (George Mason)
Paradoxes of Patrimony: Risks to Life and Livelihood in Securing Mexico’s National Resources

October
10/6 – Jemima Pierre (UCLA)
The Racial Lexicon of Development in Postcolonial Africa: The Case of Ghana
10/13 – Penn Faculty
Penn Anthropology Centennial Reflections

November & December
11/3 – George Perry (Penn State)
Rainforest Hunter-Gatherer Evolutionary Ecology
12/1 – Jason de León (Michigan)
On Dangerous Ground: Taphonomy, Necroviolence, and the Politics of Migrant Death in the Arizona Desert

‘Modelling’ Development: Kerala on the Global Stage

Ritty Lukose (NYU)
4/16/2014

In recent debates about the post-liberalization achievements, failures, and future directions of the Indian economy, the choices before the Indian state and electorate have been cast as the “Gujarat versus Kerala” models. This discourse partakes of a longstanding construction of the Indian state and of Kerala’s development trajectory, as one pole in “growth versus redistribution” policy arguments both within India and internationally. This model came into being in the mid-1970s, linking the region to the international development apparatus, just as the transformations we currently associate with “neoliberalism” were taking shape. What was this “model” alternative to in the mid-1970s? What is it an alternative to now? This paper addresses these questions as part of a larger exploration of our understandings of gender, development and neoliberalism.

African non-State Networks, Social Capital or Social Liability? The case of DRC

Patience Kabamba (Penn)
4/09/2014

The central argument of my study is that everybody knows about the wealth of the region, currently siphoned off by Rwandan/Ugandan generals in collusion with US corporations, but they don’t know about the social wealth and dynamism of the country. I argue that the future of Africa hinges on what happens to the DRC with its huge population and natural wealth including hydroelectric energy whose transport to distant destinations will require political reorganization of Africa by Africans. Indeed, the kleptocratic alliance between Jacob Zuma and Joseph Kabila prefigures a more serious future development linking South-Africa and DRC in SADC. The case of Butembo where in the absence of state framework and in the presence of multiple contenders for power, Nande traders networks managed to build a self-sustaining and prosperous transnational enterprise in North Kivu would serve as a parable. It presents an alternative story of Congo society being built from bottom up. Spinoza’s understanding of power as “potentia” and “potestas” would frame the theoretical underpinning of the new vision of the DRC I am putting forward.