A Difficult Time: Archaeology and Modernity.

Alfredo González-Ruibal ( (National Research Council of Spain)
2/23/2015
Despite its deceiving proximity (or perhaps because of it), the time of modernity is a difficult time to study for archaeologists. In fact, it can be argued that it can be more so than prehistoric temporalities. First, there is the epistemological question of how to produce relevant archaeological knowledge of recent periods, where there is an overabundance of written, visual and oral testimonies and a unique experience of coevalness. Secondly, the time of modernity is different to other times with which
archaeologists are used to deal with, because of its multilayered and heterogeneous nature: increasing social complexity, technology and globalization bring a proliferation and superimposition of temporalities, which is at odds with historicist perspectives. Finally, the time of modernity, as geographers and philosophers have abundantly demonstrated, has radical political implications. It is a time out of joint, as Derrida put it, an unjust time of violence and destruction that ultimately annihilates itself. In this talk, I would explore, through different examples, how an archaeological approach to the difficult time of modernity might look like.

*co-sponsored by the Center for Ancient Studies

Incorporations: Capitalism and Collectivity

Matthew Hull (University of Michigan)
2/16/2015

Incorporation, a process by which a group of individuals is constituted as a legal entity, should be placed alongside commoditization as a major mechanism through which human activities are drawn into capitalist processes. In contrast to commoditization, which draws labor, land, and things into capitalist transactions, incorporation brings the guidance of collective life into a capitalist order. Through incorporation, groups become recognizable to economic and political actors. This paper will explore incorporation through an examination of the great variety of kinds of sociality that have translated themselves into the form of the Anglo-American corporation, including an Indian village, US churches, parts of the Pakistan army, Maori/Native American/Canadian tribes, New Guinea descent groups. Of particular interest is how both the pre-existing sociality and the emergent corporation are shaped by their relations.

Nostalgia in the Post-Apartheid State

Amber Reed (Penn)
2/09/2015
What would make rural, black South Africans nostalgic for the days of apartheid? While this nascent democracy is celebrated worldwide for its “progressive” constitution and relatively peaceful transition from an oppressive government in 1994, today a growing tide of disappointment with the democratic state is emerging across the country – as evidenced in recent service delivery protests and new competitor political parties to the ruling African National Congress. Ethnographic encounters in the rural Eastern Cape Province go beyond these frustrations with the status quo, revealing widespread sentiments of nostalgia for the perceived stability and order of the apartheid regime among those who ostensibly suffered most under its rule. In this paper, I argue that nostalgic discourses for apartheid can be read as reactions to the increasing inequalities of neoliberal capitalism that have become conflated with democracy as a political system. Furthermore, many local cultural ideologies in rural South Africa aligned more closely with the hierarchical structures of apartheid than they do with contemporary Western-based human rights legislation on equality. On a broader level, I show how Eastern Cape residents are using competing epistemologies from that of the state to understand why democracy is ultimately understood as failing to create happier lives for rural South Africans.

Spring 2015 Speakers

January/February
1/26 – Tiffany Cain, Mariam Durrani, Kyle Olson, Arjun Shankar (Graduate Students)
Talking across Sub-disciplines: Building Community in Anthropology – Part I
2/09 – Amber Reed (Penn)
Nostalgia in the Post-Apartheid State
2/16 – Matthew Hull (Michigan)
Incorporations: Capitalism and Collectivity
2/23 – Alfredo González-Reubel (National Research Council of Spain)
A Difficult Time: Archaeology and Modernity
*co-sponsored by Center for Ancient Studies (CAS)

March
3/02 – Gabriel Dattatreyan, Kasey Diserens, Erica Jaffe Redner, Marshall Knudson (Graduate Students)
Talking across Sub-disciplines: Building Community in Anthropology – Part II
3/16 – Connie Mulligan (University of Florida)
Genetic, Epigenetic, and Sociocultural Data Applied to Questions of Human Health & Disease
3/23 – Ruth van Dyke (Binghamton University)
Pilgrimage, Materiality, and Phenomenology: To Chaco Canyon and Beyond
*co-sponsored by Center for Ancient Studies (CAS)
3/30 – Scott Hutson (University of Kentucky)
Urbanism and Ancient Maya Neighborhoods: Social and Spatial Organization
*co-sponsored by Center for Ancient Studies (CAS)

April
4/06 – Jonathan Rosa (UMass)
Resounding Embodiments: A Semiotics of Racial and Linguistic Recognition
4/27 – Ana Mariella Bacigalupo (University of Buffalo)
The Potency of Indigenous Bibles and Biography: Mapuche Shamanic Literacy and Historical Consciousness

On Dangerous Ground: Taphonomy, Necroviolence, and the Politics of Migrant Death in the Arizona Desert

Jason de León (University of Michigan)
12/01/2014

In the mid-90s, the U.S. federal government implemented an immigration enforcement strategy along the southern border known as Prevention through Deterrence. This strategy increased security in unauthorized crossing areas surrounding urban ports of entry in an attempt to shift undocumented migration towards remote border regions such as the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, where security is less intense but crossing conditions are more difficult. Since 2009, I have directed the Undocumented Migration Project, a long-term anthropological analysis of clandestine border crossings between Northern Mexico and Southern Arizona that uses a combination of ethnographic, archaeological, and forensic research to understand this violent social process. In this presentation I focus on the types of deaths that migrants experience during border crossings, the decomposition of their corpses, and the impacts that these desert fatalities have on families. Drawing on the archaeological concept of taphonomy (i.e., the analysis of the phenomena that impact the remains of biological organisms at the time of and after death), I argue that the post-mortem treatment of migrant bodies is part of a larger state project that uses nature as a weapon to maintain boundary control. I label this post-mortem treatment necroviolence and aim to show its direct connection to the American government’s problematic construction of undocumented people as expendable lives.

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.