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Spring 2010

Faculty News

Check out Holly Barker on YouTube! Her class was the focus of a video project when she recently taught qualitative methods to undergraduate anthropology students in partnership with the Pike Place Market Senior Center and the Carlson Center. Anthropology staff member Rick Aguilar is also featured in the video.

Jason De León’s research on migration was featured in the latest issue of Columns Magazine. Be sure to see the great photos too.

Jim Feathers traveled to northwestern Ethiopia to collect samples for luminescence dating from alluvial terraces along the Shinfa River, a tributary of the Blue Nile. Some of these samples were from a Middle Stone Age site. This is part of a large project by the University of Texas, which explores possible avenues out of Africa by modern humans.

Jim Green was invited to give a presentation on contemporary end of life controversies at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. His presentation formed part of the agenda for the national meeting of Compassion and Choices, an advocacy group for choice and care at the end of life. The invitation was prompted by his recent publication, Beyond the Good Death: The Anthropology of Modern Dying (University of Pennsylvania Press).

Carol Zane Jolles is working with tribal members of the Native Village of Diomede, a small Iñupiaq community on Little Diomede Island or Innaliq situated in the bottleneck of the Bering Strait. She is in the final stages of local ground-truthing of traditional Iñupiaq place names, subsistence areas, and sea ice and ocean current information. At the same time she is collecting local climate change observations. The Shared Beringian Heritage program at the National Park Service-Alaska region funds her fieldwork in conjunction with a National Park Service/University of Washington cooperative agreement through the Pacific Northwest Ecosystems Studies Unit. Her local research group is made up of Native knowledge experts: marine mammal hunters, plant and egg harvesters, and community elders. When complete, the maps will be distributed to the tribal council, to Kawerak, Inc. (a non-profit arm of the Bering Straits Regional Corporation) and the Bering Strait School District (for use in curriculum development).

Miriam Kahn and Holly Barker will be taking a group of 18 UW students to French Polynesia this summer for a study abroad program on Colonialism in the Pacific. During the first two weeks, students will be in the capital city of Pape’ete, meeting with government officials, learning about the after-effects of nuclear testing, and experiencing Heiva, the annual July festival. The next two weeks students will have home stays with Tahitian families on the island of Huahine, known for its anti-colonial stance.

Geoff Kushnick’s article “Resource Competition and Reproduction in Karo Batak Villages” appeared in the March issue of Human Nature. In April, he will travel to the University of Sheffield, England, to participate in the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Culture and Mind project. This summer, he will conduct fieldwork in Indonesia with support from UCLA’s Center for Culture, Brain, and Development.

Ben Marwick was awarded a Luce Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. He will return to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to continue excavating a very promising Late Holocene-Early Pleistocene rock shelter with the Middle Mekong Archaeology Project. During the excavations he will conduct a series of archaeological training modules with Lao archaeologists.

Archaeology faculty members Peter Lape and Ben Marwick, as well as students Ariel Auerback, Andy Cowan and Chung-Ching Shiung, presented papers at the 19th Congress of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association in Hanoi, Vietnam. One of the outcomes of the conference was the appointment of Peter and Ben as editors of the Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association. This journal is notable as the only fully online and open access peer-reviewed publication on Southeast Asian and Pacific archaeology. Since 1979 it has been published by The Australian National University and now moves to hosting provided by the UW Libraries Digital Initiatives Unit. Peter and Ben are now busy transferring the archive volumes to the UW hosting and preparing the next volume for publication, which will appear online. There is a lot to do so volunteers are welcome!

In fall 2009 the American Anthropological Association announced the top twenty articles downloaded from Anthrosource, a database of 32 anthropological journals and newsletter. Two members of our faculty had publications on this list. Janelle Taylor’s autoethnographic essay, “On Recognition, Caring, and Dementia,” published in the December 2008 issue of Medical Anthropology Quarterly, was number four on the top twenty list. In this essay, she draws upon observations and experiences of caring for her mother, who is living with advanced dementia, to consider how social and political “recognition” is linked to and premised on a cognitive capacity to “recognize” people and things. Bettina Shell-Duncan’s essay, “From Health to Human Rights: Female Genital Cutting and the Politics of Intervention,” which appeared in the American Anthropologist, ranked 15th on the list. In her article, she draws from her work as a consultant for the World Health Organization and UNICEF, as well has her role as an advisor for the working group that drafted the 2008 Joint UN Policy Statement on Female Genital Mutilation. She traces the promising and troubling implications of casting the international campaign to eliminate FGM in a human rights framework and adopting legal strategies to end the practice.

A long-standing question in the social sciences is how wealth inequalities are established and maintained in various societies, yet most research on this topic focuses on contemporary industrial populations, where wealth is mostly measured in terms of money. Eric A. Smith recently helped direct a multidisciplinary team (primarily anthropologists) to investigate patterns of intergenerational wealth transmission in non-industrial societies around the world. They used a broad definition of “wealth”: material wealth (land, livestock, and other forms of tangible property), embodied wealth (health, strength, knowledge, and skill), and relational wealth (social networks of friends and allies). The end product included 47 wealth measures for 21 societies, spanning the range from mobile hunter-gatherers and cattle herders to village farmers, and including two historic European populations. This is likely the largest set of cross-cultural data using direct quantitative measures ever assembled. The results are published in a summary paper in Science, and a more detailed set of six papers appears in Current Anthropology.

The Burke Museum is still directed by Julie Stein, who continues to conduct research on archaeology of the San Juan Islands and work with graduate students.

Janelle Taylor traveled to the 2009 AAA conference in Philadelphia to accept the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize, which was awarded to her 2008 book The Public Life of the Fetal Sonogram: Technology, Consumption, and the Politics of Reproduction. The Basker Prize, established more than twenty years ago in memory of Eileen Basker, is awarded annually for a significant contribution to scholarship on gender and health by scholars from any discipline or nation, for a specific book, article, film, or exceptional PhD thesis produced within the preceding three years judged to be the most courageous, significant, and potentially influential contribution to scholarship in the area of gender and health. Janelle also has a Simpson Center for the Humanities research leave for two quarters in 2010-2011 under the “Associate Professor Crossdisciplinary Research Initiative.” She will be working with Ellen Garvens, in the Photography program of the School of Art, on a photo-essay project titled “Qualities of Care.”

Sasha Welland recently received a Royalty Research Fund Grant from the University of Washington to complete a book manuscript and develop a multimedia digital component for her research project titled Experimental Beijing: Contemporary Art Worlds in China's Capital. She is also serving on the steering committee for the “Reframing Gender, Power, and Resistance in Latin America and Asia” conference to be held at the University of Pittsburgh in the fall.

Alison Wylie has been awarded a six-month Leverhulme Visiting Professorship, sponsored by the Department of Archaeology at the University of Reading (UK). While there, she is working on a project on “Material Culture as Evidence” with Bob Chapman, her host at Reading. They’re running a series of joint seminars and a workshop that take detailed case studies as the basis for addressing key questions about what counts as evidence; how craft traditions of field practice take shape and change over time; how archaeologists make use of old evidence; what counts as robust, cogent evidential reasoning and how standards of evidence change; how new methods of data recovery and analysis enter archaeology and (sometimes) transform research practice. Reading University was recently awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize “in recognition of the excellence of the University’s department of archaeology which uniquely ... combines ground-breaking research, enterprise, and teaching.”

Visiting scholar Shoko Konishi, who is working in Kathy O’Connor's endocrinology lab, is conducting research that compares reproductive and metabolic hormone levels between Japanese and Caucasian women in Seattle.